Oct 06

Ump Holbrook Blows Call To Cost Braves; MLB Needs Replay

Chipper Jones was right, the Braves didn’t lose to the Cardinals in the wild-card play-in game because of umpire Sam Holbrook’s horrendous infield fly call. Then again, it didn’t help and this game will forever be known as the “Infield Fly Rule Game.”

Jones made a critical error and the Braves committed three overall, but they had a chance to overcome them when they loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning. Or so, everybody but Holbrook thought.

Another historic bad call.

Andrelton Simmons lofted a pop-up to left field – measured later at 225 feet from home plate — which landed perhaps ten feet behind retreating shortstop Pete Kozma and incoming left fielder Matt Holliday. Neither could have reached the ball with an all-out dive.

Kozma veered off at the last second, as if Holliday had called him off.

The rule states an infield fly would be called if the defensive player could have made the play with “an ordinary effort,” and must be made in a timely manner to inform the runners of the out and to allow them to advance at their own risk after tagging up.

Kozma’s feet never stopped moving, and when he veered off he actually ran away from the ball. This action alone is enough to show he had no intention of deceiving the runners, who never retreated to their bases.

That Holbrook, the additional umpire down the left field line, made the call directly in front of him should tell you Kozma was so far out that it wasn’t an ordinary play. It should have been the third base umpire’s call, but these guys rarely change a call. They don’t want to show up their partners.

In addition, Holbrook made the call late, with the ball on its downward flight.

All this can be seen on replay.

Later, Holbrook saw the replay and lamely defended the call, saying: “Once that fielder established himself, he got ordinary effort. That’s when the call was made.”

Trouble is, Kozma never established himself. He never stopped moving and his last movement was away from the play.

Don’t know what Holbrook was looking at either time. Other umpires have blown calls and at least had the class to admit they missed the call. Not Holbrook.

The Braves’ appeal to MLB was denied by executive Joe Torre, as was expected. With the expanded playoffs, there’s no time to wait another day to resume play if the appeal was granted. Never mind getting it right.

Torre’s decision was based on that it was a judgment call, but this was bad judgment by Holbrook. Plain and simple, he blew the call and not one analyst said otherwise. In fact, an ESPN poll had 69 percent respond this was an even worse call than the interception at the end of the Seattle-Green Bay game.

That’s hard to believe.

I understand the concept of an umpire’s judgment, but this was bad all around. Holbrook had no sense of what was going on. The rule is designed to not deceive the runners, but both Holliday and Kozma were so far away from the ball they never had the chance. Kozma’s actions alone would dictate this not being a normal call.

The technology is so good today that instant replay should be expanded to allow blown calls not decide playoff games. I’m tired of seeing games decided by incompetence. Not when there’s a vehicle for getting it right.

Play was stopped for 19 minutes as the grounds crew cleared the field of litter thrown from the stands. There’s no excuse for such behavior. There’s also no excuse for such a bad call.

 

Sep 17

Mets’ Fade Makes One Yearn For A Pennant Race

Every morning I take a glance at the standings and the pennant races. There’s nothing like the drama and intensity of a pennant race. It is the essence of the sport.

For the record, this morning the Mets are 14 games under .500 and 23 games behind the Nationals with a schedule that could plummet them to 20 below.

So much for a pennant race involving the Mets. Even the collapses of 2007 and 2008 gave those Septembers more meaning than this excruciating month. Of course the remaining schedule is of importance to the Phillies, Pirates and Braves, all in wild card contention. There are six games left with the hated Marlins in the battle to stay out of last place.

Major League Baseball added a second wild card in the hope of creating spice and interest in more cities. So far, it has worked in both leagues.

Sort of.

In the American League there are eight teams – including the three division leaders – that could end up with a wild-card berth. In the AL East there is a dogfight between the Yankees, Orioles and Rays. But, what kind of fight is it really if all three were to qualify for the playoffs? Mathematically it could happen.

In the National League, seven teams are in serious wild-card contention with all three division leaders having comfortable margins.

For all the drama – is it really manufactured drama? – in the wild-card races I think of perhaps the greatest pennant race in history, that being 1967 in the American League when five of the then 10 teams in the league were alive in September, but only one would survive.

For much of that tumultuous summer, the Red Sox, White Sox, Twins, Tigers and Angels were all packed at the top. The Angels were the first to drop out, then with over a week remaining the White Sox’s woeful offense finally wore down their marvelous pitching staff led by Gary Peters and Joel Horlen.

I remember it vividly because I spent that summer in New England and started following the Red Sox on the radio at night. My Indians, of course, were like the present day Mets and well on the outside.

The Red Sox, Twins and Tigers were alive heading into the final weekend. Carl Yastrzemski’s Sox and Harmon Killebrew’s Twins would eliminate one of those teams. All three were alive the final day. Boston eliminated the Twins early, then had to wait until the Tigers lost the second game of a double-header before clinching.

There have been many great pennant races, but for the amount of teams involved, that one had the most.

It’s not the same intensity when so many are involved for a play-in game.

If the old, no-division format were in place today, the Nationals and Reds would be having a great race, with the Braves and Giants on the fade.

The American League would have a spicier race with the Rangers, Athletics, Yankees and Orioles within five games of each other. That combination would give 1967 a run for its money.

Perhaps, because I was a kid and was just developing my passion for baseball

the 1967 race stands out. But nearly four decades later, it is still special reading about it.It is one for the ages.

