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MLB's scoring committee rules against Sabathia

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COLIN FLY
September 4, 2008
— Upon further review, the play stands.

Major League Baseball's scoring review committee ruled Wednesday that official scorer Bob Webb did not err when he decided that Pittsburgh's Andy LaRoche singled against Brewers pitcher CC Sabathia in the bottom of the fifth inning of Milwaukee's 7-0 win on Sunday.


Sabathia tried to make a barehanded pickup of LaRoche's softly hit grounder, but dropped it. Webb immediately ruled it a hit, explaining he watched LaRoche out of the batter's box and the runner was two-thirds of the way down the line as Sabathia was picking the ball up.


Webb said Wednesday night when reached at home that he was grateful for the kind words by MLB and also understood the Brewers' efforts to advocate for a potential historic game.


"There can and will be differences of opinions in scoring plays," Webb told The Associated Press. "Everyone else who is discussing it, it's in a context of a no-hitter or not a no-hitter. I have to look at the play outside of context, whether it's a no-hitter, a cycle or not a cycle, or for a batting title, for the integrity of the game."


On Wednesday, the committee viewed footage of the play in question and considered the documentation presented by the Brewers.


But the committee ruled that Webb's judgment was not "clearly erroneous," which is the standard set forth in Official Scoring Rule 10.01(a), and did not meet the criteria for reversal.


"I've reviewed the play many times, thought it through. It was the correct call," Webb said.


Webb had the power to reverse the call in the first 24 hours, but did not. Had it been overturned, it would have been the second no-hitter in Brewers history after Juan Nieves' performance on April 15, 1987 in a 7-0 win against Baltimore.


But that would be a big "if" for a big pitcher. After all, the 6-foot-7 Sabathia still would have had to record 15 consecutive outs with the additional pressure of keeping the zeros on the scoreboard.


That pressure wasn't there after the play was ruled a hit and Webb said the "shading of context" has made the play a lively debate.


"You could have the same play in a very different context," he said.


Instead, Sabathia joins a list that includes Skip Lockwood (1972), Jim Colborn (1973), Moose Haas (1985), Danny Darwin (1985) and Teddy Higuera (1987) for one-hitters in Milwaukee's franchise history.


This is Webb's 20th season as a major league official scorer, and he explained that the ball was spinning to the left of the mound with a left-handed pitcher going to get it.


"It's a difficult play," Webb said at the time. "The definition requires standard effort, and that would have taken more than an ordinary effort. The runner was well down the line."


The Brewers clubhouse had cleared out after the ruling had come down. Milwaukee manager Ned Yost had originally called Webb's ruling Sunday a "joke," but general manager Doug Melvin said that the issue should be closed now.


"We appreciate the opportunity offered by the league to have plays reviewed. While we had hoped for a different outcome, we understand that an official scorer's role is very difficult," Melvin said in a statement. "We thank Major League Baseball and the committee for taking the time to consider our request, and we continue to move forward with a focus on winning games down the stretch."


Melvin backed off his comments earlier in the week that he might lobby for changes to the way official scoring decisions are made, but acknowledged that representatives of both teams push scorers on controversial calls.


"There's tremendous pressure to get it right," Melvin told The Associated Press Wednesday night. "But we have to move on."


The Brewers lost to the New York Mets 9-2 on Wednesday and are 0-3 since the one-hitter. Sabathia, who was traded from Cleveland to Milwaukee on July 7 and is 9-0 in 11 starts, has said all along he should've made the play.


"If I put the glove down and make the play, it wouldn't be a big deal," he said following the game against Pittsburgh. "If they change it or they don't, it's not going to change much, really. If they change it or if they don't, I'm fine."



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