Cuzzi’s Call Has Fans Crying Foul

October 10, 2009
You be the judge.  Not a tough call (Getty Images)

You be the judge. Not a tough call (Getty Images)

The New York Yankees took down the Minnesota Twins to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALDS on Friday night.  The Yankees won in dramatic fashion with a walk off homerun in the 11th by 2009 acquisition, Mark Teixiera.  The dramatic winning effort was overshadowed, though by an absolutely horrible call that took place in the top of the 11th.

Joe Mauer was leading off the top of the eleventh with Damaso Marte (how did this guy make the postseason roster?) on the hill.  Joe hit a flair down the left field line that, off the bat, looked as if it would be well foul.  Melky Cabera gave chase and nearly caught up to it in the left field corner.  The leftfielder got a piece of it, it hit the ground, and bounced into the seats by the foul pole.

Phil Cuzzi was literally 20 feet from the spot of this soon-to-be mess.  He is staring directly at the occurrence, and as the ball bounced away, Cuzzi emphatically motions that the ball was foul.

There are a few things that are just really bad here.  First of all, this ball was fair by a foot.  I am not even exaggerating there.  The foul line is actually as fair line, and this ball was probably eight inches inside the line.  So, seeing that as foul is about as bad a call as I have ever witnessed.

Second, this would have been a ground rule double or a foul ball.  Either way the play is dead.  So, if Cuzzi saw this as fair and just called foul by instinct, he had ample time to change his decision.  Cuzzi would have gotten booed a little for this, but further review by everyone would have shown he was correct.

Third, this ball nicked off of Melky Cabrera’s glove.  Melky was well in fair territory when it hit off of him, and that alone, even if Cuzzi saw the ball land foul, should merit a fair call.  The only thing I can think of was that he was waiting to see chalk, and when he did not see it, Cuzzi called the ball foul.

Phil Cuzzi has a track record of controversy in the MLB, but this wasnt about ego like usual.  This was a case of either dyslxia or blindness.

Phil Cuzzi has a track record of controversy in the MLB, but this wasn't about ego like usual. This was a case of either dyslxia or blindness.

Really the worst part about this call is that the third base umpire would have gotten it right.  I do not see the need for the extra two umpires in the playoffs.  Now that you have instant replay for homerun/non homerun calls, the outfield is pretty much covered.

There are very few situations that the umpire further down the line will get a better view of a catch or a boundary call.  I understand it gives the base umpires a better opportunity to watch the bags, and see if runners tag up, etc, but you are asking an umpire to do something he has not done all year.

Phil Cuzzi really blew this call.  He saw down for up, left for right, fair for foul.  It was his one call of the night.  Chuck Meriweather blew numerous calls behind the dish, but he was allowed instant redemption by the next pitch.   Cuzzi got one chance, and made a mockery of Abner Doubleday and the rules of baseball.

If you want to see what fans are saying, here are a few reactions from Twitter and comment boxes from various articles (just know that I didn’t edit these people, and apparently, no one can spell):

Umpire Phil Cuzzi are U buddies with Tim Donaghy?”

I really believe that Phil Cuzzi might have made the worst officiating call in history. How did he miss it?”

Umpire Phil Cuzzi was the MVP for the Yankees last night”

Phil Cuzzi you don’t need to make the trip to the Metrodome. Watch from home. Broadcast in HD maybe you will see the White Foul Line.”

Umpire’s ugly mistake costly to Twins: Phil Cuzzi might want to register under a pseudonym at his hotel in Minn”

Dear Phil Cuzzi, I’ll pay for your lasik surgery… You should feel horrible”

Phil Cuzzi Stinks, And I Don’t like him”

Then the Ones that Think the Fix is In:

Calling for the head of Phil Cuzzi…what a joke of a call last night…no way can someone unintentionally make that big of a mistake”

Phil Cuzzi is paid off with Steinbrenner money.”

“come on people…this is how the mob works…they own these umpires…remember the n.b.a. ref….all the money that is on a yankees trip to the world series…MONEY TALKS”

“Lets really investigate Cuzzi. His calls to vegas? his friends? All of it. If it isnt him, Its MLB, One of the 2 is guilfy. Im so disgusted with the game now. I used to be a true fan of it.”

“Just another case of Bud Selig and MLB doing whatever they can to guarantee that the Yankees get to the World Series.”

“Get some glasses and then get a brain. That call was blown on purpose. GO buy that ump a drink. I’m sure he has plenty of them today. I hope he made enough to retire on with that call.”

“That call ruined a great game. Rigged.”

Some Said it was Karma:

“Brandon inge got hit by the ball that would have scored a run!!!! quit all your crying the twins are there too by bad calls so everbody just zipp it it done!!”

“Wee, hey twins fans…remember that blown call when inge got hit? I’m sure you do. Maybe this was super obvious, but what goes around comes around.”

Who was happiest with this call?

