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The Worst Call Ever Made: I Hate to Say it but We Need Replay Now and LCS Updates

“The best umpired game is the game in which the fans cannot recall the umpires who worked it.” Bill Klemm

blown callAngels Catcher Mike Natoli Puts Both Posada and Cano Out…Well Not According to Umpire Tim MacClelland

Monday was such a great night for baseball, two excellent games both decided by walk off hits which left the Angels back in their series with the Yankees and the Phillies within a game of going back to the World Series when they came back in the 9th inning with 2 outs and Jimmy Rollins at the plate with two strikes on him.  It was awesome to behold and it looked like all was well again in the 2009 MLB League Championship Series.

Then fallen humanity struck…

And 3rd Base Umpire Tim McClelland has now discovered what it means to be remembered for all the wrong reasons, two badly blown calls and a lame excuse for blowing them.

See the calls:

http://sports.yahoo.com/video/player/mlb;_ylt=Ahzw4dvilocLtjFLCKQAyusRvLYF#mlb/16204489

As I sat watching the Yankees destroy the Angels last night I was amazed at the bad calls.  Now this playoff season there have been a number of really grotesque calls on the part of umpires. This year I have found some of the calls so unbelievably bad that even I, a traditionalist in the Church of Baseball who detests replay reviews in the NFL think that the time has come to consider some form of replay.

My view that that baseball is the most human of sports, perfection is seldom reached and never maintained.  People who hit .300 make it to All-Star teams as well as the Hall of Fame.  Rain delays, bad calls and close calls that could go either way are all part of the fabric of baseball.  In principle I don’t like replay.  I believe that umpires, like everyone else are human and that the imperfection of the umpires is as much as part of the game as a fielding error, wild pitch or bad at bat.  However some of the calls this post-season have been particularly egregious and the crew chief on the field should have overruled to call, especially when Angels Catcher Mike Napoli clearly tagged out Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada who were both well of the base. McClellan’s excuse about how he missed the call was lame and he compounded the issue by calling Nick Swisher out for supposedly leaving third base early on a sacrifice fly, which the replay showed that he had not done so and should have scored.  Once again though there were two extra umpires no one caught the play.

My recommendation is for an “eye in the sky” umpire who can review the call in real time and overrule the call on the field if the call is clearly wrong, this would not apply to called balls and strikes, but only on balls that are put in play.  To overturn the call the “eye in the sky” umpire would have to determine that the play was clearly blown and not simply a call that could have gone either way.  He would have to account for the umpires position and visibility in relationship to the play and if it could be reasonably expected that any umpire would make the same call.  If the replay clearly shows that the umpire on the field missed the call the “eye in the sky” umpire could then overturn the call.  Such a mechanism would maintain the flow of the game as the umpire on the field would not have to go to a replay booth, taking valuable time and would provide some measure of accountability when a play is as badly called as McClellan’s.  It would not take out the human factor of calls that can go either way or where bad positioning or visibility could have affected the call.  It would however ensure that calls like last night’s by McClellan are quickly rectified with minimal delay to the game, calls that could easily decide the fate of a series in a close game.  Thankfully because of the blowout of neither Angels nor the Yankees could claim that the calls affected the game’s outcome.

I missed the game tonight because of being involved with critical situations here at the Medical Center, but the Evil Dodgers were crushed by the Phillies tonight 10-4 ending their season.  I picked the Phillies in 7 because I thought that the Dodgers bullpen would make a difference but the Dodgers bullpen was about as effective as a pocketknife in a gunfight and the Phillies bullpen, derided by many stepped up, especially closer Brad Lidge who had such a miserable and ineffective season after a great 2008 where he was just about perfect.  The Phillies hitters owned the Dodgers pitching staff driving in 45 runs in the 5 games of the series.  Anytime a team averages nine runs a game it will win the series.

Tonight the Yankees and Angels square off in Anaheim for what could be the deciding game of their series. The question is can the Angels mount a comeback and will the “X” factor of Nick Adenhart inspire them enough to win the game and get the series back to New York?  I had picked the Angels in six figuring that the Yankees could not keep up the pace, but the Yankees are locked on, they have an edge and every member of the team is playing hard, Alex Rodriguez is in the process of establishing himself as a clutch Mr.October the likes which have not been seen since Reggie Jackson.  Derek Jeter has helped lead the team and hit well while the pitching staff led by C.C. Sabathia has been amazing and Mariano Rivera as usual has been a hero.  Joe Girardi has managed the team exceptionally well and is getting performance and teamwork out of the Yankees far more effectively than Joe Torre who was ushered out of the playoffs with the Dodgers in much the same way that he was ushered out with the Yankees from 2003 to the end of 2007.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Winter Epic in New York: 13 Innings of Drama in Horrible Conditions

Last night the Yankees and the Angels placed an epic game in the New Yankee Stadium.  It was the kind of game that only can happen in baseball because of its nature. The drama kept me glued to the television once I returned from patient visits during my on-call duty earlier in the evening.  I have seen these types of games before and when they get to extra innings they take on a life of their own.

The weather conditions in New York were terrible.  If it was the regular season the game would have been postponed.  With temperatures which started at 47 degrees they dropped into the lower 40s as the game went on with a stiff wind and mist and drizzle, which turned worse as the rain became steady with the wind blowing rain into player’s faces as they attempted to catch fly balls.  The conditions were some of the worst that I have ever watched with the exception of the 2005 home opener for the Norfolk Tides at Harbor Park where the temperature was 38 degrees at game time with a 25-40 knot wind coming out of left center.  Thank God for global warming or we would have really frozen our asses off that night.

