Let’s Consider Eric Gregg and Livan Hernandez in the 1997 NLCS

A lot of analytical baseball articles today will make some sort of reference to catcher pitch-framing. References to pitch-framing will often make references to Jose Molina, and they will less often but still somewhat often make references to Livan Hernandez. References to Livan Hernandez often lead to recollections of the 1997 NLCS, and Eric Gregg’s strike zone in Game 5. Consensus is that Gregg’s zone was extremely favorable to Hernandez, and it was a big reason why the Marlins were able to get past the Braves and advance to the World Series.

Of course, that which is unusual has a tendency to become exaggerated, made extraordinary over time. Gregg’s Game 5 strike zone is today remembered as one of the worst umpiring performances ever in the game. One hyperbolic example of many:

Umpire Eric Gregg’s strike zone in this 1997 NL playoff matchup had viewers outraged. Pitches that sailed high over the heads of players were called strikes.

I’m pretty sure that never happened, although I’m not completely sure, since I don’t have access to a time machine, since I probably wouldn’t even know how to operate a time machine, and since I’m willing to believe in government cover-ups. Anyhow, Game 5, of course, came well before the era of PITCHf/x. It was four days before Bryce Harper‘s fifth birthday. There’s little we can do now to objectively evaluate Gregg’s actual strike zone. But there are some things we can do, and I think this is worthy of a reflection. Especially while the clip I found on YouTube still exists. Too late, Major League Baseball. You can take down the video, but I’ve already made the .gifs.

We’re looking for some sort of confirmation that Gregg’s strike zone was comically large. Confirmation beyond popular opinion. We can begin with some of the numbers. In Game 5, Livan Hernandez struck out 15 Braves batters in a complete game. That stands as Hernandez’s career-high. The runner-up: 11 strikeouts, in July 2001. Hernandez has done that once. He’s struck out ten batters in a game twice. Hernandez has started many hundreds of games.

Hernandez threw 143 pitches, and 88 of them were strikes. Of those, 37 were called strikes. That regular season, 29% of Hernandez’s strikes were called. In Game 5, 42% of Hernandez’s strikes were called. The other starter in Game 5 was Greg Maddux, and he struck out nine batters in seven innings. That was well above his regular-season rate. But 29% of his strikes were called, against a season rate of 28%. It’s not a great measure, but that hints at a more favorable strike zone for Hernandez.

Of some interest is that, during the season, Gregg was not unusually pitcher-friendly. Without controlling for anything, Gregg umpired a .750 OPS and a 2.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The league averages were .756 and 1.9. Gregg might’ve been favorable, but he wasn’t obscenely so, based on his track record.

We can go beyond the numbers to opinion. Obviously, people remember Gregg’s zone for being just awful, and that has meaning. Even if things are exaggerated now, there was an origin for this. Jim Salisbury, right after Game 5:

If Florida Marlins righthander Livan Hernandez was the most popular man in South Florida yesterday, umpire Eric Gregg was a close second.

Benefiting from Gregg’s liberal strike zone, the 22-year-old Cuban defector pitched the game of his life in shackling the Atlanta Braves, 2-1, in Game 5 of the National League championship series at roaring Pro Player Stadium.

Continuing:

The big umpire from West Philadelphia had a strike zone so wide he could have slept in it. It left many Braves privately infuriated, and at least one publicly steamed.

“I’m so damn mad I can’t even see right now,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. “I know I swung at a couple of pitches that were a foot outside. I asked Eric if they were strikes, and he said yes. I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Some people work all their lives to get into [a postseason] situation. It’s frustrating when you’re not allowed to do your job.”

Fred McGriff, who ended the game with a called strikeout:

“It was a little big,” the mild-mannered McGriff said of Gregg’s strike zone. “You couldn’t even hit some of those pitches.”

And I guess I have to include this blockquote:

The irony in all this, of course, is that no staff in baseball gets wide strike zones more often than the Braves. It’s a reputation thing. And Gregg did appear to use the same wide zone for both teams.

Gregg himself, in his own defense:

“My strike zone has been the same for 25 years. I don’t have any problem with it. Next question,” Gregg said.

