Part of baseball is the margin of error brought on by the human error of the human officials. Friday night’s Twins at Yankees ALDS playoff game was dominated by calls so bad that it was only fair to assume the umpires were on a kamikaze mission to kill the game and their careers in the process.
With unemployment floating around ten percent, those with jobs need to ensure that their value is known. But on Friday night, a group of umpires made a strong case to major league baseball that officiating jobs are so error prone that perhaps umpires are just a waste of payroll and important calls would be better made by the camera than the human eye, which, as it turns out, blinks more frequently than you’d think.
All home plate umpires have a different interpretation of a strike zone. However, most are consistent in their calls. The large strike zone was especially enormous when the New York Yankees were up to bat. Nick Swisher chewed up the inside of his mouth in an effort not to express his true thoughts of the umpire’s mother.
Of course, the obvious mistake in the game ripped off the visiting Minnesota Twins, whose favorite 2009 hobby is blowing games against the bombers. In the 11th inning, Joe Mauer hit a ground-rule double down the left field line. Standing about ten feet away from the action, umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled the ball foul.
There are several possibilities for this happening:
- Cuzzi had such faith that Melky Cabrera would catch the ball that he assumed he not even look at the play closely.
- He blinked for a long time at the wrong time.
- Doing an impression of Tom Brady, a nearby fan emphatically called for the ruling that would help his team. As the officials did for the Patriots against the Ravens last week, the peer pressure worked and the home team benefited significantly.
After the game, umpire crew chief Tim Tschida took the spotlight off of the bouncing strike zone by admitted that Cuzzi blew the left field line call. “There’s a guy [Cuzzi] sitting over in the umpire’s dressing room right now that feels horrible,” Tschida said. “Nobody feels worse than the umpire.” Really? Cause I’m pretty sure the Twins felt worse.
A small and fair consolation would have been to demote Cuzzi to the minor leagues immediately after the game. Why not embrace some reality TV show structure and eliminate the worst at the end of the program?
Although the Twins proved that they did not deserve to win by failing to score with the bases loaded and one out, there is no excuse for an umpire to drastically destroy the integrity of a playoff game with such blatant disregard. It is time to really consider a replay system in baseball.
“I’d hate to see a day with no umpires where balls and strikes are called on the scoreboard,” Twins infielder Nick Punto said. “It’s not for me.” Of course! Why have accurate judgments through impressive technology when umpires can use creative license that ignores the rules of the game?
Change is difficult. It’s so damn different. But maybe if we refer to using technology in baseball as an improvement, not a change, people will be more receptive to the concept. It’s a marketing technique, really.
Also posted on National Lampoon’s Splog