1997 NLCS Game 5 Video Review: The Eric Gregg Game

selmaborntidefan

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With the Braves having finally won the World Series last year after Eric Gregg stole one from them , I wanted to do what I do at times when I can go back and be calm and evaluate exactly what happened in what was unquestionably the most horrendously called strike zone in a baseball game that I have ever seen. So I had a reliable friend send me a DVD copy of the game, and I will be watching it in inning segments over the next little bit (maybe I'll get more than one inning done tomorrow).

Let's note FIRST OF ALL that even before the game, Joe Morgan (who was one helluva ballplayer but who, quite frankly, sees what he wants to see as an analyst and comes across as a buffoon at times) sorta warned us before the game what to expect with Eric Gregg.



And we'll see Joe wasn't wrong by any definition of the word.
 

selmaborntidefan

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In the top of the first, Livan Hernandez threw two pitches on the inside of the plate to leadoff batter Kenny Lofton. The first was a bunt through strike and then Lofton laced a triple into right field, putting the game's first runner at third with nobody out.

Then Keith Lockhart worked a count and this was ball four:



Livan was clearly not close to the strike zone.
Now guess what?


He will only walk ONE batter the rest of the game.
 

selmaborntidefan

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Chipper Jones comes to the plate absolutely tearing the cover off the ball, 7 for 16, with two home runs and 4 RBIs.

Livan decides that he can't come inside, so he throws two pitches off the plate, the second one by far the most egregious one. But he then comes back with what looks like it would have reasonably been strike three that Jones lays off of...and Gregg calls it a ball.

On the third pitch, Chipper swings at one clearly off the plate and lines it foul.

 

selmaborntidefan

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Why dude why would you bring this up?
Dzy,

The other thing is this: there's a "response" out there that goes something like "Maddux got all those calls, Maddux got this big strike zone, blah blah blah" as a dismissal fallacy.

So far, I've seen ONE PITCH from Maddux (I'm through the first inning) that was clearly a ball. Hernandez had 2, maybe 3 pitches on Chipper that were atrocious, at least two on McGriff (first at bat), and at least two on Klesko.

It's one thing to say "Eric Gregg had a wide strike zone"; it's another altogether to say "he didn't call the strike zone the same for both pitchers," and the latter is becoming the excuse as time goes by.

I don't recall that being true, and I'm taking a gander at it.
 

selmaborntidefan

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Fred McGriff, unfortunately, is probably best remembered as a player for making the last out of this particular game. But his first at-bat had him fuming like, well, a crime dawg.

1) The first pitch McGriff sees here looks a LOT like the last pitch he sees that ends the game.
2) The second pitch, hey, I can see that either way and not a big deal.
3) The third pitch is further off the plate and it's a bad call by Gregg. McGriff, one of the quietest guys and a true professional even kind of mutters it appears on the look.
4) A pitch no doubt off the plate that I'm amazed he didn't call a strike, but maybe because it was low.
5) He throws another one off the plate and McGriff just sorta waves at it futilely



 

selmaborntidefan

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Ryan Klesko hits in the first, and Gregg appears to be NOT calling strikes off the corner if they're low.
Klesko takes the first two for 2-0. The third pitch is off the plate but called strike one, then he comes back actually on the far side of the plate and Klesko takes a mean cut but fouls the ball off. Klesko then takes a tailing fastball away for strike three that looks like it was at least a reasonable call.

3 to Chipper, 2 to McGriff, and 1 to Klesko in the first inning. Six highly specious calls from Gregg in favor of Hernandez, all of them strikes. (Not one pitch looks like a strike but is called a ball).

 

selmaborntidefan

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In the bottom of the first, Greg Maddux throws two quick inside strikes, and when he goes for the third one, White moves his knee into the line of the pitch and gets first base.

Naturally, Joe Morgan tells us that what we're seeing is NOT what we're seeing. Maddux and Bobby Cox both complain but to no avail.

 

selmaborntidefan

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Maddux misses on the inside low (good call), and he gets Bonilla to chase two fastballs on the outside tailing away from him, which was one of Mad Dog's specialties - "looks good, oh no!" Maddux goes to the well for the third strike, but Bonilla gets enough wood on it to deposit it into centerfield and send the speedy White around to score and give the Marlins a 1-0 lead. The Marlins have runners at the corners and only one out.

Credit to Bonilla on this one, and Gregg didn't even need to make any calls anyway.

 

selmaborntidefan

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The second strike Maddux throws to Jeff Conine (it's the first pitch shown here) is absolutely horrible and should have been a ball. Even Conine is saying, "You've got to be kidding me." On the next pitch, Maddux shows his awesomeness, getting a bouncer back to the mound and turning the 1-6-3 double play to get Atlanta out of the inning without further damage.



So yes, I'm willing to admit that Maddux got a freebie there.

That makes it 6 calls to 1 in favor of Livan Hernandez.
 

selmaborntidefan

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Michael Tucker leads off the top of the second for the Braves - and notice how similar the very first pitch Hernandez throws looks like the famous one to end the game...and Gregg calls it a ball.

On the next pitch, Tucker catches one across the plate and sends it over the center field wall for a game-tying home run. At this point, Hernandez has thrown all of two pitches on the meat of the plate and given up a triple and a home run.

 

selmaborntidefan

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The Braves go in order after Tucker's home run, but Hernandez only strikes out Greg Maddux...on a 3-2 pitch. There was little wrong with Gregg's strike zone in this inning OTHER THAN the first pitch to Eddie Perez, and it was debatable and at least the kind Maddux got on occasion.

That said, it was still a ball, so the bad calls are currently running 7-1 in favor of Livan.

 

CrimsonTheory

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There have been three moments in MLB history that I have personally watched that ever made me want to break things because of how mad I got.

3: Jeffrey Maier.

2. Kent Hrbek/Ron Gant. Sorry Braves fans.

1. Eric Gregg game.

That game right there, given the playoff implications of it, should had led to Gregg's dismissal as an UMP. He was so bad, I wonder at times if he had money on the game for the Marlins. I know he did not but I could not believe an ump could have been THAT bad without reason.

I know Steve Bartman happen (though I will never again fault him for doing what every fan in that moment was doing) but I was never as mad with Bartman as I was with Eric Gregg and I am a casual acquaintance of the Braves.

As for the LLWS ump, he should never be allowed to ump another LL game (much less a LLWS) in his life.
 

selmaborntidefan

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Atlanta 3rd

Livan Hernandez retires the side in order - and to be fair, there was (at most) one borderline call where I actually thought Gregg got it right (on Lockhart). Lofton battled him well, Lockhart too, but Chipper - maybe it was the already "known to be large" strike zone, but he swung at the first pitch off the plate and grounded out to end the inning.

 

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