Also from Gregg:

“The kid did a great job. I am surprised I am getting these questions about my strike zone. Did you see anybody throwing helmets? Did you see me eject anybody? Everybody went along well. It was the same for both sides. It was no problem at all.”

Players felt like Gregg’s strike zone was too big, and reporters on the scene felt like Gregg’s strike zone was too big. Gregg thought his zone was just fine, but if he didn’t, he wouldn’t have called the zone like he did. Bobby Cox didn’t like the zone, but he was careful not to come off as being too upset about it, placing some of the blame on his hitters for not executing regardless of the circumstances. The Braves, I should have mentioned, lost 2-1.

But what we can do now is go straight to the source. The stuff above — that’s opinion, and that’s a set of numbers that beat around the bush. Numbers that hint indirectly. What did Eric Gregg’s strike zone actually look like? No better way to know than by looking at video of it. All of the .gifs you’ll find below were produced from a YouTube video. I apologize for the low quality, but this is bootleg video of a game from 1997 and I didn’t even know cameras were invented yet. I’m pretty sure the game was not played in front of a small illuminated lamp on a nightstand but then I wasn’t actually there.

The footage is from an off-center camera angle. That’s to be kept in mind. But here are called strikes by Eric Gregg for Livan Hernandez in the 1997 NLCS’ infamous Game 5. In a way this is like YouTube video of Jesus, or the Chicxulub crater bolide.

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All of the pitches above were thrown to lefties — only Jeff Blauser, Eddie Perez, and Maddux batted right-handed against Hernandez. All of the pitches above were called strikes located off the outside edge of the plate and the rule-book zone. Many, if not all of the pitches above probably should’ve been balls. But for one thing, we’re not shown any comparison clips of Maddux’s zone, and for another, this game happened well before we developed an understanding of the “lefty strike”.

Those of you who have read strike-zone studies get now that the strike zone for left-handed hitters is shifted, covering some of the area outside off the plate. That’s just the way it is, for whatever reason or reasons, and while that doesn’t excuse Gregg’s zone, it does serve to reduce the magnitude of the offense. Hernandez got lots of strikes off the plate, but they weren’t as far from the zone as they might’ve seemed. We’ve now entered into a gray area, in case you weren’t aware. Gregg’s zone seems to have been bad, but it was probably less bad to some degree than thought. Perhaps somewhat understandably bad. Those strikes landed in an area where umpires — all umpires — are generous with strikes.

And there’s something to be said for the Livan Hernandez effect. Something about Hernandez just draws a more generous strike zone. At least, that’s the way it’s been lately, and presumably that’s the way it was before PITCHf/x, too. Again, that doesn’t excuse Gregg, but Hernandez has made a career of identifying where he can steal some extra strikes. If someone was going to get too big of a zone in an important game, it makes sense that it would be Livan, even Livan as a rookie. Believe it or not, there was a time at which Livan Hernandez wasn’t coming up on 40 years old.

Eric Gregg’s zone in Game 5 was big, based on all the evidence. Maybe that was the reason the Marlins beat the Braves. Maybe that was *a* reason the Marlins beat the Braves. We don’t know what the zone was like for Maddux, and we don’t have PITCHf/x data, and really the point of this was just to show off that video still exists out there somewhere of a game from the 90s that lives in infamy. Even if the video is removed, the .gifs will live on. The awfulness of Gregg’s zone has probably been exaggerated, given the way that umpires call strikes with left-handed hitters, and given the way umpires call strikes with Livan Hernandez. But it was still bad, which means everyone’s happy. Baseball fans know more about a well-known game, Marlins fans get to reflect on an historic victory, and Braves fans get to keep on complaining. Sometimes we’re driven by our complaints.




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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


82 Responses to “Let’s Consider Eric Gregg and Livan Hernandez in the 1997 NLCS”

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  1. Mark says:

    You know it’s bad when a couple pitches the catcher gave up on were called strikes.

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    • westprice says:

      …or when the catcher has his glove framed on the outside of the plate, has to move it 8 inches outside to catch it, and it’s still called a strike.