You may think it was the Yankees or Yankees fans or even the National Association for the Defamation of Umpires (NAfDU for short) but no, it was Joe Nathan.  Nathan’s complete collapse gets pushed back a page because of an umpire’s blindness.  Nathan, who was sweating like he was in withdrawal, gave up two missiles to start he ninth inning and knot up the score.  Nathan said after the game, “I wasn’t the only one who blew one tonight.”

Joe Nathan is pumped that everyone forgot about him blowing this one, and turned their attention to a call.

Joe Nathan is pumped that everyone forgot about him blowing this one, and turned their attention to a call.

No, you weren’t Joe, but giving up a 440 ft bomb to ARod kept the game going long enough to allow Phil Cuzzi his opportunity. So don’t deflect criticism because you have gotten off extremely easy.  You owe Phil Cuzzi a thank you card.

If Twins fans really think the fix is in, then I suggest you investigate your closer before you start suggesting that the mob paid a guy standing in the left field corner to blow a critical call in game two of the ALDS.

It’s Time To Go Bobby Bowden

October 10, 2009
After 33 years and 2 National Championships, its time good ol Bobby steps aside.

After 33 years and 2 National Championships, it's time good ol' Bobby steps aside.

Florida State has been in the news a lot lately, but unfortunately it has nothing to do with the players or the performance on the field.  It’s all about the competence of Bobby Bowden as a football coach.  The Seminoles are 2-3 on season, including a disgraceful 0-2 in ACC play.  The ACC is no SEC or Big 10 or Big 12, it’s full of overrated teams with reputations based on their past, not current play.  The Seminoles record is where it should be, based on the talent they have.  The problem is the distraction Bowden is providing his program.

Bowden will forever be a legend in Tallahassee for winning national titles in 1993 and 1999.  He’s won a lot of Bowl games too, notching 11 W’s since 1991.  But take a closer look at his record and you’ll see that he hasn’t accomplished much in the past decade since his last title.  Since 2000, his teams have averaged 4.2 losses per full season (this year’s record not factored in).  In the current BCS climate, 1 loss can ruin a season and 2 surely ends one.  An average of 4 losses per season is not acceptable for a team that is typically a strong recruiter and ranks well in preseason polls.  Take into account they play in the woeful ACC, 4 losses is completely unacceptable.  The conference is weak, with only Virginia Tech being a consistent BCS bowl team.

Jen Sterger, FSUs hottest fan, is the only thing the Seminoles have to show for the past decade of football.  Maybe it was worth it after all?

Jen Sterger, FSU's hottest fan, is the only thing the Seminole's have to be proud of for the past decade of football. Maybe it was worth it after all?

Looking outside of their record, let’s examine what he brings to the program.  Experience?  Yup, few can compare with his.  Knowledge?  Up for debate, as his coordinators have been gaining more and more responsibility over the years.  This isn’t to say he’s not smart, but there’s no telling how much he has to do directly with gameplanning these days.  Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher was signed to a contract a couple years back, giving him the head coaching gig when Ol’ Bobby steps aside.  apparently, there’s a clause in the contract that pays Fisher $5 million if he isn’t the coach by 2011.  This is fine, if they were producing and the ballcoach was looking to wrap up his career.  In fact, at the time it was signed, it looked like a coup by FSU because they locked up a talented younger coach and had a contingency plan in place for the day that Bowden called it a career.  Recruiting-wise, it was supposed to reassure athletes that they wouldn’t be subject to not knowing who their coach would be should the 70+ year old head coach retired.  Kids sign up for 4 years of football at a school, and part of a recruitment pitch is the coach being there for your entire ride (thus the ridiculous and overinflated 10 year contracts many college football coaches receive).

But as Fisher has gained this future guarantee, it’s been said that he’s also taken over control of the team and that he often doesn’t consult Bowden about team issues because he thinks it’s “his team”.  Sure, this might be a problem with Fisher, not Bowden, but let me explain.  Bobby’s more or less backed himself into a lame-duck corner by not committing to a long-term deal, only having a contract with apparently infinite one year options he can exercise each year.  With the uncertainty regarding his contact, the school had to lock up an heir apparent for recruiting purposes.

Furthermore, it appears that Bowden has lost control over his team in recent years.  He’s had players miss games for testing positive for drugs (WR Parker), fighting, and academic cheating scandals.  He had to vacate victories from ’06 and ’07.  Of course, players are responsible for their actions, but the coach needs to be able to judge character in addition to talent when recruiting.

Looking at this season alone, Bowden surely isn’t inspiring his team.  After the loss to the University of Southern Florida, Bowden laughed during his post-game press conference while he justified why his team lost.  “When they’re playing Western Kentucky, Wofford, and Charleston, they beat the heck out of ’em.  It’s hard, you’re just not sure of the people they’re playing, but (chuckling) they’re good, they beat the heck out of us,” Bowden said, “They whupped us.”  Is this an appropriate response when losing to a small school, at home, with a freshman quarterback, while rushing for only 18 yards?  The answer ought to be no.  To sit there and chuckle about the apparent fact that he overlooked this team because of who they’ve played previously is downright shameful.

