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You’re Missing A Great Game

Girardi argues with third-base umpire Marty Foster (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)John Hirschbeck’s umpiring crew got, by my count, four calls wrong in Sunday’s game. They split them between the two teams, three going against the Yankees, one against the Blue Jays, but there were moments when it seemed the actions of the players were taking place in a distinct and separate reality from the results of the plays. That didn’t matter much when the Jays were leading 7-1 on the strength of six strong innings from starter Ricky Romero and home runs from Alex Rios (a key three-run shot to the first row of the left-field box seats in the third) and John McDonald (a solo shot in the seventh, his first home run in nearly a year), or when Brian Bruney was helping the Jays add insurance runs in the top of the seventh. When the Yankees mounted a comeback that brought the final score to 7-6, however, one once again began to wonder how things might have been different had the calls been correct.

The first blown call is the one that drew the most post-game attention. After Andy Pettitte worked a 1-2-3 top of the first, Derek Jeter led off the bottom of the first with a walk, was balked to second when Romero stepped toward home on a throw to first, then tried to steal third. Catcher Rod Barajas’s throw beat Jeter to the bag, and Scott Rolen got the tag down, but Jeter, sliding head-first, made a swim move with his right hand, successfully avoiding the tag and reaching the bag before Rolen could adjust and tag his chest.

Nonetheless, third-base umpire Marty Foster called Jeter out. According to Jeter, Foster explained to him in the subsequent dispute that, “I was out because the ball beat me, and that he didn’t have to tag me. I was unaware of that change in the rules.” Baseball is a game of phantom tags and neighborhood plays, and it is often true the when a ball beats a runner, the call will go to the defense, but by telling Jeter he was out because the ball beat him, regardless of the tag, Foster was admitting that he’d blown the call. It’s no wonder, then, that Joe Girardi went out and got himself ejected just two batters into the bottom of the first.

Nick Swisher followed Girardi’s ejection with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch. Was that blown call at third the run that cost the Yankees the game?

The call that went the Yankees’ way came in the bottom of the third. With two out, Swisher hit what looked like a double to left field, but Jose Bautista, who made two great and ultimately game-changing running catches in left, played the ball perfectly and fired a strike to second base. Swisher, realizing he’d been beaten, popped out of his feat-first slide and attempted to vault over John McDonald’s tag. He was called safe, but second-base umpire Wally Bell failed to notice that McDonald tagged Swisher on the foot before Nick completed his leap. Mark Teixeira, whose 0-for-5 day was as much to blame for the Yankee loss as anything else, struck out to strand Swisher, making the blown call moot.

That blown call came on the heals of another miss by Bell in the top of the third. With one out and Aaron Hill on first, Vernon Wells hit a bouncer to the shortstop hole. Derek Jeter gloved it and made a jump throw to second base to force Hill, but Bell called Hill safe. Guess what? Hill was out by at least a foot. Andy Pettitte struck out Scott Rolen for what should have been the third out of the inning but was actually just the second. Bonus batter Alex Rios then stroked his three-run jack, giving the Jays an early 4-1 lead. Was that blown call the difference in the game?

Believe it or not, Bell blew a third call, this one coming in the bottom of the seventh. With none out, Melky Cabrera on second, and Hinske on first, both via singles, Brett Gardner hit a bouncer to second. John McDonald threw to second to initiate a double-play, but his throw sank in front of the bag, forcing Marco Scutaro to come across the bag and trap it in the dirt. The throw beat Hinske by a mile, but Scutaro was clearly well off the bag by the time he caught the throw and never went back to tag the base. Nonetheless, before Hinske could scamper over to second, Bell called him out on what I can only assume was a neighborhood call.

If Bell thought Scutaro actually had the ball and his foot on second base at the same time, he’s a worse umpire than yesterday’s game made him seem. That play left runners on the corners with one out. Derek Jeter followed with a walk, and Nick Swisher singled home both Cabrera and Gardner before Teixeira and Rodriguez struck out to strand the remaining runners. Was the run Hinske wasn’t allowed to score the difference in the game?