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  2. bgrasso12 says:

    Thanks for those gifs. As a Braves fan, I currently want to jab my eyes out with a spoon. Could you maybe add this year’s “infield fly rule” gif to the article just to mess with me a little more? :-)

    Seriously, interesting stuff. Thanks for finding the video.

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  3. Chris says:

    I vividly remember cursing Eric Gregg’s name repeatedly while watching that event live. Those strikes were as ridiculous then as they are now, and represent some of the worst umpiring I’ve ever witnessed.

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  4. Bip says:

    Maybe that was the reason the Marlins beat the Braves. Maybe that was *a* reason the Marlins beat the Braves.

    Of course it’s *a* reason the Marlins beat the Braves. Another reason is that the Marlins lineup was full of major league hitters. If the Marlins lineup was comprised of myself, Jeff and other fangraphs commenters, the Braves would have certainly won.

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    • Jason B says:

      Agreed, it was *a* reason among many. The first statement (that it was *the* reason) is false. There are simply too many factors at play to reduce everything to one cause. (i.e., just as you said, if the FanGraphs readership were the Marlins’ lineup, or even the Marlins’ pitching staff for that matter and were given the Livan/Gregg strike zone to work with, we would have lost 58-2.)

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  5. Josh says:

    There’s not a braves fan alive that doesn’t curse the name Eric Gregg. My 2-year old niece already knows his, Jim Leyritz, Jack Morris’ names, among a few others.

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    • Steve says:

      She should learn the name Mark Wohlers and forget Jim Leyritz. Or maybe whomever was catching for Wohlers and called that pitch.

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      • westprice says:

        It was one bad pitch choice that turned the series around. You could just as easily say that Leyritz was hopped up on steroids that year, but neither of those are the direct cause of the Yankees winning the series.

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  6. Z..... says:

    How about considering Roy Halladay’s “Perfect Game”

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  7. Z..... says:

    I’m not even going to read this because of the title. Maddux was getting calls all night too. Get over it Braves fans. Its been 15 years. 1997 World Series Champions. And by the way, its not like you guys dont get calls. (though that infield fly rule was pretty bad)

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    • El Vigilante says:

      Such a refreshing statement, since Greg Maddux wasn’t mentioned in the article at all. Bravo sir, for accurately commenting on something you decided not to read.

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      • Cidron says:

        Well, he was, but only to compare his season strikeout rate vs the game vs those same stats of Livan’s.. showing Livan got a favorable zone to a normal zone of Maddux’s

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    • Bigfoot, Nessie, and the Yeti says:

      Hey Z….the Marlins Fan, where have you been? Haven’t seen you at the meetings.

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    • mark says:

      You can’t be serious. The Braves had 4 left handed batters in the lineup, 6 if you include the switch hitters against the righty Hernandez. The Marlins had right handed hitters and three switch hitters. The strike zone went against lefty hitters of which the Braves had way more. Face facts, the strike zone was one that no hitter could get a decent hit off a bat. It was a terribly called game period. Stop with the excuses.

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    • westprice says:

      I watched baseball that season. A lot. None of Maddux or Glavine’s outside pitches (which were granted for a maximum of 6 inches outside because they had established their ability to hit those zones when they wanted to) looked anything like Hernandez’s foot outside pitches which were miraculously called in his first year playing and made his strikeouts +4 over his career best.I’m over it. That was a terribly called game though (I watched it and was disgusted.)

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  8. boss says:

    do you suppose the lamp played a role in skewing Gregg’s strike zone? It is off to the side where all the balls in question were called strikes, I wouldn’t be shocked if the light distracted Gregg and made it more difficult for him to make those outside pitch calls

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  9. Dan says:

    Cannot believe those calls! I remembered them as being bad, but those gifs are even worse than I thought.

    Completely irresponsible umpiring, and it should have called into question his basic integrity. He should have been penalized, as Cuzzi should have been in 2009. If baseball had never tolerated this sort of thing, umpires would have taken the necessary steps to avoid egregious calls. Instead we have umps wedging their personalities into games (Joe West might be the worst, currently). I generally don’t espouse a zero-tolerance approach, but it works for things like this, as it largely did for gambling in baseball.

