Umps make rare decision in Kansas City

This might not have made SportsCenter last night, but there was a really, really interesting play in last night's Astros-Royals game:

The Royals had trouble against Myers early, even after benefiting from a rare overturned call.

The play came with one out in the fifth inning, when Betancourt hit a soft liner to shortstop with [Mike Aviles] on second. Second base umpire Mike Everitt initially ruled that Geoff Blum caught the ball on a fly and got the final out by doubling up [Aviles] at second.

After meeting behind the mound, the umpires changed the call, saying the ball hit the ground before Blum fielded it, and sent both teams back onto the field. [Aviles] was put on third, and Betancourt was called out -- even though Blum never threw to first.

Crew chief Tim McClelland told the Royals that the decision was to correct the missed call on the field and that it was assumed Blum would have thrown out Betancourt at first. Blum was awarded an assist, and first baseman Lance Berkman was given a putout despite never touching the ball.

By what authority might the umpires possibly do such a thing?

Well, as near as I can tell, by the authority of Rule 9.01(c), which simply says: "Each umpire has authority to rule on any specific point not covered in these rules."

In this case, crew chief Tim McClelland had a tough choice to make, one everyone had determined that the wrong call had initially been made. He could let the call stand, which obviously would have been unfair to the Royals. He could have called everyone -- Aviles at third base, Betancourt at first -- safe, which obviously would have been unfair to the Astros. So instead he did the least unfair thing, assuming that Aviles would have been safe at third base -- he was off and running, and it was a soft liner behind him -- and that shortstop Blum would, if not immediately informed of the out, still have had plenty of time to throw out Betancourt at first base.

It's this last bit that we might question. What if Blum took too long to realize he hadn't made a clean catch? What if he'd thrown low, or high, or wide? Official scorers prohibited from "assuming the double play" ... so why should an umpire assume a good throw from shortstop?

Because the umpire is under no such restriction (rightly so, in my opinion), and it was the fairest course available to him. After last October, I'm not real confident in Tim McClelland's eyesight or his reflexes. But his judgment seems sound.