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.

Metrodome Madness, Part 2: Twins/Tigers Didn’t Disappoint

October 6, 2009
This game really brought back memories of the Metrodomes heyday.  Kirby would be proud.

This game really brought back memories of the Metrodome's heyday. Kirby would be proud.

The game that I previewed here, proved to be the best game of the 2009 season, by far.  It may have been the best tiebreaker game in Major League history, and that includes a few gems.  It was a 12 inning masterpiece where its hard to think of a guy who played poorly.  Whenever someone made a bad play, they came back and made a good one seemingly seconds later.  In fact, the game was steeped in redemption, and it made for classic baseball.

Miguel Cabrera came in with a bit of a rap sheet, and owed something to the Detroit fans after a raucous weekend that included a lack of pounding baseballs and a surplus of pounding brews.  Cabrera hit a Scott Baker pitch roughly 8 miles for a 2-run jack in the 3rd inning to put the Tigers ahead 3-0, and the redemption began…

Rick Porcello and Scott Baker both pitched better than expected.  Porcello, at 20, showed he will be around for awhile.

Rick Porcello and Scott Baker both pitched better than expected. Porcello, at 20, showed he will be around for awhile.

In the bottom half, Rick Porcello (who pitched his ass off) pulled a boner with two outs on a pickoff play to first.  Matt Tolbert scored when the ball got away from Miguel.  Porcello pitched around Joe Mauer to load the bases, but came right after Jason Kubel and struck him out, celebrating as he ran off to the dugout.  Kubel redeemed himself with one of the longest homers I’ve seen at Hubert H. Humphrey in the 6th.

Ryan Raburn left his feet for a ball that Michael Cuddyer hit his way in the bottom of the 10th.  He missed the flair by a wide margin, and Cuddyer got around for a leadoff triple.  He would eventually score, but Raburn hosed Alexi Casilla on a sac fly turned double play later in the inning.  Alexi’s run would have ended the game.  Casilla failed to get back to third base to tag until after Raburn had caught the ball.

But alas, in this game of redemption, Casilla got his chance, too.  And he made the most of it by singling in Carlos Gomez on a grounder through the right side in the bottom of the 12th.  That hit won the game, and the Twins celebrated along with 55,000 fans.

They pulled up that curtain in right center for todays game, and the stadium has never looked better or been louder for a baseball game.

They pulled up that curtain in right center for today's game, and the stadium has never looked better or been louder for a baseball game.

The Metrodome was alive today.  And despite the fact that you could clearly make out the endzones up the first baseline and out in left field, the playing surface looked great.  The crew must have worked deep into last night getting this field ready after the Favre-fest, Monday.

It was one of those games where watching on TV was really not enough.  The longer it went, the more I wanted to be there.  They opened up the Metrodome’s top deck to make more room for fans, and it really changed the complexion of the ballpark, and the game.  I am happy to see the stadium go, but I am also happy it lived up to its potential in one of its final games.

In a game where no one played bad, it is usually hard to pick an MVP, but I think Nick Punto was the clear winner in this game.  Nick Punto really personified the Twins tonight.  There are very few “ballplayers” left in baseball, and this guy showed baseball fans what that term really means.

Punto rarely hands a clean uni in after a game...MVP of this game.

Punto rarely hands a clean uni in after a game...MVP of this game.

Punto went one for four.  Not so great, but the second baseman saw 32 pitches.  Grinding out at bats got Porcello out of the game and got the Twins deeper and deeper into the Tiger’s ‘pen until they pretty much ran out of guys.  Punto had a huge at bat in the 7th when he fought off a few pitches and grinded his way to a single.  Orlando Cabrera homered two batters later and the Twins took the lead.

In the 9th, Punto led off with another hard battle that led to a walk.  The Twins failed to get him around.  He came up the 11th with a chance to put the game away and did his job, hitting a ball hard to right that ended up leading to the Raburn-redemption double play at the plate.

