Last night, we had another Umpire Controversy. These used to be referred to as "bad calls," but now they're controversies: They're the newest reason Baseball Is Falling Apart. (People always need a reason baseball is falling apart; people's persistence at grousing why the game isn't as great as it used to be is part of the game's charm.) In this one, the Florida Marlins lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 in ten innings, but they could have won in the bottom of the ninth; Gaby Sanchez lined a seemingly fair ball down the third-base line, but umpire Bob Davidson called it foul. (We think Davidson's call was wrong, but the play was a lot closer than the screaming Marlins announcers would have you believe.) This has led the strange umpire crucifixion ritual that is new to this season, the treating of every blown call as if it were Don Denkinger, as if every regular-season game was the World Series. Bob Davidson, Jim Joyce, Phil Cuzzi ... have you ever known so many umpire names before? Have you ever seen so many umpires forced to publicly defend their calls after games? Umpires — lonely, underpaid men who spend their whole adult lives on the road, being called horrible names by strangers — are our sacrifice, roasted on a spit as we pray to the instant-replay gods. We understand that outrage is building so that its momentum will bring us the robot umps we all want and deserve. But you still feel bad for the men in blue who find a new reason to be screamed at every night.
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