    Cuzzi should have been fired, frankly. There is no way that call was missed on accident. It’s impossible for a high school umpire, let alone one in the Major Leagues:

    http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2011/0927/mlb_postseason_calls_03.jpg

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  10. harpago17 says:

    I really would like to rewatch this game in it’s entirety, to see if Maddux really was getting similar calls. I honestly can’t remember, and being 15 at the time, probably wasn’t super rational about the whole thing though. To me the enduring image of that game is Fred McGriff striking out looking to end the game, on a pitch that at the time appeared to be about 2 feet off the plate. I THINK that’s the last 2 gifs shown above, but can’t be sure.

    There is one thing I can see above that I didn’t recall from way back then. Charles Johnson does an AWESOME job of framing pitches, even on pitches that appear to be way off the mark. Great work by him on every pitch shown above.

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    • Roger Turner says:

      A big second to the point about Charles Johnson. He frames them beautifully, hardly moving. It seems to me that his work might be the real story here.

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      • Dan says:

        You’re really, really overstating the effect of framing. The worst of those are at least 12 inches off the plate. The effect of framing on pitches like that should be non-existent. You can make it appear to be 8 inches off the plate, maybe, and that’s still a ball in the game of baseball, which has a rule book.

        Incidentally, I don’t see it as relevant whatsoever how much Maddux exploited the strike zone that game. Pitches off the plate are not supposed to be strikes.

        Of course, we tolerate near misses here and there. We shouldn’t tolerate it in a linear way, however, where we bring framing into it. A pitch 12 inches off the plate called a strike is not a call that’s 6 times as bad as one called 2 inches off the plate. It’s a call that is 100 times as bad, and it should therefore be so rare that it never occurs.

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      • LK says:

        If a catcher is able to fool an umpire that badly, MLB needs better umpires. I’m OK with pitch-framing being a part of the game, but it shouldn’t be THAT big of a part.

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      • Jason B says:

        “Incidentally, I don’t see it as relevant whatsoever how much Maddux exploited the strike zone that game.”

        It is quite relevant. If he had the exact same zone to work with and didn’t exploit it as effectively or consistently, then it really blunts the Braves’ (and Braves’ fans’) complaints.

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      • TKDC says:

        If you play a baseball game in a snowstorm, both teams have to deal with it, that doesn’t make it a fair game. The Braves thought they were playing baseball, Eric Gregg decided they weren’t.

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      • siggian says:

        This was my thought too. There was some classic pitch framing happening here. His head never moved and the catch was a very quick slide back towards the plate.

        We don’t know if Maddux was getting the same strike zone and neither do we know what sort of pitch framing the Braves catcher was providing. That is, Maddux might have been putting the pitches out there too, but if the Atlanta catcher was moving around too much, Gregg wasn’t going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

        This does not absolve Gregg from getting those calls wrong though, but the difference in framing might explain the difference in strike calls between the two pitchers.

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  11. LK says:

    I think that even given the Livan/lefty strike caveats, the zone was still pretty bad given that I’ve watched many hundreds of baseball games, and generally any one of those pitches would be a strong candidate for worst call of the game. In this game, they seemed to have been more or less the norm. We might not have pitchFX, we might not know what Maddux’s zone looked like, but we can say that Gregg’s zone for Hernandez was epically, catestrophically bad.

    [I say all this as a Yankee fan who generally likes to revel in the ineptness of the Braves, but I don't think you can put this game on the Atlanta players when the strike zone is that egregious.]

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    • AustinRHL says:

      I agree. Jeff placed too much emphasis on the caveats; what’s remarkable about this game is how mind-bogglingly wide the strike zone was even after adjusting for Livan and the lefty zone. It’s worth remembering that the off-center camera angle makes the strikes look BETTER than they actually were. The first .gif, in particular, I found absolutely jaw-dropping.

