Even Michael Bourn would look at this and think he's out.
After being the beneficiaries of a terrible call against the Marlins back on August 4th, the Phillies got to feel what it's like to be on the other end of a call Monday night.
With a man on first, Michael Bourn bunted the ball up the first-base line. Ryan Howard fielded the ball a few feet away from the base-line in fair territory, and make a spectacular dive to tag Bourn on his way to first.
Or so we thought.
Bourn lept off to his right side, jumping into the grass, and presumably leaving the baseline which would mean he's out anyway regardless if Howard actually tagged him or not.
Again, you would think so, wouldn't you?
But up pops the MLB's ridiculously vague rule about what constitutes leaving the baseline. In the rules, they say a runner can't be more than three feet away from "his" baseline. And what exactly is "his" baseline?
Per the MLB rulebook, "a runner's baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely."
So, apparently, Bourn's baseline didn't start until Howard attempted to tag him.
"I said, 'If that's the damn case, he can go all the way to the dugout,'" Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel said after the game. "[First-base umpire Greg Gibson] said, 'Yeah, if he establishes his baseline over there, he can.' I don't understand that."
It might not be exactly fair to call this a "bad call" since it's more a result of an inexcusably vague rule, but it doesn't change the fact that the Phils got the short-end of the straw.
It's like the NFL's infamous Tuck Rule game between the Oakland Raiders and New England Patriots back in 2001. Just because the rules say it wasn't actually a fumble does not mean that the Raiders didn't get royally shafted.
Everyone watching that play knew it was a fumble, and everyone watching this play knew Bourn was out one way or another.
It also doesn't help that Gibson made a similar call this season when the Phillies faced the Cleveland Indians. The call went against the Phils that time too, except that time when Shane Victorino attempted to do the same thing Bourn did Monday night, he was ruled out.
Same circumstances, same umpire, but a different call? The main focus of the rules should be to take as much discretion as possible away from the umpires, not give them more. This rule and this set of circumstances proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
The MLB needs to rewrite the rule so there's absolutely no confusion as to what is and what is not the baseline. Make it the actual line, stick more closely to the "three feet" part of the rule, or just say they're going to abolish the baseline idea altogether and we can watch a speedy guy like Bourn just run in a circle until Howard is too tired to throw to first or tag him.
But whatever they do, they need to make it a concrete rule that everyone can clearly follow.
It certainly didn't help that Ryan Madson got smacked around a little bit in only one inning of work and eventually gave up what would be the winning run, but if the Phils could score more than two runs it wouldn't have mattered anyway.
Had they taken advantage of opportunities presented to them earlier in the game, they could be walking away complaining about the call, but comforted by the thought that it didn't wind up costing them the game. Instead, they're extra sore because they feel they've been cheated.
"Games like tonight, these are the games we have to win," Manuel said. "That's a game we're supposed to win and have to win."