Down 7-1 heading into the seventh, the Yankees got scored those two runs to make it 7-3, another in the eighth to make it 7-4, then staged a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth when Jorge Posada singled, Cano doubled, and Hideki Matsui drove them both in with a pinch-hit single to make it 7-6. That brought it back around to Hinske, who made a nice diving play in the top of the first, then homered off the right field foul-screen in the fifth. Looking to cap off his Yankee debut in style, Hinske, facing Frasor, took to 3-1, checked his swing on a 94-mile-per-hour fastball below the knee but fouled it off to run the count full, then swung through a gut-high slider to end the game. Hinske later said that the first called strike was a slider in the same spot that dropped into the zone. Expecting the same movement, he swung under the 3-2 pitch, which stayed up.

Hinske’s hero-to-goat act should have been the story of the game. Instead it was the umpiring.

Here’s what’s missing from the box score:

Bot 1st: Marty Foster (3B), blown call on Jeter CS, costs NYY a run

Top 3rd: Wally Bell (2B), blown call on Hill FC, extends inning to allow three-run homer for TOR

Bot 3rd: Wally Bell (2B), blown call on Swisher 2B, moot

Bot 7th: Wally Bell (2B), blown call on Hinske FC, costs NYY a run

Finally tally on the umpiring: TOR 5, NYY 0

I’m not saying the game would have played out the same way had all of those calls been correct, but when you can trace five runs to bad umpiring calls, there’s a problem. Both teams were robbed, even if the tally went against the Yankees.

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

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1 cult of basebaal   ~  Jul 6, 2009 10:57 pm

The ball cleared Hinske’s shin by nearly a foot, but Fairchild awarded Hinske first base, extending the inning.

Not so, ball changed directions when it hit him.

No doubt in my mind on the replays.

2 cult of basebaal   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:00 pm

Although I do give you credit for correctly identifying Bell's 7th inning abomination of a call as the worst of the day, even though it had *no* effect on the game itself (Hinske had NO chance to get to second before he was either tagged or forced out).

3 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:00 pm

Cliff, how was the A-Rod HBP a blown call? You don't explain that, and I watched the play and didn't notice anything wrong.

4 cult of basebaal   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:06 pm

[3] Doing a little intertubes research, it appears that if the batter tries to avoid the bouncing pitch, but fails, it's a HBP.

If they just stand there, it's a ball.

I believe Alex moved his legs as the ball bounced, so I think the call is correct.

5 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:08 pm

[3] My mistake. For some reason I thought a ball that hits the ground first can't be a HBP. I was wrong. Fixed above.

6 monkeypants   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:13 pm

[5] Cliff, you and me both. When it bounced and the ump sent A-Rod to first, I turned to my wife and all-knowingly claimed that bounced pitches cannot count as HBP.

I'm pretty good with rules, but I blew that call!

7 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:19 pm

[1] Cult, upon your prompting I rewatched it, frame-by-framing the slow-mo replay on my DVR. I could be convinced that the ball tipped the corner of Hinske's shin guard only because I heard the "tick" on the live-action play. I didn't see the ball change direction, but I'll grant that it wasn't as clear-cut as I'd thought. I think it's a tribute to Bell and Foster that I so mistrusted the umpiring by the eighth inning. I've deleted the Hinske HBP from my post above as well.

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:26 pm

Oh, but on the Hinske FC, Scutaro's momentum took him away from the bag and Hinske actually got between him and the bag before Bell signaled the out. It could have been that Bell called out before he pumped his fist, and that caused Scutaro to wander from the base, but if the fist pump had been a safe signal, Hinske could have scrambled to the bag before Scutaro and been safe.

9 seamus   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:27 pm

blown calls are a part of baseball. But telling the player that he was out because the ball arrived first on a non-force play is absurd and what really irks me.

10 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:28 pm

You and Jeter and Girardi and me and . . .

11 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:31 pm

Yeah, that's the big one. Aside from having many blown calls in one game, I mean. The umpire actually telling Jeter that he didn't have to be tagged, that's beyond the pale.

