Baseball playoffs marked by bad umpiring so far
The baseball postseason enters its third day and already there are definining images: managers angrily climbing the dugout steps to protest a call, managers getting ejected. (Good thing the games are starting earlier for the kiddies.)
On Thursday, one-third of the managers (Ron Gardenhire, above, and Joe Maddon) who were working were ejected for protesting/criticizing calls -- the first time in postseason history that two managers have been ejected on the same day. (The manager who has been ejected more than any other -- Atlanta's Bobby Cox -- had a golden opportunity to protest a call in the Braves' game in San Francisco and did not. Weirdsville.)
In one game alone Thursday, home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt missed 31 ball-strike calls. In two other games, umpires missed 21 combined. It got so bad that there was speculation that TBS had turned off the PitchFX graphic after it showed Wendelstedt missing a third strike on a pitch by Minnesota's Carl Pavano to the Yankees' Lance Berkman. Berkman doubled on the next pitch, driving in Jorge Posada and giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead (they won 5-2).
Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire, who has twice been ejected by Wendelstedt, was thumbed for arguing that call and swore that their history was irrelevant.
"It has nothing to do with it," Gardenhire said. "Hunter and I talked and we kind of straightened all our stuff away. I went out to make sure my guys were straight on what we were going to do next and make my side of the story known. I thought the ball was a strike, he didn't call it a strike and I wanted to make sure he knew that."
The first manager ejected Thursday was Maddon, who was angry when first-base umpire Jerry Meals ruled Michael Young held up on a check-swing with two strikes in the fifth. Young hit a three-run homer on the next pitch to give Texas a 5-0 lead. Replays showed Young most likely did not hold up. Maddon, who went to the mound to talk to reliever Chad Qualls, yelled across the field at Meals and was ejected by plate umpire Jim Wolf.
"It's really hard to yell from the dugout," Maddon said afterward. "No one can hear you. I had to go out to the mound to make my point."
Another call was blown in the final game of the day when the San Francisco Giants scored the only run Tim Lincecum needed when Buster Posey was ruled safe on a steal (his career first) of second base.
Manager Bobby Cox didn't argue the call. "From the dugout you can't see anything and i didn't see a reaction," Cox explained (not that that has stopped him before).
"I guess it's a good thing we don't have instant replay right now," Posey said.
On the first day of the playoffs, right field umpire Chris Guccione ruled that Yankees right fielder Greg Golson trapped the ball on a catch of a sinking line drive by Delmon Young.
But enough about the botchedness of the calls. How do you fix it? No one wants to see the game slowed down any further and heaven forbid balls and strikes be subjected to instant replay. Baseball swears that umps are selected on merit, so maybe the answer lies in better training. Or do we all just need to admit that these are the breaks of the game, at least as long as humans are involved in it.
| October 8, 2010; 8:45 AM ET
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