Umps' foul play taints postseason
Phil Cuzzi's blown call continued the theme of awful umpiring this postseason
Perhaps Major League Baseball needs to change its grading system for umps
Plus, notes on Hideki Matsui's future and Joba Chamberlain's diminished role
NEW YORK -- The baseball is compelling, the umpiring dreadful.
Some of the Twins contingent were apoplectic about umpire Phil Cuzzi's blown call in left field which deprived Joe Mauer of a ground-rule double in the 11th inning. Mauer's fly ball into the corner ticked Melky Cabrera's glove while he was still in fair territory, then landed a few inches inside the line before bouncing over the wall. But Cuzzi incorrectly ruled it foul, and while Mauer singled, the Twins failed to score in that half inning before the Yankees sent them home a 4-3 loser in Game 2 on Mark Teixeira's walk-off homer.
As if it's bad enough that there's close to a $140 million payroll disparity between the Twins and Yankees, many a Twin left the Bronx feeling it wasn't a fair playing field, even beyond the bucks.
"It's a [bleeping] joke,'' one Twins source said. "What are the consequences?"
There are no immediate consequences, as crew chief Tim Tschida acknowledged. And while bad calls will happen, as the Twins' inspirational leader Nick Punto and some other of his more calm Twins teammates acknowledged, perhaps baseball does need to look at its grading system. MLB says playoff umpires are chosen on merit. Yet somehow, we still have C.B. Bucknor, Chuck Meriweather, Angel Hernandez and Bob Davidson working the first round.
Cuzzi doesn't have that sort of negative rep (unless you're Ozzie Guillen, who had a famous run-in with him). But baseball looks bad to have this happen a day after Bucknor missed multiple calls at first base in the Angels' Game 1 victory over the Red Sox. And baseball needs to do a few things, such as:
Take a look at its points system or who's grading the papers, one or the other.
Look at whether it's worthwhile to have umpires down the outfield lines. Tschida noted it's "uncomfortable'' working those lines because of footwork difficulties.
Require the umpire in question to come out to face reporters, just as the players do. Unlike players who mess up, umps are allowed to take the fifth unless they are in charge.
Tschida, a true pro, handled the questions perfectly well. But he wasn't the one who messed up.
"I hope everyone goes in to ask the umpire about it. I wasn't the only one who blew one tonight,'' said closer Joe Nathan. The All-Star surrendered a game-tying, two-run home run to Alex Rodriguez, who received a curtain call on a stirring night that featured a Yankees comeback, some stunningly bad baserunning and 17 men left on base by the snake-bit Twins. A lot happened, but a lot of the focus was still on Cuzzi's call.
"I think everyone knows the Yankees caught a break,'' Nathan also said. "It was eight inches inside the line. So I don't know how he missed it.''
Tschida said Cuzzi was back in the umpire room, feeling as bad as he could.
"They said nobody feels worse about it. But how about the guys in this room?'' a Twins source said about his own clubhouse.
Twins executives weren't too pleased either, phoning in to the league office to complain, which is something they didn't do on the field. Mauer said he missed it since he was running, and since the ball was deep in the corner, it could only be seen by third-base coach Scott Ullger. The Twins didn't argue the call. Not at the time, anyway.
MVP-in-waiting Mauer, who takes reasonableness to a new level, actually singled after having his double taken away. And since Jason Kubel followed with a single through the hole between first and second base, Mauer noted how the hole was bigger for Kubel with him being held at first, suggesting the situation might not have been better had the correct call been made. Perhaps thinking of the 17 men the Twins left on base and one hellacious baserunning blunder by Carlos Gomez, Mauer said, "We could have won the game earlier.''
But it was hard for most not to focus on the umpiring error. Afterward, Twins executives gathered in a small side room, watching MLB Network and shaking their heads. They especially didn't like the part where Tschida noted that there are no repercussions "other than we just feel horribly when that happens to us, you know?''
There was nothing more he could say.
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