As I said in the other thread, I bet Foster is disciplined somehow, and word spreads around the Blues that it doesn't pay to f*** with Jeter.

12 monkeypants   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:35 pm

[9] One imagines that the exchange would have gone something like:

Foster: Out
Jeter: No way, my hand got in around the tag
Foster: Come on, Jetes, the throw beat you by a mile

Now, if so, did Jeter exaggerate or distort or misunderstand what Foster said? Or did Foster really speak more frankly than expected? Was my above hypothetical exchange followed by something like:

Jeter: I don't care if the throw beat me, I was safe
Foster: You know if the throw beats you by that much, you're gonna get called out, tag or not

13 seamus   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:39 pm

[10] yeah i am guilty of stating the obvious lol.

14 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:42 pm

[12] Interesting! More of baseball's "unwritten rules"...

btw, anyone out there know that Reggie Jackson was once on the Love Boat? I tried finding a cluip of this on YouTube but found nothing..If there is a clip of this anywhere out on the web that you know of please get it posted..the combination of Reggie, Doc and a laughtrack has me hypnotized..

15 seamus   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:42 pm

[12] Except that is a very different discussion than the one described. Jeter said, “I was told by the umpire that I didn’t have to be tagged to be out." So while I can't rule your dialogue out, Jeter's characterization, and the comments from the crew chief and Girardi suggest that the explanation was not just a mis-understanding. Either way, the comment is absurd enough, and Jeter's credibility high enough, that someone will get to the bottom of it.

16 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:43 pm

[12] In his post-game comments, Jeter said that Foster actually said (paraphrasing), "he doesn't have to tag you."

17 thelarmis   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:47 pm

[14] OT - i just got the Mouzon "Snakefoot" CD tonight and am on my 2nd listen right now. it's pretty cool - even the vocal tunes are alright. mouzon is a really good all-around musician and super hip. thanks for recommendation on this one, man - i hadn't known about it at all...! : )

those blown calls really, well...blow. hopefully there'll be an egregious one soon that goes our way and leads to a win. at least we didn't lose any ground in the division and our Run Diff didn't end up taking a beating...

speaking of beating, i'm off to practice...

18 monkeypants   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:48 pm


Right. That's why I suggested that perhaps Jeter distorted what was said. I don't really believe this, because Jeter so rarely complains in this manner. But we'll never know what was said exactly.

19 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:52 pm

Jeter was asked, point blank (again paraphrasing) "did he actually say 'he doesn't need to tag you?'" Jeter replied affirmatively. If Jeter's misrepresenting, he's doing it actively and knowingly. I don't buy that, particularly since Girardi had the same reaction.

20 RIYank   ~  Jul 6, 2009 11:54 pm

[18] Maybe.
I think if he says it to an ordinary mortal, Foster gets away with it, with a kind of nudge-nudge-wink-wink. But in saying it, whatever it was, to Jeter, he just bit off more than he could chew.

21 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jul 7, 2009 12:09 am

[17] Nice, man!
I got Eddie Henderson on the iPod today..spacey,70s art-funk.

Any ideas about Reggie & The Love Boat? I am obsessed with seeing that episode!!

22 Evil Empire   ~  Jul 7, 2009 12:20 am

[14] OK, I saw that episode when I was 12; the show aired in 1979. My recollection -- and it's a bit foggy -- was that he didn't want anyone to know that he was "THE" Reggie Jackson, but wanted a private trip, but by the end of the show his ego couldn't take it and he was even jogging around in his Yankees hat. There may have also been a love interest, but I can't remember. Here's the IMDB on the episode but unfortunately there's no plot summary


I half-listened to the game at work and missed all the blown calls. I'm just glad Boston lost. If we can go 4-2 or even 3-3 over the next 6 games we can keep it to 3 games out at the end of the first half, which after going 0-8 against them wouldn't be too bad.

