Thursday, August 18, 2011

Blue Makes Yankees See Red

It was only a matter of time today before Major League Baseball admitted the umpires blew it when they didn't overturn a home run hit by the Kansas City Royals Billy Butler last night. The run was significant in the Royals 5-4 win over the New York Yankees, and while the correct call would not necessarily have meant the Yankees would have won the game (the home run put KC up 4-2 at the time), it was another example of just how poor big league umpiring has become.

Bad calls have been made many times over the years, and it's expected, the umpires are human and therefore fallible. It's easy to remember bad calls over the years- the missed call at first base that cost the 1985 Cardinals the World Series, the Jeffrey Maier incident in the '96 ALCS, and Joe Mauer's double that wasn't a double in the '09 ALDS are among the bad calls in crucial situations. But bad calls and poor judgement are becoming more and more prevalent, whether it cost a pitcher (Armando Galarraga) a perfect game or takes away an at-bat with an erratic ball-strike zone.

But when an umpiring crew cannot get a call right with the use of instant replay it's time to go back to the drawing board. Whether it be a point system where umpires are graded to determine if they get to work in the Major Leagues the follow season or are docked pay based on performance, something has to be done.

After the game Joe Girardi regretted not protesting the game, but there's no point since there's nothing more futile than a baseball protest. It was a futile night all told. The real reason the Yankees lost was a poor performance by starter Bartolo Colon and the failure to take care of offensive threats.

Colon was shaky and deliberate all night. He didn't have his usual positive energy on the mound nor the location of his pitches. Curtis Granderson's 34th home run of the season had helped stake the Yankees to a 2-0 lead, but Colon couldn't hold the Royals down in the 3rd inning. Alex Gordon belted his 15th home run of the season with two aboard to put the Royals on top for good, 3-2. One out later, came Butler's drive to left field that bounced off of the padding atop the wall and back into play. Brett Gardner quickly got the ball back in, but the umpires ruled a home run.

During a long replay review, Butler knew what the right call was and prepared to go back on the field with a double,. Television cameras caught Butler's sheepish grin when the umpires upheld the call and also the fury that no one knew Mariano Rivera was capable of. The Yankees closer barked out at the umpires and had to be quieted down by coach Tony Pena and Girardi so he would not get ejected. Rivera was still angry after the game while speaking with reporters.

The Yankees had a chance in the 9th to at least tie things up against Royals closer Joakim Soria, who has pitched far below his normal excellence this season. The Yankees loaded the bases on a Derek Jeter single and walks to Granderson and Mark Teixeira. That set the stage for a big battle with Robinson Cano, who had delivered a key three run home run the night before. But Soria made a big pitch and got Cano to fly out to left. Though Jeter scored to cut the lead to 5-4, the Yankees were down to their final out.

After a passed ball moved the tying and go ahead runs into scoring position, Soria issued another free pass to Nick Swisher to reload the bases. That brought up the birthday boy Jorge Posada, who turned 40 on Wednesday. This past Saturday Posada delivered twice the bases loaded, putting up six RBI in the process. It wasn't meant to be this time as Posada never got the bat off his shoulder. A 1-0 pitch missed the zone, but was called a strike by home plate ump Chad Fairchild, changing the tenor of the at-bat. Posada eventually looked at a called third strike on a pitch that was border line, but too close to take.


Prospect Dellin Betances was promoted to Triple-A Scranton.

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