Maybe the biggest and most telling play that Punto made on the night came in the top of the 12th with one out, and the bases loaded.  In a tie game, Brandon Inge hit a chopper toward the middle, and Punto swooped in and threw out Miguel Cabrera at the plate.  It was one of those plays that does not seem big, but if he hesitates at all, they get nobody out.  It was a “ballplayer’s” play.

So, Punto and the Twins won this one.  They earned the right to celebrate for ten minutes, hop on a flight, and realize they have no pitching against the Yankees at 6 PM tomorrow.

Gardenhire proved he could coach playoff baseball, tonight.

Gardenhire proved he could coach playoff baseball, tonight.

Actually, Ron Gardenhire, by being cautious with his pitchers and matching up against hitters, really preserved his bullpen despite the long game.  None of his starters had to relieve, and the longest any of his guys threw in relief was Joe Nathan, going one and two-thirds.  Jim Leyland was not as cautious, and the Tigers would be in trouble if they were playing tomorrow.  Still, the Twins have a tall order tomorrow in the Bronx.

I hope you got to watch this game, if not, check out the highlights.  October baseball is finally here, and you could not have picked a better game to start things off.

Metrodome Madness: Playoff Play-in in the Twin Cities

October 5, 2009

Lets make the ceiling white, and make sure the turf looks freshly mowed.

Lets make the ceiling white, and make sure the turf looks freshly mowed. And oh yeah, try to scrub out the word "Vikings" up the first base line.

Detroit Looks to Close Down the Metrodome, Twins want to Give it a Playoff Sendoff

1 Game Playoff Play-in Blue Duck Preview

The Detroit Tigers have stumbled down the stretch and opened the door for the Minnesota Twins to give their notorious stadium one last chance at playoff glory.

Detroit has finished with a 4 and 6 record in the final ten games of the season including two key losses to the Twins in a series last week.  Minnesota countered with a 7 and 3 finish.  The Twin’s bats have been hot enough to carry a pretty weak pitching staff into a position to play October baseball.

So the stage is set for a one game playoff in Minnesota, and the stadium that is seeing its final days may be as big a factor as any one player in both team’s biggest game thus far in the 2009 campaign.  Lets look at the pitching matchups.

Scott Baker (RHP) Twins 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 160 K, 46 BB, 184 H in 194.0 IP.

Rick Porcello (RHP) Tigers 14-9, 4.04 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 81 K, 50 BB, 172 H in 165 IP.

The pitchers match up pretty equally.  Neither guy has any playoff experience so you can’t really see any big game history other than the games in the last week or so.  Porcello lost to Minnesota in his last outing, but pitched effectively.  Baker’s got two straight wins, but has relied heavily on his bullpen in his starts.

You knw what? Look at you...You wanna kiss me

"You know what? Look at you...You wanna kiss me"

The Twins v. Rick Porcello…

This should worry Tiger’s fans.  Porcello has only pitched twice at the Metrodome, but he has a 6.30 ERA there, and a 6.60 ERA on turf in this, his rookie season.

Porcello had a 3.09 ERA going 1-2 in four starts against the Twins in ’09.  They hit .299 against the Righthander.  Not terrible numbers, but lets look a little deeper.

Delmon Young, getting attention for hitting something other than umpires.

Delmon Young, getting attention for hitting something other than umpires.

The Twins have hit .349 against him in Minnesota en route to two victories.  On May 5th, Porcello shut down the Twins over 7 innings at Comerica, but that was the first time they faced the New Jersey native.  The next time out, in Minnesota, Porcello lasted only 4 and a third and gave up 7 hits, and 6 runs (4 earned).

Jason Kubel and Delmon Young have been hot of late, and have to be chomping at the bit to see Porcello on the hill.  Delmon and Jason hit for a combined .600 avg off Porcello.  In the last 4 games of the season, Young is hitting .583 with 3 Homeruns, and 10 RBI’s.  Young is showing Twins fans his first signs of life since they gave up Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for him.

If he gets the sinker to stay down, Porcello can limit the damage, but quieting the Twin’s bats has been impossible of late, and the bullpen will most likely get some work for Detroit on Tuesday.  Maybe Verlander coming in late?

Scott Baker v. the Detroit Tigers

Mauer and Baker will have their hand full against Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers.