23 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Jul 7, 2009 12:27 am

[22] Awesome, thanks man. My sister is about your age and remembered the same as you! I was only 5 so I can't recall it..though Reggie was my first favorite player and it was never bedtime until he had his first AB!

I'm tempted to order an entire season of the Love Boat in dvd just to see it..

Boston, 2 hits against Oakland?? Well, Neyer says they are still probably the best team in baseball so...

24 Rich   ~  Jul 7, 2009 12:30 am

There is no way that Foster should ever be permitted to umpire another ML game.

25 Dimelo   ~  Jul 7, 2009 7:59 am

[24] I wouldn't want a guy losing his job for saying something incredibly stupid, when being questioned about his work, but I would like to see him suspended for at least 10 games for giving an explanation more egregious than the missed call itself. Still, it was nice to see what Hirschbeck had to say about Jeter.

It was still a great game to watch at work (via my slingbox). Win or lose, I'll take watching a ballgame at work any day of the week --except on my day's off.

26 rbj   ~  Jul 7, 2009 9:04 am

Anyone else catch John Kruk's rant on the Foster fiasco, right before the 10 pm edition of BBTN? I was surprised that he only called it a "bull" call, and was restrained enough to leave off the final four letters.

[9] Yup. I can accept blown calls. I can accept neighborhood calls. I can accept umpires getting obscure rules wrong -- at times.

But coming up with a horseshit explanation on a non-force play is completely unacceptable

Now, with the pine-tar game as precedent, should this game be replayed from the bottom of the first?

27 The Hawk   ~  Jul 7, 2009 11:52 am

I don't think Hinske would have been the goat anyway. He had a pretty good game.

28 Bud Wisenheimer   ~  Jul 7, 2009 1:07 pm

I have to say that I don't understand how it's a friggin national crisis that some players are on PED that may or may not actually help them at baseball, but umpires routinely screw up calls that alter the outcomes of games, and nobody seems to give a shit.

29 Rich   ~  Jul 7, 2009 1:14 pm

[25] I wouldn’t want a guy losing his job for saying something incredibly stupid,

That's where I disagree. I don't think it was stupid, I think Foster's blatant attempt to flout the rules demonstrated such a lack of integrity that he no longer possesses the requisite authority to be a credible umpire. To make matters worse, he didn't have the guts to face the press after the game.

30 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jul 7, 2009 1:30 pm

People say stupid things under stress, and umps blow calls. Pissed off as I am by two calls that truly altered that game, my sense is that Foster was essentially saying, 'If the ball beats you and I don't SEE clearly that you did some Housini escape, I'm going to call you out.'

All umps DO do that. To do the show it-pull it away or any other slick move to beat a waiting tag, you need to have the ump actually see it clearly, and sometimes positioning doesn't allow that. Foster's point (if we care to give him any benefit of any doubt as a veteran ump) is that since he didn't see Jeter dodge the glove, he had to go with the ball arriving first, and Jeter knows that's what umps will do.

I am aware that this isn't how he SEEMS to have put it (he doesn't have to tag you) but since that is so entirely outside the rulebook, it really only makes sense to put this kind of spin on it. So he missed a call, just as Teixeira's slide to home earlier in the series was missed by an ump in the wrong position (too far up third base line ... hey, was it Foster?) and the ball arriving first ruled the day.

Every player knows he's taking a chance on his nifty evasion being missed.

The one at 2nd base was just flat-out bad.

[28] Bud, EVERYONE cares. We also mostly know it evens out, and calls will be blown. Sometimes (playoff games, any sport)m it is more painful than others. We all know examples. Jeter got a homer on one.

31 monkeypants   ~  Jul 7, 2009 1:32 pm

[28] I would imagine it has something to do with the difference between actively (or willfully) doing something wrong and simply making an honest mistake.

The question with Foster, though, is was this an honest mistake. Which leads to...

[29] I think that a lot of people are misunderstanding what Foster (presumably) meant by what he (presumably) said. I don't think that he was "flouting the rules" or even a misunderstanding of the rules. Rather, it had long been one of those "unwritten rules' (see [14]), an unfortunate but all too common "courtesy" that when a throw beats the runner by a mile, he will be called out. It is exactly equivalent to the "neighborhood call" at second base (see [26]).

