First of all, to be clear, I’m not talking about this blunder (video), where Matt Kemp was picked off by Brian Fuentes in the 9th inning of last night’s game between the Dodgers and the Angels – I’ll cover that one later today. Instead, I’m talking about the tandem gaffe between Russell Martin and Reed Johnson. On a base hit by Jamey Caroll, Russell Martin was thrown out at second to end the game before Johnson, starting at second, managed to cross home plate to score the tying run. Check out the video here.
Let’s diagram this play and try and get an idea of exactly what happened. This is the first shot from behind home plate in which we can see Reed Johnson. This comes roughly 1.45 seconds after the point of contact. Johnson was off on contact with two outs.
There’s going to be quite a few more images here; if you’re interested in tracking this play, follow the jump!
Here’s a bird’s eye view of the play at this time.
Johnson (J) is already nearly halfway to third and is picking up steam. Martin (M) is off screen but on his way to second. Carroll (C) is now out of the box. Let’s pick it up a couple of seconds later, at the 3.5 mark.
This is the last shot in which we can see Johnson from this angle, and it comes right as he is preparing to round third base. Martin is still off screen but approaching second base. Carroll is coming up on first.
Johnson is going to score easily – he’s already at third before Juan Rivera in left field even picks up the ball (highlighted). If there is a tag for the third out made before the runner touches the plate, however, the run doesn’t count.
Here’s Johnson roughly 6.4 seconds into the play.
At this time, Martin must be at second base – we can’t see him in this shot nor the replay, but based on how quickly the throw comes in, this is the only way I can see the play unfolding:
This could be off by a few scale feet or so, but it appears that Johnson was slightly over half way home at this point – it’s now that he realizes he needs to kick it into gear, as the throw is coming in from left field. Let’s jump ahead a mere half second, 6.9 seconds elapsed. Here’s the last we see of Johnson:
And a few frames later – I have it at 7.2 seconds after contact – Martin is out.
It certainly appears to me that Johnson could not have touched home plate before the tag was applied to Martin. The play at second base was close, but it looked to me as if the tag beat Martin back to second. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the play at second was called correctly – that’s a debate for another time and place.
With Martin expecting a throw home, he was rounding second in the event of a poor throw. But advancing to third base would be nearly meaningless with two outs. Martin needed to realize where the fielders were and where the ball was, as the turn he took was completely unnecessary and especially reckless if he was unaware of the location of the ball.
Still, it wouldn’t matter if Reed Johnson had simply ran his hardest the whole way. It took him 3.6 seconds to reach third base. Given that he wasn’t at top speed until he was about halfway to third, if not farther, scoring in another 3.6 seconds isn’t unrealistic. We can clearly see in the video that he picks up his speed a little bit more than halfway between home and third. It is pretty simple to me – Reed Johnson just didn’t run it out, and if he had, the Dodgers might still be playing in Anaheim.
Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.