Close calls renew replay debate
Gorman's miscues revive discussion of expanding reviews
Umpire Brian Gorman, who found himself at the center of two disputed calls at first base in Game 2, will not escape the spotlight in Game 3 as he moves behind the plate to call balls and strikes.
As far as strike zones are concerned, there's been very little concern after two games of the 2009 World Series. Gerry Davis and Jeff Nelson, both viewed as "hitter's umpires," had consistent and fair strike zones in Games 1 and 2, respectively, as the pitching has so far held two of the most potent offenses in baseball in check.
The pitchers should have a good chance to perform well again in Game 3, as Gorman's reputation is the reverse of that of Davis and Nelson. In fact, if umpires had theme songs as players do, Gorman's might very well be (with apologies to Nancy Sinatra) "Those Cleats Aren't Made for Walking." Hitters are advised to bring that bat to the plate with the intention of swinging it.
"He's been around the sport his entire life and he knows how to call a game," TBS analyst Buck Martinez said of Gorman, whose father Tom was an umpire from 1951-76. "He believes that if a pitcher is consistent and around the plate during a game, he should be rewarded."
Gorman, 50, has been an umpire since 1991, and this will be his second World Series -- he also worked the 2004 Fall Classic -- and 12th postseason series overall. He did not call a game pitched by either Game 3 starter -- New York's Andy Pettitte or Philadelphia's Cole Hamels, both left-handers.
Gorman's goal on Saturday night will be to go completely unnoticed, something he was unable to do in the Yankees' 3-1 victory in Game 2, when it appeared he missed two calls -- one each way -- in consecutive innings and rekindled talk of expanding instant replay.
In the bottom of the seventh of Game 2, with two on and one out, the Phillies benefited from Gorman's inability to see that Ryan Howard had trapped Johnny Damon's soft liner before turning a double play to end the inning and keep the score 3-1.
In the top of the eighth, again with two on and one out, it was the Phillies' turn to be upset when their eighth-inning rally against Mariano Rivera ended with Gorman ruling that Chase Utley hadn't beat Derek Jeter's double-play relay to first base, denying Howard of the opportunity to bat with runners in scoring position in a 3-1 game.
"I'm not saying nothing about the umpiring, I'm just saying that [Utley] was safe," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said after the game. "That's all I'll tell you. I'm not complaining about the umpire. I'm not saying nothing at all about the umpire. I'm just saying that he was safe."
And so on Friday, Gorman's missed calls resulted in both managers being questioned about instant replay. Manuel, with a night to settle, was more accepting of the human element and the errors that come with it.
"Baseball is a human nature game. You're going to make mistakes, umpires are going to make mistakes, players are going to make mistakes, everybody in the game is going to make mistakes. Even managers make mistakes sometimes," Manuel said, drawing laughter from the assembled media.
In his view, Manuel believes it is the availability of immediate and multiple replays that have led to cries to expand instant replay, an issue on which he remains undecided.
"Almost every play is reviewed, everything done is shown up on the scoreboard, everything that goes back, and every time it's a bang-bang play or an umpire makes, he might miss a call or something. It's always there for you to see," Manuel said. "And I think that the more you show that over and over, I think you're going to always talk about instant replay.
"But I think human nature plays the game. I think the game was built that way. I think everything that goes into it was built that way, and I think that I don't know if I'm for it or not. Just something that I haven't really ... I haven't come to a conclusion how to fix it or nothing, so therefore I don't know."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was likewise non-committal, with his primary concern being expediency, while echoing Manuel's understanding that nobody's perfect.
"You know, I think that's a question probably to be answered during the offseason," Girardi said of expanding instant replay. "We've been on the side of some calls, and we've been on the other side of some calls. Each team has had to deal with that for years. Nobody is perfect out there.
"My concern about using instant replay too much is the rhythm of the game, especially for the pitchers. So if it was expanded, I would like to see an umpire in the booth that could make a call within 30 seconds, because I think most calls you could make within 30 seconds, which a lot of times would be quicker than a manager running out there."
And having managers running out there is exactly what Gorman wants to avoid Saturday night.
Jim Banks is the Central Executive Editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.