      If we had a complete recording of the broadcast of this game, I’d be curious to see how consistent Gregg’s strike zone was. For instance, did he also call several balls on pitches inside the strike zone? Or did he just have an absurdly wide, but well-defined, zone? What did it look like versus righties? How did his zone for Maddux compare? It’s so cool that we can answer these questions so easily in the PITCHf/x era, but it makes it kind of frustrating to look at an old game like this one and only be able to speculate.

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      • Steve says:

        The first gif is amazing b/c the catcher doesn’t even attempt to hold his glove for the ump. He is 100% conceding it was a ball…

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  12. harpago17 says:

    Also worth noting: 2 years later, after the Umpire “strike” occurred (not technically a strike, but a “mass resignation”), most of the umpires were eventually given their jobs back. Eric Gregg was not among those umpires that returned to work.

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    • The Rajah says:

      Yes, Gregg was targeted by MLB to not be invited back along with a few others who proved their incompetence. MLB used the mass resignation as a way to eliminate the crappy umpires and replace them with guys who could actually do the job.
      The story I heard is that Gregg was actually hung over and was suffering in the oppressive south Florida heat. A trick from the 50′s and 60′s is for catchers to use this to their advantage to frame the pitches they want called strikes. According to the story, Johnson milked it for all it was worth and Gregg was his patsy.

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      • china_dave says:

        Rajah: You need to provide some basis for that part about his being hung over. Gregg isn’t around to refute it.

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      • The Rajah says:

        It’s been 15 years … can’t remember where I heard it.

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      • Here is Eric Gregg talking about how his serious alcohol problem contributed to his serious weight problem.

        I know what the problem is. I used to tell them, `Hey, I’ve only had one sandwich all day.’ And they’d say, `Yeah, but you had seven or eight beers.’
        You simply can’t have four or five beers after a ballgame. You can’t go out with the guys to dinner and drink wine.
        Some guys can do it, big guys can’t. I learned that much. Alcohol slows your metabolism down. It won’t let you burn up the calories.
        No more tossing a couple of beers in the (duffel) bag for the trip home. No more beer in the fridge at home.
        It’s the road that’s tough. You get a little lonely. You’re tired. There’s the pressures of the job.
        But now, every time I’m tempted, I’m gonna think about what I had to do to get my job back.

        http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19930425&slug=1697684

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  13. fishbait says:

    I know all about the camera angle problem, but I don’t know how reliable that TV thing is – Kzone? But if it’s even remotely accurate, some of those pitches were almost as far outside the strike zone as the strike zone is wide. Call it 14-15 inches outside of a 17 inch wide plate? I remember this game very well (and I wasn’t just 15, either). I remember that the calls were really astonishing, but I did not remember them being as far outside as those GIFs show.

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  14. harpago17 says:

    For a more clear look at the 2nd to last gif above, go to 1:42 in this video:

    http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=7191119

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  15. david says:

    little league umpires aren’t that generous.

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  16. Daniel says:

    Jeff has posted many great articles on FanGraphs, but this may just be his best ever.

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  17. Phantom Stranger says:

    I’ve watched thousands of MLB games at this point and it is still the worst-called game I’ve ever seen. Considering it was a playoff game, MLB should have immediately suspended Gregg and started an investigation. Maddux was getting some calls too, but Livan was practically a rookie getting the largest strike zone in the history of the sport.

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  18. Pat says:

    The very first gif the catcher is literally blocking the wild pitch and it’s called a strike, wow.

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  19. I haven’t even read the article yet and I’m annoyed. Thinking back on this game just gets under my skin. And I’m far from being a Braves fan.

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  20. The last pitch of the game was so far outside Johnson was throwing the ball back when Gregg call strike three to end the game. When the catcher doesn’t even believe it was a strike you know the zone is awful.

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  21. bstar says:

    I’m still pissed about this game 15 years later.

    As to Mr. Gregg’s claim that “no helmets were thrown” and he “didn’t have to eject anybody”, isn’t it obvious why? This was Game 5 of the NLCS, not the type of game you want to get ejected from.

    If this had been a regular season game, I doubt Bobby Cox makes it to the third inning.

