I know the baseball playoffs have been largely ignored around here but it’s tough when you don’t have any rooting interest whatsoever. Rest assured, I have been watching the majority of the games and, well honestly, it hasn’t been very exciting.
Three of the four Divisional Series ended in sweeps and both League Championship Series have the potential to end in five games (The Phillies are up 5-2 and threatening in the 4th as I type this). Just nothing terribly exciting in any of the games that’s worth talking about. One thing, however, cannot escape unnoticed. That’s the horrific umpiring that has gone on this postseason.
As a general rule, I don’t like officials. I don’t not like them, I guess, I just hate how they are immune to any sort of criticism. I realize that they do the best they can and most of the time, they get the calls correct. When they get the calls wrong, however, they should fall under the same scrutiny that any of the rest of us would be subject to if we messed up our job. Especially if we messed up our jobs as bad as Tim McClelland did his last night.
This Yahoo! blogger called it the worst call in the history of sports. Not the worst call this year, the worst call in the last decade, but the worst call of all time. That’s a pretty bold statement to make, one that I disagree with, but it’s certainly not crazy. I’d post the video, but copyrights aren’t letting me. You can see it on the Yahoo! link I posted earlier.
If you’re too lazy for that, I’ll explain:
With runners on second and third, Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez grounded a ball back to Angels pitcher, Darren Oliver. The runner on third, Jorge Posada, immediately broke for home plate. Seeing that, the runner on second, Robinson Cano started to run to third. Oliver alertly threw the ball home to catcher Mike Napoli who then had Posada in a rundown. Napoli chased Posada back to third where Posada saw Cano almost on the base, almost being the key. Knowing he was out, Posada continued past third. As Napoli went to tag Posada, he noticed that Cano was a few feet from the base and reached out and tagged him. He then proceeded to tag out Posada.
It seems pretty cut and dried to me. Two players, neither of whom are on a base, both are tagged with the baseball. Two outs, right? Well, not if you’re the Yankees.
On the play, Posada was correctly ruled out but Cano was given third. McLelland thought his foot was on the base when Napoli tagged him. The Yankees didn’t score in the inning and won the game easily, but that’s beyond the point.
It’s the playoffs. It’s the part of the season that the players, managers, and every member of that organization all worked so hard to be a part of; they deserve better than to have an umpire half-ass his job. What if this had caused the Angels to lose the series? It wouldn’t be the first time they’d gotten the short end of the umpiring stick:
You may remember this play from the 2005 ALDS against the White Sox. Angels fans do.
This also isn’t the first time that the Yankees have benefited from a blown call in the 2009 playoffs:
The umpire in question on this play is Phil Cuzzi, but again, this just can’t happen. These are basic calls.
I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this, but McClelland actually blew a call against the Yankees earlier in the game. McClelland ruled that Yankees’ outfielder Nick Swisher left the base too early on a sacrifice fly. Replays confirmed that the call was incorrect.
Now, I’m not sure what Major League Baseball should do about this short of telling the umpires to get better. Obviously, that’s easier said than done. Maybe they could expand the use of instant replay? They could give each manager a challenge flag like in the NFL. That would have solved each of the calls that I’ve mentioned above and it wouldn’t have taken very long to confirm. If MLB is truly that concerned with the length of the games, they could add a replay official to the booth or have one at their offices, similar to the NHL, who could make the ruling quicker without causing the umpires to leave the field of play.
I don’t care what they do about the situation, I just hope they fix it before they have another Don Denkinger or Jeffrey Maier moment.