Its too bad that Bobby Bowden is costing his team a chance to compete with the big shots in college football

It's too bad that Bobby Bowden is costing his team a chance to compete with the big shots in college football

Then there was the drama unfolding this past week.  The chairman of FSU’s board of trustees was reported to have been working behind the scenes to remove Bowden and appoint Fisher head coach this season.  And if Bowden didn’t step aside, it was rumored that they would have amended Fisher’s contract to give him authority to make personnel decisions once the season was over, thus allowing him to remove Bowden from his post.  This was denied, but not convincingly.

ESPN is running an interview with Bowden this weekend, asking him about the scandals.  He basically shrugs it off, saying he takes it “year by year” because of his contact options and “when you’re 40, you’re like ‘Oh my god’ but I’m 79, what do I have to lose?”  That statement right there is the essence of what is wrong with Florida State right now.  He doesn’t have anything to lose, he’s not hungry, and he’s not leading the team to their full potential.  It’s time for a change, as it has been for a while.  It’s just too bad that FSU’s 2009 season had to be wasted to find that out.  It’s never nice to see a legend leave, or be forced out, but sometimes you have to save a man from himself.  Be it pride, stubbornness, whatever, Bowden should have been gone a while ago.  Now he’s hurting the program he’s spent the past 33 years to build.  It’s time to go Bobby, do it for your team.

The Ghosts have Crossed the Street

October 10, 2009

On Friday night, the Yankees came back from two runs down in the ninth, and then overcame a bases loaded, nobody out jam in the eleventh en route to a Mark Teixiera homer, and a 2-0 lead in the series against the Twins.  The victory makes one wonder if the mystique of old Yankee Stadium has jumped the short distance into the Bronx Bomber’s new stomping grounds.

The Yankees caught a few big breaks in this one.  Terrible umpiring was prevalent from the first pitch, but in the eleventh, Joe Mauer hit what appeared to be a leadoff ground rule double.  The umpire called the ball foul, though replays proved it to be fair by at least a foot (Words cannot describe how bad this call was.  The umpire was standing on top of it, and staring right at it.  Melky Cabrera touched it in fair territory.  Bad call).  Mauer would later single, but was forced out at the plate in an epic escape by Yankee’s reliever David Robertson.

Earlier on in the game, with the game still tied at zip, Matt Tolbert singled with two outs and Delmon Young at second.  Carlos Gomez took a wide turn rounding second, and Nick Swisher quickly got the ball into Derek Jeter.  Jeter who is seemingly, always in the right place at the right time in the month of October, applied the tag to Gomez just before Delmon Young reached homeplate.  Inning over, game still tied.

A more blatant example of pimping a homerun. At Least Mannys went out.

A more blatant example of pimping a homerun. At Least Manny's went out.

Also, a moment no one touched on during the coverage.  Brendan Harris hit a key rbi triple for the Twins.  While watching, the first thing I thought when Johnny Damon whiffed on it was, “that will be an inside the park homer,” but replays show Harris pimping it (definition: verb. admiring a batted ball that you think will reach the stands.) and getting off to a slow start.  He had a stand up triple and slowed down into third.  If he busts it out of the box, Harris may have had a rare homerun without leaving the yard.

A third break for the Yankees is that in his last two outings, Joe Nathan has looked pathetic.  Tuesday, against the Tigers, he pulled a Houdini on a ball smoked at Orlando Cabrera that caught Curtis Granderson napping at first, and tonight, he came in and could not throw a strike.  Nathan looked shook on the mound.  He was sweating like a pig.  When Nathan did find the zone, he found a bit too much of it, and paid the price.  Teixiera got a hard single off of Joe, and Alex Rodriguez followed with an absolute blast that made New York fans forget about the past, until tomorrow.

Jose Mijares dodged a bullet in the tenth, a runner inherited from Joe Nathan, Brett Gardner took off from third on a line drive to Orlando Cabrera and was doubled off to end a very promising threat.  (In Gardner’s defense, if he froze and got back to third, Derek Jeter was halfway to second base, and would have been thrown out anyways.)

Francisco Cervelli was the last person that thought Francisco Cervelli would play tonight.

Francisco Cervelli was the last person that thought Francisco Cervelli would play tonight.

This whole situation led to the very surprising use of Francsico Cervelli in the game.  When Posada was pulled for a pinch runner Francisco was actually at the bar in centerfield with his spikes on.  Cervelli came in and handled David Robertson effectively to get out of a huge jam.

After the first two games of the series the Steinbrenner Plan is working to perfection.  C.C. got a win, AJ Burnett pitched wildly effective, and Mark Teixiera collected the walkoff “wallscraper.”  Yankees fans are just hoping the Plan works in the House that Kirby Built.