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  22. chuckb says:

    This is the game that should have gotten Eric Gregg fired. Fortunately, mlb made up for it a couple years later. There has never been near enough scrutiny or consequences for bad umpires. Gregg took it upon himself to alter the game, an extremely important postseason game, and he should have been terminated immediately after that game.

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  23. Brian says:

    Its stuff like this that makes me realize that it is all about the money. There’s no way that Gregg called that strikezone remotely close to fair…yet was able to continue to call games for the rest of his short life. Its obvious that there was heavy money on the Marlins and Gregg received a piece of it. And the fact that there was no criminal investigation on something this blatantly obvious is the icing on the cake. The Marlins shouldve been disqualified from the playoffs and Gregg put in prison for this abortion of a game.

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    • Aluminum foil helmets brigade says:

      “Its obvious that there was heavy money on the Marlins and Gregg received a piece of it.”

      Agreed. Also the moon landing was faked!!

      Let’s scale back the groundless accusations unless we have some shred of evidence to support them, mmmk?

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    • Peter says:

      “yet was able to continue to call games for the rest of his short life.”

      No. Gregg’s resignation was accepted mid-way through the 1999 season. He never umpired another ML game. I think he eventually became a bartender.

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  24. Chris Rose says:

    GOT HEEEEM!!!

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  25. Spunky says:

    I love the way Hernandez reacts after the last called strike, as though he accomplished something great.

    “What a great pitch, Livan! You earned that!”

    Few things must be as frustrating as watching a pitcher celebrate a bad pitch, knowing you, the batter, were penalized for doing your job correctly. By the way, I’m a Yankee fan, and this situation still upsets me (always will).

    Good analysis, Jeff.

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    • Billy says:

      To him, he won the most important game of his career. Whether or not the pitches were actually legit strikes doesn’t change the emotional high Livan was riding when that call was made. I see no reason to ride Livan for that when the real problem was clearly the idiot umpire.

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  26. Those videos are great. I have long been in favor of as computerized an umpiring system as possible. Whether the pitch crosses the plate or not is more objective a judgment than whether it is vertically a strike. So let’s have some laser- or shadow-based system that automatically negates any erronerous strike call that does not cross the plate.

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  27. Hanging Chad Ogea says:

    I think that, by 1997, telecasts were doing top-down replays of contested pitches and checked swings. I recall seeing some outrageous ones from that game. If you could get your hands on the full inning I think you’d have some better GIFs.

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  28. TKDC says:

    The lesson here for future players is if you slam your helmet and show up the umpire, he’ll call fewer strikes. I honestly hate Eric Gregg.

    Also, Kenny Lofton was incorrectly called out on a SB attempt. Now, the play was ridiculously close, so no real blame for that umpire, but it made a certain 14-year-old even more pissed off.

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  29. TKDC says:

    And if you watch the last pitch to McGriff, Johnson is about to throw the ball back to Hernandez and Gregg punches him out. Ridiculous. Interesting sidenote – McGriff is Johnson’s cousin.

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  30. Steve says:

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned is that during this era, it was quite common for the strike zone to be “wider” and “flatter”. This went on for a while years until MLB told umps they needed to start calling high strikes again,I believe in 2001. For several years in the 90′s anything over the belt was a ball, and to make up for it, the zone crept several inches off the plate.

    Now, was this game a pretty bad example of even the “accepted” strike zone of the era? Yes, I think so.

    But you can’t compare it to the zone we’ve had since QuesTec either.

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    • Peter says:

      Yes. Although it was in 1999 that Alderson mandated that umpires start calling the rulebook strikezone. This ultimately culminated in the idiot Richie Phillips’ call for the umpires to resign “en-masse” on September 2 1999.

      We can tie some of the increase in HR during the “steroid era” to the changes in the strikezone, as wider flatter zones benefit mediocre pitchers preferentially.

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  31. CircleChange11 says:

    Like I have always said, that performance was “Naked Gun Bad”.

    Particularly the outside curveballs. Those aren;t even close.

    I can understand a RHP getting some leeway on a running 2-seamer versus a LHB when the ump is sitting up on the inside corner. But geez, many of those pitches were horrible.

