David Ortiz has won his appeal, and has been credited with a second hit in the May 9th game between the Red Sox and Rangers. You know, the one where Yu Darvish almost no-hit the Sox.
Obviously this would be a much bigger deal had Darvish actually gone on to complete his no-hitter. The incident in question took place in the seventh inning, when Ortiz hit a pop fly to right field. Alex Rios came in, but held up as second baseman Rougned Odor seemed to settle under the ball with plenty of time to spare. Odor, however, lost the ball, and ended up letting it fall to the ground. The play was ruled an error on Rios.
As it happens, David Ortiz actually got a more concrete hit in the ninth inning, so this is a fairly minor change. But let's pause for a second and consider just how stupid this whole situation is.
Let's ignore the fact that Ortiz went through an appeals process to be credited for a hit in a game the Red Sox lost 8-0. Given all the man does and has done at the plate, I see no reason to begrudge him his stat-chasing. Particularly in a game as individual in nature as baseball. This isn't basketball where you can pursue stats at the detriment of your team, except perhaps when it comes to something like extending a single into a double or trying to steal second.
(Neither of those things are exactly Ortiz' forte, you may notice.)
But really, what does a play like this say about the value of these statistics? Oh a hit? Of an error?
I'm not breaking any new ground by pointing out the problem with errors, I know, but this case just seems particularly egregious. An error is taken to mean a mistake by the defense. It's used by networks local and national as a way to quantify a player's defense. Similarly, things like WHIP and ERA are used to determine a pitcher's quality.
So what are we saying when we declare this a hit? When something like this is allowed to break up a no-hitter? It's ridiculous. This event was not to David Ortiz' credit. He did not hit the ball well. It certainly shouldn't diminish Yu Darvish's performance either. Short of a strikeout, there are few better outcomes for a pitcher than a ball that goes a mile high and doesn't come within a hundred feet of the outfield wall. But David Ortiz ends up getting credit for a positive at bat, Yu Darvish for a negative one. Had David Ortiz scored, the run would have counted against Darvish's ERA.
Meanwhile, Alex Rios and Rougned Odor come away none the worse for wear, at least when it comes to errors. If Alex Rios called off Odor and then did nothing, it's his fault. If Odor got in over his head and didn't back down, it's his. Somehow, though, baseball's scoring system has managed to put agency in the hands of the other two players involved.
Is it a big deal? Not in this context, no. But baseball has been going about changing rules left and right this year, so why not change this one? Outfield errors in particular are a joke even when compared to the already questionable reputation of errors in general. And so long as things like no-hitters--which the baseball community has decided are historically significant--are at the whim of such a clearly flawed system, it's only a matter of time before we end up with another embarrassing shame of a situation like we had with Jim Joyce and Armando Galarraga.
If we're going to keep track of errors at all (hardly a necessary thing, honestly), it's time to start holding outfielders accountable for plays they clearly should have made. Whether they actually make contact with the ball or not should not be the deciding factor. It's ridiculous to call David Ortiz' pop fly a hit. It's ridiculous to say that this was competent defending. So let's start calling it like it is before it ruins what could otherwise be a great moment.