Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wierder Ball

Do I get any bonus points for my prescience? Last night as I watched the Angel-White Sox game unfolding, I observed that there were some strange goings-on. I called it wierd ball. Had I only known...

A well-pitched, hard fought game ended in bizarre fashion with all eyes on the home-plate umpire: A.J. Pierzynski and the White Sox had other ideas -- and so did the home plate umpire.

So while third-string catcher Josh Paul and his Los Angeles teammates ran off the field Wednesday night, Pierzynski took off for first base, triggering what is sure to go down as one of the most disputed endings in postseason history.

Confused? Just wait...

In a sequence as bizarre as any imaginable on a baseball field, Pierzynski swung at and missed a low pitch from Angels reliever Kelvim Escobar, appearing to end the bottom of the ninth inning with the score tied at 1.

The ball was gloved by Paul -- replays appeared to show he caught it cleanly just before it would have hit the dirt. And behind him, Eddings clearly raised his right arm and closed his fist, signaling strike three.

As Mike Scioscia says, such would seem clearly to say that the batter is out: "When he rings him up with a fist, he's out," Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. That is what every Angel player on the field thought, and certainly seeing it on TV and in the 40 or so replays afterward, would lead you to believe.

Eddings stands by the call: "I did not say, 'No catch,"' said Eddings, a major league umpire since 1999 who is working his third postseason assignment. "I'm watching Josh Paul, seeing what he's going to do."

After the game, Eddings watched several replays and stood by his call.

"We saw it on a couple different angles, the ball changes directions," Eddings said. "I had questions. I didn't have him catching the ball."

Well Doug, you're wrong. It was a caught third strike and Pierzynski was out. I'm with Jim Caple and his panel of experts on this. The ump blew it.

Mr. Eddings, the People's Court finds you guilty. The first rule of umpiring is to make your calls clear to everyone and the video plainly shows that you did not. You raised your fist as if you were calling him out, but you said nothing. Had you given the Angels any indication at all that the pitch had not been caught, they would have had plenty of time to throw out the runner. No game, particularly one with such importance, should ever end on such a play.

Before I am accused of sour grapes lets be clear on one final point: The Angels may very well have lost the game in extra innings had Eddings made the correct call. I am most certainly not arguing that the call kept them from winning the game, because that is just not the case. But it did ultimately lead to a bizarre and mystifying loss. One that shouldn't have happened that way.

In the playoffs--in every sport--the players need to decide games. Not officials.

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