The Yankees won big last night, so this is almost something you can laugh about this morning, but the umpiring in this postseason has bordered on the absurd. And while it’s unfair to lump every umpire together under the umbrella of “bad at their jobs,” last night’s game featured three different plays in which replays (or in one case, just watching the play live) proved that the umps botched a call.
The first — Nick Swisher being called safe at second on a pickoff attempt — was just your garden-variety bad call. Not that it’s an excuse, but in real time there’s a split second between the tag being applied and Swisher touching second, and bad calls on plays like that are bound to happen. At risk of sounding like a Yankees homer, let’s give Dale Scott a pass, if only so we can get to third-base umpire Tim McClelland.
Swisher, now on third, thought he’d tagged up and scored on a sacrifice fly, but was called out by McClelland for leaving third base too early. This, too, could have been just a typical bad call (as opposed to a memorably bad one) if the replays didn’t show that McClelland wasn’t even looking at Swisher when the ball was caught. At the time, we thought this must mean one of two things: It was either a makeup call for the play at second (which is wrong, but probably happens all the time), or he just took the Angels’ word for it when they complained (which would be both wrong and ridiculous). Instead, McClelland offered this explanation after the game: “In my heart I thought he left too soon.” Adorable, isn’t it?
Sadly, it would only get worse, on a play in which Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano were both tagged by catcher Mike Napoli while standing next to third base. (Quick tangent: What could Cano possibly be thinking here?) Somehow, McClelland allowed Cano to remain at third, explaining after the game that he thought Cano was on the bag. Cano didn’t end up scoring, but that didn’t stop Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew from calling it the worst call of all time. It’s almost enough for you to wish McClelland would go back to calling plays based on what his heart tells him.
Tracy Ringolsby last week reported that injuries are preventing several veteran umpires from calling games in the playoffs. (Eight of the nineteen umpires with at least twenty years of big-league experience are sidelined.) Though it would be scary if there were really that few reliable major-league umpires. Fay Vincent and Rob Neyer blame the inefficient system of developing umpires instead of the individual umps, though that’s equally as concerning. Jonah Keri’s plan to scrap the human element altogether is looking better and better every day.