Sep 12

Mets Announce 2013 Schedule

With the Mets playing out the string, what better time to announce the 2013 schedule, which is crazier than usual.

One good thing is the Mets and Yankees only play four games, scheduled in back-to-back two game series at the end of May.

On the flip side, interleague play is spread out throughout the season. You all know what this blog thinks of interleague play, so there’s no use in going through that now. One interleague comment, however, is the absurdity of scheduling something in September. In fact, the Mets have four series in September out of their division. They also have four series against teams that will only make one trip to Citi Field, which opens up the possibility to long rain delays and  awkward make-up dates later in the season.

Here’s the schedule. Times not announced.

1, 3, 4 vs. Padres

5, 6, 7 vs. Marlins

8, 9, 10 at Phillies

12, 13, 14 at Twins

15, 16, 17, 18 at Rockies

19, 20, 21 vs. Nationals
23, 24, 25 vs. Dodgers
26, 27, 28 vs. Phillies
29, 30 at Marlins
MAY
1 at Marlins
3, 4, 5 at Braves
7, 8 vs. White Sox
9, 10, 11, 12 vs. Pirates
13, 14, 15, 16 at Cardinals
17, 18, 19 at Cubs
20, 21, 22 vs. Reds
24, 25, 26 vs. Braves
27, 28 vs. Yankees
29, 30 at Yankees
31 at MarlinsJUNE
1, 2 at Marlins
4, 5, 6 at Nationals
7, 8, 9 vs. Marlins
11, 12, 13 vs. Cardinals
14, 15, 16 vs. Cubs
17, 18, 19, 20 at Braves
21, 22, 23 at Phillies
25, 26 at White Sox
28, 29, 30 vs. Nationals

JULY
1, 2, 3, 4 vs. Diamondbacks
5, 6, 7 at Brewers
8, 9, 10 at Giants
12, 13, 14 at Pirates

16 All-Star Game at Citi Field

19, 20, 21 vs. Phillies
22, 23, 24, 25 vs. Braves
26, 27, 28 at Nationals
29, 30, 31 at Marlins

AUGUST
1 at Marlins
2, 3, 4 vs. Royals
6, 7, 8 vs. Rockies
9, 10, 11 at Diamondbacks
12, 13, 14 at Dodgers
15, 16, 17, 18 at Padres
20, 21 vs. Braves
23, 24, 25 vs. Tigers
26, 27, 28, 29 vs. Phillies
30, 31 at Nationals

SEPTEMBER
1 at Nationals
2, 3, 4 at Braves
6, 7, 8 at Indians
9, 10, 11, 12 vs. Nationals
13, 14, 15 vs. Marlins
17, 18, 19 vs. Giants
20, 21, 22 at Phillies
23, 24, 25 at Reds
26, 27, 28, 29 vs. Brewers

Jul 15

Braves Complete Sweep Of Mets; Santana Routed Again

The Mets have never liked Atlanta, moreso now after being swept by the Braves coming out of the break. Johan Santana was rocked this afternoon, losing 6-1. They’ve now lost seven of their last 11 games.

SANTANA: Ripped again. (AP)

Since his June 1 no-hitter, Santana is 3-4 with a 5.67 ERA in seven starts. Both he and R.A. Dickey have been hit hard lately with no signs of regaining the form that made them an strong one-two punch in the first half. Santana has given up 13 runs in his last two starts.

The Mets’ next nine games feature six with first-place Washington, a stretch that could determine their second half in terms of whether they believe they can continue to compete and whether they should be active at the trade deadline.

Things aren’t looking good now and this is a very tenuous time for the Mets.

May 09

Mets Go For The Throat; Dillon Gee Gets Crack

The Mets have won 17 games this young season, ten of the come-from-behind variety and seven by one run. They have won six series, sweeping two. They go for the sweep today in Philadelphia.

Doing so will represent another step in their development. Contending teams close out games and close out series. Winning a series winning two of three is great, but sweeping is better.

Sweeping represents a sense of dominance and reinforces confidence. I know what you’re thinking; I’m being greedy. Maybe so, but doesn’t that signify a new attitude about this team?

Today it’s Dillon Gee going, and twice now Terry Collins let him pitch out of trouble when he was on the ropes. That demonstrates confidence, something you rarely saw Jerry Manuel give his pitchers.

I mention that not to rip Manuel as that would be piling on. I do say it to show the difference in attitude and culture between Manuel and Collins.

Manuel came on strong at first, taking out Jose Reyes in his first game. He then regressed, taking an unequal approach in dealing with players and afraid to be forceful with the deadwood. Then again, in all fairness, that message – in dealing with Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo – came from up top.

Things are different now. The Mets are infusing themselves with young, homegrown talent. You don’t often see guys not running out ground balls. There are occasional fundamental lapses, but they aren’t as frequent. That explains in part the winning.

The Mets haven’t hit this well with two outs in as long as I can remember. The defense from early questions – Daniel Murphy, Lucas Duda and Josh Thole – is better than anticipated, as is the starting pitching.

Something else the Mets have done, and this is another mark of a contender, is winning within the division and beating teams when they are done. They’ve won two series from the struggling Phillies, swept the Braves when they limped out of spring training without Chipper Jones, and swept the Marlins during their slow start.

Things have changed with the 2012, and that includes the expectations. Have yours changed?