No Chicago teams were harmed in the making of an unbelievably bad call by umpire Phil Cuzzi yesterday.
But the call cost the Giants a win over the Mets. It was the last of the ninth in a tie game and Travis Ishikawa clearly, no doubt about it, no question, not even close, slid in safely at the plate before Mets catcher Henry Blanco tagged him. The Giants should have won 4-3. Look at the photo attached to this post. A six-year-old kid could have made the right call. In fact, looking at the mlb.com video replay, not only did Ishikawa's foot touch home before Blanco's glove touched him, it appears Blanco never tagged Ishikawa at all.
Instead, Cuzzi called him out. It wasn't just that, though. Read Cuzzi's comment about the play:
Cuzzi said that he had not yet seen the replay. "I'll look at it, but I figured I'd eat first,” he said, laughing. “He made a decent attempt to put the tag on him. That’s what it looked to me, and that’s why I called him out.”
Wait. He "made a decent attempt"? That's all you need to do now, "make a decent attempt"? Well, Geovany Soto made a decent attempt to tag Brian Schneider out at Wrigley Field on Saturday. He didn't have the ball in his glove at the time, but I think everyone who saw the play either in person or on TV would agree that Soto's attempt was "decent". Out, right, Phil Cuzzi? Game over?
How utterly ridiculous. But that isn't all. Even Blanco admitted he didn't make the tag in time, and this wasn't the only thing Cuzzi did wrong on Sunday:
It was just one of many sloppy moments for Cuzzi. Earlier in the inning, after Rodriguez stepped off the mound and stared at Cuzzi over a close pitch called a ball, the umpire removed his mask and started yelling.
Players and coaches from both benches had been complaining about Cuzzi’s work throughout the game, and, by the ninth, the umpire appeared exasperated. He claimed he was yelling at the Mets bench, not Rodriguez.
Blanco called for the league to discipline Cuzzi. “I hope somebody sees that and punishes him,” the catcher said. “That’s one thing that should not happen in a baseball game. It doesn’t matter how mad you are, it should not happen, especially from them. I hope somebody was watching that.
Beyond that, a number of posters on Twitter on Sunday accused Cuzzi, who was born and resides in New Jersey, of favoring teams from New York:
Good job MLB umpire Phil Cuzzi reminding everyone how terrible you are. Or maybe you just really want ratings-friendly NY teams to win.
Remember, Cuzzi is the umpire who called an obviously fair ball hit by the Twins' Joe Mauer foul during the ALDS at Yankee Stadium last October; the hit would have almost certainly been a double. That ball was also hit in a 3-3 tie game, in the 11th inning. Mauer eventually singled, but was stranded at third after two more singles. If Mauer had doubled, at least one run would have scored and the Twins might have won that game, tying the series -- who knows? Maybe the Twins beat the Yankees and the Yankees don't win the 2009 World Series, if Phil Cuzzi doesn't make a call favoring New York.
It's way past time for replay in baseball. Not even mentioning the blown call that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game last month, this is now the second time since that game that a bad umpiring call has cost a team a victory. On June 2, umpire Dale Scott missed a call on an obvious force play at second base in a Twins/Mariners game. Ryan Langerhans scampered across the plate with the winning run; the force play should have ended the inning.
It's the right time for replay in baseball. Here's a very simple, but effective system. Add one member to each umpiring crew; the "fifth umpire" sits in the press box with replay monitors (and also serves as official scorer, taking that job away from retired sportswriters, who never should have had it in the first place). This umpire would be part of the regular umpire rotation, giving each umpire a "break" from base or ball and strike duty.
On plays like this, replays could be asked for by managers or the other umpires. Like the NFL, evidence would have to be conclusive on video to overturn a ruling on the field. In the case of yesterday's play, it would have, since the photos and video are completely conclusive.
Review would be limited to: home runs (which are already subject to replay), fair/foul, trapped/caught fly balls, and safe/out plays like the one yesterday and the one on June 3. Ball/strike calls would not be included.
This simple system would get calls right; would eliminate ridiculous arguments which delay games far longer than any replay review; and would mean the end of manager ejections, since they'd know calls would be made right. It would likely mean a huge reduction in player ejections, fines and suspensions, too.
And finally, it would eliminate the idea that a clearly biased umpire with an attitude like Phil Cuzzi can cost a team a game. What if the Giants finish one game out of the postseason this year? Will Phil Cuzzi give them a break and let them in anyway?
It's time for replay in baseball. Get your head out of... wherever it is, Bud Selig, and do it. Today wouldn't be soon enough.