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.


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.


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.”


MLB Awards, Day 2: The John Rocker Closer Distinction

September 30, 2009
I wanted to name this the Kenny Powers award, but instead I named it after the real deal.

I wanted to name this the Kenny Powers award, but instead I named it after the real deal.

A good closer is hard to find.  You look at the teams that have already clinched, and a big factor in their success is having a guy in the pen that can shut the door (with the exception of the Phightin’ Phils, who may have finally found their man).  We take a timeout here, to honor those great doorclosers with the Blue Duck’s award for best closer.  We give it in the honor of one of baseball’s greatest players and humanitarians, Mr. John Rocker.

And the winners are:

NL
Boomer
Ryan Franklin (P) StL

If it looks like that now, imagine it when he stops shaving for the playoffs

If it looks like that now, imagine it when he stops shaving for the playoffs

ERA below two? Check.  Among the league leaders in saves? Check.  Pitching for a playoff team?  Check.  Ryan Franklin fits the bill, albeit in a league of less than flattering options.  He doesn’t strike out many batters, his walk totals are average, and he’s blown a few saves.  But look at the National League this year and even with all the negative things pointed out about Franklin, he’s still the best.  Now it’s overstating it a bit to say he’s been only okay, because he’s been very good.

Franklin is closing games for Tony La Russa, someone whose trust isn’t easy to gain.  Ryan doesn’t allow many hits and has only 13 runs on the season.  That’s pretty amazing considering his peripheral stats (k’s, walks) are average.  The bottom line?  He gets the job done for a team with World Series potential.  Congrats.

Carebear
Trevor Hoffman

I know we did Comeback Player of the Year yesterday, but this guy is really the epitome of returning to old form.  But, the beauty of Hoffman is that he has evolved as a pitcher.  The once prototypical closer has become a crafty changeup machine, but got the job done maybe as effectively as ever this year.

Hoffman carried with him the lowest WHIP in the major leagues at 0.88.  Hoffman blew only 3 saves in 39 chances, and finished the year with an ERA of 1.76.  Not bad for a 41-year old.  The Brew Crew struggled mightily in ’09, but Hoffman did not contribute to their plight.  It would have been nice to see what he could have pulled off with a playoff contender this season, though.  Hells Bells.

AL

Biggest honor of my long career. Mos reaction when we told him of the award.

"Biggest honor of my long career." Mo's reaction when we told him of the award.

Boomer
Mariano Rivera
(P) NYY

Another classic year by Mo.  He’s been the only constant in a Yankees bullpen that was battered by injury all year.  He’s got 44 saves, two off the league lead.  His stats aren’t neccessarily mind-blowing; among closers he’s not near the lead in strikeouts, nor does he pitch multiple innings, but he doesn’t need to.  With his devastating cutter breaking the bats of lefties and causing righties to pop-up, he’s efficient.  Considering he doesn’t walk batters (almost literally, he’s got about half as many walks as any other AL pitcher with 30+ saves).

He’s closing games for the best team in baseball and he’s getting it done the same way he does every season.  The qualities you look for in a closer are consistency and reliability.  Rivera’s got ’em, as he doesn’t have many heart attack innings (see Papelbon, Jonathon), doesn’t have total clunkers (Fuentes, Brian), and gets the job done in the ninth.

Carebear
Joe Nathan

Joey’s been getting it done for a long time now.  It seems like he is one of the few closers in baseball whose job has never been in question.  Minnesota has made this interesting and during their comeback stretch, Nathan has been solid.  In the last 2 months, Nathan has 16 saves with only two blown.

He has blown 5 on the season, a bit steep, but his numbers are great.  With a WHIP of 0.95, Nathan does not allow baserunners, avoids big innings, and strikes out more than a man an inning.  Best closer in the AL? no, but Boomer chose Mo.  Joe Nathan is as good as any non-Mo closer in the league.

Kenny lost out to Rivera in a close decision.

Kenny lost out to Rivera in a close decision.

Tomorrow is day 3 of the baseball award extravaganza.  Our Cy Young Award goes out.  No Name for that one yet.  Send us any suggestions?  Gaylord Perry, Orel Hershiser, and Doc Gooden are in the running.  Tune in tomorrow.

Yesterday we announced the Comeback Player of the Year Award winners here https://blueducksports.wordpress.com/2009/09/29/blue-duck-mlb-awards-day-one-comeback-player/