Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Umpirical evidence of awful

The umpires this year have given umpirical evidence of awful officiating. The baseball playoff officiating has been so bad, with so many obvious blown calls, that the NBA's title of worst-officiated American sport (no sport is more poorly officiated than soccer) is in serious jeopardy. Even Big T(elev)en football and basketball officiating is not this bad.

Phil Cuzzi's failure in game 2 of the ALDS will be the paradigm failure. But C.B. Bucknor's calls in the Sawx/Angels ALDS were bad and last night was just horrendous.

The Yanks-Angels game had 3 major gaffes and a minor one (Fieldin Culbreth called Juan Rivera safe on a bang-bang play at first, but Rivera was out). Worse yet, two of the three were by Tim McClellan, reputedly one of the best umpires in the game.

In the 4th inning, with one out, two on, Yanks with three runs in, Scott Kazmir thisclose to getting ripped up and the Yanks going into cruise control, and Jeter up, Nick Swisher was picked off second base. Not close -- his lead hand was more than a foot away from the bag when Erick Aybar tagged Swish ON THAT HAND. Second base ump Dale Scott was four feet away from the play and looking directly at the tag . . . and called Swish safe.

After Jeter walked, Damon whacked a fly ball to centerfield. Swisher tagged up at third base, left AFTER Hunter had caught the ball, and trotted home with a 4-0 lead . . . or not. The Angels appealed to McClellan that Swisher left early and McClellan called Swish out. Replays showed clearly that Swish left after Hunter made the catch. More importantly: McClellan was looking at Hunter catching the ball, and was positioned so that Swisher was BEHIND McClellan when Swisher left the base. McClellan had no clue when Swish left and still called him out. Swish was called out on an appeal play last month, in a similarly spurious call, so this is pure reputation.

Finally, in the 5th, after he failed to score on Cano's double, Posada was at third and Cano at second with one out. Swish hit a bouncer to the pitcher. Posada was running on contact and the Angels caught him in a rundown. In that situation, the burned runner must play for time and the trail runner must take the next base. Thus, if the burned runner cannot score, both should end up ON third base, the fielder with the ball tags both and the ump calls the lead runner out. Here, Cano stopped short of third and Posada overran the base. Angels catcher Mike Napoli tagged the both and BOTH idiots should have been out. McClellan called Cano safe and Posada out.

Awful umpiring.

Except home plate ump Jerry Layne. He's the ump who did NOT give Aybar the "area play" on a double play attempt in game two (the shortstop or secondbaseman gets credit for the out at second just by being in the area of the base). On all previous double plays, Aybar had clearly stepped on the base (the Yanks bounced into three). And we saw why Layne made the calls he did.

FOX, to its great credit, showed Layne talking with Angels manager Mike Scioscia between innings and discussing how his view of the balls and strikes was not as clear when the Yanks were batting because Mike Napoli's stance impeded his view. Layne said he didn't ask Napoli to get lower, but if he wanted to that would be up to Napoli. Scioscia told Napoli what to do, and the Angels adjusted. With a clearer view of the low strike for Layne, the Angels seemed happier with the zone. Then again, Layne's zone was so consistent that the FOX Box strike zone graphic looked like it was designed by Layne's calls.

One other note: I think Tim McCarver has cut down on the cornpone and bad punnery this year. That's good. He's easily the best color commentator in the game when he's not being a buffoon and he was sharp last night in describing why Posada failed to score on the Cano double and why McClellan so badly whiffed on the Swisher sac fly run.

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