Judging the Royals

Bad scorekeeping in St. Louis hits a nerve

First-base umpire Phil Cuzzi watched as the Royals’ Salvador Perez (13) took a lead off first base, guarded by the Cardinals’ Dan Johnson, on Thursday night in St. Louis. Lee Judge’s recent comments about the scorekeeping at Cardinals games generated quite a response.
First-base umpire Phil Cuzzi watched as the Royals’ Salvador Perez (13) took a lead off first base, guarded by the Cardinals’ Dan Johnson, on Thursday night in St. Louis. Lee Judge’s recent comments about the scorekeeping at Cardinals games generated quite a response. The Associated Press

I recently wrote an article about bad scorekeeping in St. Louis. In three games, I had seen four bad calls, and all of them made the Cardinals look good. Apparently that hit a nerve, because I’ve been hearing about it ever since. So now you get to hear about it, too. Here are some of the comments and my responses.

(The comments are in italics and edited for brevity’s sake — that and allowing me to score points by taking things out of context. Hey, it’s my website. If you want to take things out of context, start your own website.)

I read your article about the scorekeeper with the St Louis Cardinals and the mistakes you thought the scorekeeper had made. The term that actually jumped out at me was the issue of defensive indifference. Believe it or not, even though I read your article several times, I was still unable to grasp the idea or concept of what defensive indifference actually is or how it works. Is there any chance that you could walk me through this slowly and explain it to me in very basic terms? I would love to understand what this is and how it works. It’s like a hard math equation. Use the Royals/St Louis games because I already have some familiarity with them.

OK, to make it as clear as possible: Nobody really knows what constitutes “defensive indifference,” and that’s the problem. A guy who never played a game of hardball in his life and may be unfamiliar with advanced strategies gets to make the call.

But here’s how it usually is defined: A runner is not being held on first base, takes second base, nobody covers second and the catcher does not make a throw. The scorekeeper can rule “defensive indifference,” and the runner does not get a stolen base. Basically, it says the defense didn’t really care if the runner took an extra base.

Ryan Lefebvre, Dave Holtzman and I talked about this during dinner Friday night, and we never came up with a great definition. Ryan thought the fact that the Cardinals did not hold the runners at least made a case for the ruling of defensive indifference, but he wasn’t upset enough that he let it affect his appetite. I think he had seconds and desert.

Dave and I thought the score had to be taken into account. No team could possibly be indifferent to the winning run moving into scoring position. They might decide to play their first baseman back for more range, but they’re not indifferent to the runner. A team that is up by six runs and allows a runner to take second is indifferent, a team that is up by one run is not.

And here’s another example. A runner on second base takes off for third, and Mike Moustakas does not cover the bag. Moose stays where he is because a right-handed hitter is at the plate and an off-speed pitch is being thrown — a pitch that could be hit in his direction. Just because he doesn’t cover third, is Moose indifferent? I would say no, and the runner should get a stolen base if he was smart enough to take advantage of the situation.

I was born in KC, and I am a huge Royals fan. I live in the St. Louis area though, and we watch games on TV and go to some games as well. This stuff happens all the time in their favor, not just against the Royals. They are still a good team, though, as the scorekeeper can’t add runs and win games. But, yes, they get help.

I cannot say the same thing. I saw only three games, so I’m unable to say whether Cardinal-favorable scorekeeping is the norm, but it sure looked that way in the games that I saw.

Obviously, the Cardinals are cheating Republicans. Maybe they should change their name to the St. Louis Elephants.

Comments like this one is why humor should be left to the professionals.

The Cardinals have Yadi Molina, LMAO if you think those bases weren’t given to the Royals. When no one covers the bag, when the catcher doesn’t blink after the runner takes off, and then there’s no throw, it’s indifference. You can whine about the play all you want, but the strategy there is to keep your defensive players in position so you do not give up a hit to where the 2B/SS was supposed to be playing. The fact the Royals couldn’t tie the game with 2nd and 3rd and no one out should be the real story here.

Yes, whining is horrible: it’s like blaming an umpire and a single call for losing an entire World Series.

Don’t both teams’ official scorekeepers communicate to keep everything correct on both scorecards?

There’s only one scorekeeper at each game, and he or she is provided by the home team.

Wah wah wah

Always happy to have trombone player weigh in.

Is this really the type of crud that Royals fans want to read about and discuss? Are you guys really that obsessed with the Cardinals that it’s come down to whining about scoring decisions that don’t really matter that much in the bigger picture? I like the Royals and KC (when they are not playing the Cardinals), but this is just embarrasing “journalism.” What am I missing here. KC fans? Is this what you guys really care about?

You’re right. I should have written a three-part series about Don Denkinger. In response to the last comment, another reader had this to say:

Yep. All we care about is scoring. Wins? Old school. Statistics is what baseball is really about. Seriously though, statistics are a large portion of the baseball industry, affecting everything from salary to game strategy. We aren’t “obsessed” with the Cards and “whining” about the calls. This paper covers many corners of the game and the Royals’ system, and this is one of them. Go read another article and realize this is just a small sample.

I also had a response and said that the website wasn’t obsessed with the Cardinals. It was obsessed with the inner workings of the game and why a fan can’t just look at numbers and think they understand what happened. The calls I wrote about were an example. I have the luxury of taking a small part of the game and examining it. Most writers have to cram an entire nine innings into a short article.

I hear what you are saying, but it seems to me that scoring decisions often favor the home team because of the way the system is set up and that over a long season, these type of biases even out to the point that it’s a wash rather than a player looking better or worse that he actually is. I can see this type of information being mentioned at the end of an article describing the game but not as the focus of an entire piece. It sure sounds like whining to the ears of a fan of another team after a great game that either team could have won. All the best to the Royals and their fans the rest of the way.

A couple of points worth making: I’ve seen bad scorekeeping in the KC press box as well, and those bad decisions will, at times, get overturned. One of those bad decisions was a ruling of defensive indifference when a Royal stole a base, so it actually hurt the Kansas City player. And it was overturned when it was pointed out that the opposition was not indifferent to an important run moving into scoring position late in a game.

In Kansas City I’ve seen the scoring both hurt and help the Royals players. In a very small sample size — three games — I saw scorekeeping that made the Cardinals look good. The worst of the four calls I wrote about was a John Jay triple and there was just no doubt the scoring was incorrect. It was a double, and Jay advanced to third on a throw. Despite visual evidence the decision was never overturned.

I was thinking the same thing in last night’s game. How would it be indifference having the tie and winning runs move into scoring position? Glad I’m not the only one who thought that was weird scoring.

Guess what? This guy’s from Kansas. I guess defensive indifference is in the eye of the beholder. And if the beholder is the St. Louis scorekeeper, the Cardinals probably are going to come out OK.

Related stories from Kansas City Star