OK, WE'RE NOT going to revisit the ghost of Chico Ruiz.

This isn't 1964 and there are no indications that these Phillies are the type of team to let one setback mushroom into a pennant-crushing collapse.

In fact, the entire modus operandi of this group of players over the last three seasons is the opposite.

Their character down the stretch in winning three consecutive National League East titles should provide comfort, since there is still so much baseball to play.

Still, when things are this tight and this intense, one play can often become a signal point.

In '64, Ruiz stealing home for the Cincinnati Reds and beating the Phillies is regarded as the catalyst for the 10-game losing streak that cost them the pennant.

I sincerely doubt that first-base umpire Greg Gibson botching an eighth-inning call in last night's 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros will have that kind of impact.

But it's the type of umpire error that can have repercussions when the stretch run is as compact as the one between the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves.

The situation: With no outs and a runner on first base, Astros centerfielder Michael Bourn directed a sacrifice bunt down the first-base line.

Ryan Howard fielded the ball and appeared to tag out Bourn. Gibson called Bourn safe.

Even if Howard missed the tag, Bourn clearly took a step out of the base line to avoid the tag and then took two more strides before curling back into first base.

Gibson's call indicated that not only did Howard miss the tag but Bourn's run was legal.

Not according to Rule 7.08 of Major League Baseball that states: "Any runner is out when – (a) (1) He runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball."

Well Howard had already fielded the ball, so that wasn't an issue.

"I was just trying to avoid the tag," Bourn said. "I didn't think I stepped way over the line, but it was moving so fast."

What Gibson hung his ruling on was the other part of the rule that says, "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."

If that were the case, then the straight line Bourn established while avoiding Howard would have led him into rightfield foul territory about 3 feet from first base.

Not only did Bourn visibly curl back to the left to reach first base, but the divots he left in the grass confirmed his path.

"[Gibson] said Bourn established his base line there," said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who got ejected for arguing the play. "Then I said to him, 'If that's the damn case, he can go all the way to the dugout.'

"[Gibson] said, 'Yeah, if that's where he establishes his base line, he can.' I don't understand that."

Nobody would.

Crew chief Sam Holbrook told a pool reporter, "Per MLB Baseball, we are not allowed to talk."

Maybe "MLB Baseball" doesn't allow umpires to comment, but by the rules of Major League Baseball, that's a fib.

These umpires simply believe that Manuel, the players and the fans don't need to understand why that call was made the way it was.

And frankly, that's the problem with this entire incident.

It's not about a bad call costing the Phillies an important game.

Not too long ago, the Phillies got a victory over the Florida Marlins because of a bad call.

Human error is a part of baseball. We can accept that.

What's not acceptable is umpire arrogance, and this is clearly an example of that.

For Gibson to imply to Manuel something as stupid as Bourn being able to establish his base line to the dugout is not only laughable but completely unprofessional.

In Little League, we all learned the importance of that outer white line running down the first-base line.

Home-plate umpire Scott Barry was following Bourn down the line and had as good a view of the play as Gibson.

But it was Gibson's call, and protocol is that another umpire won't help on a call unless he is asked.

"[Gibson] does not have to ask for help," Manuel said. "It's his call."

Fine, but, honestly, how hard would it have been for Gibson to confer with Barry to make sure they saw things the same way?

If not for an inflated ego, why wouldn't he have?

Even if they came up with the same ruling, at least people would know they were most interested in making sure the correct call was made.

I understand why Major League Baseball isn't prepared to use all of the replay technology available to get calls right.

I understand why the human element is an important part of the nature of the game.

I just wish that sometimes umpires would understand the difference between human error and human arrogance.

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