Rance Mulliniks, the former player and now Jays announcer, basically said the same thing: (paraphrasing) "When the throw beats you [the runner], you're usually not going to get that call."

Hirschbeck said the same thing: "...Nowadays, with the cameras, ESPN and the reporters, I say the media, I actually mean television — it used to be if the ball beat you, you were out, but it isn’t that way anymore. It’s not a reason to call someone out. You have to make a good tag.”

Now, this does not make what Foster did acceptable--it's not. And indeed Hirschbeck's statement indicates that umps have moved away from this type of call (not because it was wrong. mind you, only because more cameras put them under greater scrutiny). But the reality is that Foster's bigger mistake made was in being too explicit in admitting that he called Jeter out because the throw beat him. If he just went through the motions and said "from my view he tagged you," everyone would have accepted it--even though most would have known deep down that the call was made because the throw arrived well before the runner, not because of the tag.

32 monkeypants   ~  Jul 7, 2009 1:33 pm

[30] Thank you. A much better version of what I was trying to say back in [12].

33 Rich   ~  Jul 7, 2009 1:49 pm

[30] People say stupid things under stress, and umps blow calls. Pissed off as I am by two calls that truly altered that game, my sense is that Foster was essentially saying, ‘If the ball beats you and I don’t SEE clearly that you did some Housini escape, I’m going to call you out.’

To describe what Foster did as stupid is to rob the word of its commonly understood definition, which according to dictionary.com is "lacking ordinary quickness and keenness of mind; dull."

That isn't what Foster did. To the contrary, Foster arrogated to himself the ability to make up his own rules because he lacked the integrity to follow those prescribed by MLB.

If he had merely misinterpreted or misapplied the MLB rule, that could reasonably be called stupid. Ignoring the rule, however, is to defy established authority, which is insubordination.

It's as if a lower court judge ruled that the Equal Protection Clause or the First Amendment didn't exist, which would be an impeachable offense.

Foster has lost the standing to be an umpire. It's time to go.

34 PJ   ~  Jul 7, 2009 2:00 pm

Umpires are teh suk!

Always have been, always will be...

35 seamus   ~  Jul 7, 2009 2:12 pm

ack, the ump pissed me off but I didn't take it personally. A bad day at the office or whatever. Move on...

36 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Jul 7, 2009 2:18 pm

Rich, [30], [31] and [12 + 32] all offer at least an alternative reading of what happened there. You certainly don't have to buy it, but we certainly don't have to all the way to agreeing with 'Foster lost his standing to be an umpire.'

37 Rich   ~  Jul 7, 2009 3:21 pm


Aren't you blaming the whole umpiring system? And if the whole umpiring system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our baseball institutions in general? I put it to you, Horace - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want, but I'm not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

/Animal House

Would he at least publicly acknowledge the extent of his insubordination, voluntarily suspend himself, and vow never to do it again?

38 Bruce68   ~  Jul 7, 2009 7:53 pm

Why do representatives of MLB (the umps) get to IGNORE the rules and only the teams get to suffer? If rules are optional in one direction, they should be optional both ways. My own choice for the rules of choice for us to ignore would be the Revenue Sharing and Luxury Tax rules. That would surely get MLB's attention, unlike the distressingly one-sided umpiring of today.

When I saw Mick or Yogi called out on close plays in the fifties I (from a Jr High Schooler's perspective) was convinced that we were being jobbed, but after umping little league games in the eighties and nineties (because few other parents knew the rules) I took a more balanced view of the whole question, and thought that the Boss's reactions to bad calls was not very evenhanded, with screwups being more or less even in terms of impacting us and the opposition. Recently, however, I am feeling more and more put upon by the umpiring, with this years being the most unprofessional and the worst in memory. I am not sure that my sample size is large enough for this to be a valid conclusion because I have missed blacked-out games, but I still feel jobbed again (after 50 years).

Do any others feel the same???

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