    As for Gregg saying that none of the batters were throwing their helmets, etc as if no one was dismayed with his zone … check out their expressions as they look back at him. Jones and McGriff are classic. They couldn’t reach some of those pitches even if they were swinging a rake.

    All that was missing from some of those pitches was Gregg doing the moonwalk and doing a 360 landing into a perfect split. Steeeee—riiii—iiii—iii—iii—-iiiike.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Seriously, check out the “frame job” my Johnson on McGriff, Lofton, and McGriff again …. it’s terrible. Unsmoothly pulling the ball back toward the center of his body 6-8 inches. Again, not all that smoothly either. One pitch he didn’t even bother framing, yet was still called a strike.

      Some of these would actually be LOL funny if the game wasn’t such a high profile and important game.

      IIRC, correctly shortly after this during an umpire “strike” many of the umpires (perhaps all) submitted resignations … and MLB gladly accepted Eric Gregg’s and when the “strike” was over, they continued to honor Gregg’s resignation (if I recall all that correctly).

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  32. razor says:

    Not a Braves fan but admired them from a distance in the 90′s. I remember being outraged as I watched this game but now it just seems like pure comedy.

    What else can you do but laugh? Unreal awful.

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  33. Bvilebaron says:

    I saw the game; easily the worst example of one-sided balls and strikes I have ever seen. There is simply no way to try to defend Gregg’s strike zone for Hernandez. It was a disgrace.

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  34. nilbog44 says:

    I don’t think it is exaggerated how bad it was. I think it’s even worse than I remembered.

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  35. BravesFan says:

    Reminds me of the famous “Juuust a bit outside”!

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  36. Eric says:

    I was at game 5 sitting directly behind home plate. I couldnt see but a piece of the batter much less the catcher. I would see the ball appear to the right and left of Eric Gregg and he would call them strikes.

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  37. Rerun sucks says:

    Quit trying to defend Rerun. He was one of the worst umpires to ever work an MLB game. If Richie Phillips had not threatened Chub Feeney, Bill White and Leonard Coleman all those years, Rerun would never have sniffed the postseason. But since Phillips claimed every umpire was “the greatest on earth”, Rerun got to work.

    Rerun should have been fired during the 1979 strike. That would have sent a message. But no, they let Rerun continue to fuck up. REALLY FUCK UP.

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  38. usertron2020 says:

    Tim McCarver was doing color commentary on this game, which I watched as a 37 year old. HE was appalled, and for years afterward, whenever he saw a wild pitch that the catcher managed to snare, he would declare: “If Eric Gregg is watching this game, then he’s saying ‘That’s a strike!’”. McCarver REALLY hated Gregg’s performance in that game. I imagine he’s stopped now that Gregg is dead.

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    • Johnston says:

      Probably not. A lot of us will go on hating Eric Gregg’s misperformance as long as we live. His name and Don Denkinger’s both make me snarl reflexively whenever they are spoken.

      Was he just a totally incompetent boob or was he badly hungover or was he bought and paid for? There’s no way to ever know. Thank God the MLB was able to finally get rid of him.

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  39. Remus says:

    Bad managing from Cox, should have sent righties to get HBP

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  40. EB says:

    I think the video pretty much shows how bad this strike zone was. It was legendary. But at least it happened against the Braves and the pitching staff that benefitted from more balls being strikes than anybody.

    And really, even if Maddux was getting the same calls–which he wasn’t, at least to that level–does it really matter? That game was a farce and can’t even be taken seriously. It’s not a game of baseball when pitches that cannot be hit are being called strikes.

    I also think some good evidence comes from Charles Johnson in the Livan and Orlando Hernandez 30 for 30. Johnson acknowledged the wide strike zone, specifically ran to the mound to tell Livan to throw the ball outside, and seemed legitimately incredulous about the strike zone now more than 15 years later.

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  41. Ruki Motomiya says:

    So you’re saying Gregg’s poor calls were a result of poor Umpire dressing? Perhaps it heated his brain in the sweltering Miami heat?

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