Without picking at too many old scabs -- MAUER'S HIT WAS FAIR! -- we would like to talk a little bit about the umpiring in this year's baseball playoffs. Most would agree it's been uneven, at best, and horrendous at worst. From inconsistent strike zones to blatantly blown calls, it started off bad and has perhaps gotten worse. In Game 2 of the World Series last night, in fact, there were two more bad calls that had a potential influence on the outcome. From ESPN.com (ours in bold):
With one out in the seventh and runners on first and second, Johnny Damon hit a smash to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard. Umpire Brian Gorman, standing behind the 6-foot-4 Howard, immediately threw his arm up to indicate the ball was caught in the air, but TV replays indicated it bounced into Howard's glove. Howard took a few steps toward first before throwing to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who tagged Jorge Posada to complete the inning-ending double play. Posada stood on second for a few moments before bounding off the base to protest the call, and manager Joe Girardi came out of the dugout to argue (pictured). The umpires gathered in the infield after the players returned to their dugouts, but the ruling stood. "The objective is to get it right, we asked each other what we had seen and the replay confirmed we got it right," crew chief Jerry Davis said, according to the Post. In the eighth, with runners on first and second, the Phillies' Chase Utley was called out by Gorman on an inning-ending double play. Replays showed Utley was safe. "On the replay it looked like there was a little bit of ball outside [Mark Teixeira's] glove," Gorman said, according to the New York Post. "It's what we call a whacker."
The first two items are in bold type because that seems to be a direct contradiction, no? If everyone who watched the play could see the call was wrong, how can an umpire assert that the replay confirmed the call was right? (The third bold item was just a plain strange thing to see in a quote).
What we have here, though, is a real problem. A few honest mistakes, combined with the seemingly increased magnitude of "what's at stake" these days in pro sports, with a dash of endless replays and constant chatter, has created a hypersensitivity to poor calls on the part of fans (and the media), who are looking to continue the storyline at every turn. This constant beating of the drum is wearing on already frazzled umps, who are unfortunately not helping themselves with either improved performance or accountability in many cases.
It makes us wonder if these playoffs will ultimately be remembered for the calls above all else.