Mauer and Baker will have their hand full against Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers.

If you are a Twins fan, and you are all excited after reading that, just relax for a second because the Scott Baker file doesn’t look much more promising.

Baker carries a 6.75 ERA against the Tigers this season.  He finished 1 and 1 in four starts against the divisional foes.  The Tigers hit for a .333 average against Baker, and many key guys in their lineup have solid numbers against the 28-year old.

Magglio Ordonez has 39 AB’s against Baker, and is hitting a cool .462 against him with only 1 strikeout.  Carlos Guillen  has a .462 OBP when facing Baker and Marcus Thames has 4 homers against him in just 26 AB’s.

At first glance, it looks as if Baker owns Curtis Granderson (.222 BA against, .255 OBP), but of his 10 hits in 45 AB’s against Baker, Curtis has a double, a triple, and 4 home runs.  So look for some pop right out of the gate on Tuesday.

Baker did not pitch well in September, but had a strong start his last time out.  Anything can happen in October, though.

She picked Ivan Drago in Rocky 4...

She picked Ivan Drago in Rocky 4...

Carebear’s Ms.Cleo Moment…

If you read my golf previews, you know I am terrible at predicting outcomes of games, but I am going to give this a shot.

It is October, and strange things happen in October.  I have a feeling both of these guys will step up and have solid starts.  Neither guy has been known to go deep into games so the bullpens will take this probably in the middle of the sixth.  The Twins have a much better ‘pen than the Tigers so you have to give them the advantage.

The Metrodome is going to be loud, and its going to bring back memories of the old Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett days.  Look for a 6-5 victory from the Twins.  Joe Nathan stops the Tigers in the ninth, and Delmon Young walks off in the bottom half.

No matter who wins this one, it has been nice to actually have a race in an otherwise uneventful late September.  Tune in because this could be the best game at the Metrodome since the Twins lost a heartbreaker to the Mariners when Griffey robbed Lou Collins of a dinger at the end of “Little Big League.”

Mauer Steals Signs: So Does Everybody Else…

October 1, 2009
Public enemy number 1 in Detroit because hes really bad at stealing signs, and his biggest fan made a video of it.

Public enemy number 1 in Detroit because he's really bad at stealing signs, and his biggest fan made a video of it.

Yahoo is running a story right now about a Joe Mauer fan who made a video highlighting Joe Mauer stealing signs on second base after a double and relaying them to batter, Jason Kubel.  First of all, anyone that knows baseball knows the guy that made the video is an idiot, but he is catching Mauer stealing signs.

The videographer who so elegantly films his television tells us about Mauer “nonchalantly” stealing signs when he is being extremely blatant.  The fact is, Verlander knows he can get Kubel even with the sign stealing going on.  Otherwise, Kubel would have ended up in an ambulance with an earflap that needs to be surgically removed.

Laird stops and gets new signs twice during the at bat, and at one point scrapes the ground with his hand.  Major League catchers are not dumb, but Mauer was the less intelligent one in this situation, and the least intelligent is the guy filming because Laird and Verlander already knew, but now everyone else in the Major Leagues does.

Moving on, everyone does this.  You watch a baseball game at the high school level and this is going on.  You just have to get better at it as you go.  Mauer is not good at it.  If another catcher sees this, and it is in a tighter game, the batter will either get intentionally crossed up or get a fastball that has the same effect as a Gillette 3 razor.

The Famous Shot Heard Round the World may have been influenced by a stolen sign, but from a telescope in CF.

The Famous "Shot Heard Round the World" may have been influenced by a stolen sign, but from a telescope in CF.

Every year someone makes a big deal about sign stealing, and every year people say its cheating.  Every year the people that have actually played the game say stealing signs is as much a part  of the game as sunflower seeds and tobacco, but people like to whine about their team losing so someone will always complain.

I’m not condoning having a guy behind the centerfield fence with a telescope, but stealing signs from second base or from the third base coaching box is fair game.  Of course you must be willing to wear one between the numbers your next at bat, but sometimes, its worth having stitches bruised into your spine for a week.