The Yankees got out to a 2-0 lead with one of the runs coming off of a Derek Jeter home run in the 3rd. In the top of the 5th the Angels tied the game using some small ball as well as a wild pitch which scored the tying run.  The game would remain knotted at 2 each another 6 innings until the 11th inning.   With the weather getting worse and both teams beginning to scrape the bottom of their bullpens the Angels scored when Chone Figgins singled to drive in Gary Matthews Junior with 1 out.  The Yankees gave the intentional walk to Bobby Abreu to load the bases and Tory Hunter grounded into a double play to end the inning.  Had Hunter gotten a hit the Angels might well have gone back to Anaheim with a split in the City.

In the bottom of the 11th with the Angels leading 3-3 Alex Ramirez led off for the Yankees.  Angels pitcher Brian Fuentes got ahead of Rodriguez quickly and with a 0-2 count served up a fastball low and outside that Rodriguez lined into the right field bleachers about 18 inches over the outstretched glove of Tory Hunter.  Fuentes got out of the inning but blew the save.  The 12th inning saw the Angels with another chance to move ahead but could not get a runner across the plate.  The Yankees now left the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th allowing the Angels another shot at them.  They got runners to second and third but Vladimir Guerrero grounded out to the pitcher.  Once again a great scoring opportunity was lost.

In the bottom of the 13th the Yankees got their leadoff hitter, Jerry Hairston on base and he was advanced on a sacrifice grounder.   The Angels intentionally walked Robinson Cano to set up a chance at a double play.  Melky Cabrera hit a ground ball to Angels 2nd Baseman Maicer Izturis who attempted to get the runner at second but threw the ball away skipping it past Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins who could not get the ball to make the play at the plate which allowed Hairston to score the winning run. The game was a marathon lasting over 5 hours and will go down as a memorable game.

The hero of the game was Alex Rodriguez.  His 11th inning home run kept the Yankees in the game and was his third home run in clutch situations this post season.

I picked the Angles in 6 figuring a split in New York.  I have the feeling that this series could quickly go south for the Halo’s if they are unable to get things back together in Anaheim.  Though I picked the Angels, largely due to the “X” factor of Nick Adenhart, the Yankees in my view are the best team in baseball, something that I have said for months.  They are playing with an attitude and there is not a player on the team who is not hungry to bring the World Series Championship back to New York.  Rodriguez and C.C. Sabathia are shedding their reputations as players who “choke” in the playoffs.  The Yankees are for real and I do not know if the Angels can come back.  It is true that they have owned the Yankees in Anaheim this year but these Yankees do not look like they will be at all intimidated by what happened in the regular season in Anaheim.

More commentary in the coming days my friends, so until then stay safe, be blessed and take care.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s MLB Championship Series Picks

Well sports fans I’m back on some predictions.  The fact that I am neither the Prophet nor the Son of the Prophet makes no difference here, and since my picks with the exception of the Evil Dodgers sweep of the Cardinals were pretty accurate here it goes again.  Now obviously since I am merely Padre Steve and not the Pope nothing I say is infallible my picks can be wrong and I hate that.  Thankfully since I am not claiming to speak from the Most High a wrong pick will not leave me crushed to death with heavy stones by the faithful.  At the same time I get a certain satisfaction about being right like the time I was waiting in the ER with Judy as they tried to diagnose her throat swelling.  I “Googled” the symptoms and got it right, before they did, it was Epiglottis, something extremely rare in adults which they were neither looking for nor expecting.  I thought that was pretty cool as did my ICU attending physicians.

So how do I get my picks?  First I try to put emotion aside and look at trends, stats and intangibles.  It does not matter if I like the team or not when it comes to picking such things.  What I want is to be dispassionate in my analysis because I love the game.

So a quick review of the Divisional Series:

I picked the Cardinals in 4 over the Dodgers.  Dodgers swept the Cards 3-0.  The tow things that I believed that would bring about a Cardinals win did not happen.  First the starting pitching did not get it done.  Second the Cardinals hitting died like 1981 Chevette, trust me I know as we had one.  It was not pretty and then if you throw in the improbable muff a ball that Matt Halliday made in Left Field with two outs in the bottom of the 9th in game two with the Cardinals ahead…..  Ouch!

I picked the Phillies in 5 figuring that the Rockies would win at home.  Instead they split in Philly and the Phillies swept the Rockies in Denver despite cold weather and what should have been home field advantage.  The Phillies choice of Cliff Lee to pitch game one paid off in spades and the Phillies hitters did not disappoint.  Rockies fans must have had their hearts ripped out when they scored three in the bottom of the 8th to take a 4-2 lead in game four only to have closer Huston Street blow the save for the second night in a row.

Moving to the American League I picked the Angels in 5 over the Red Sox.  I figured that the Angels were a better team than the last few times they played the Sox and that the Red Sox had lost their edge.  I thought that the “X” factor of Nick Adenhart would work in the Angels favor and I expected a close series with the Angels winning it.  Instead the Angels dominated the Bosox and swept them with an improbable rally with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th when they were down to their last pitch.

Finally there was the series between the Yankees and the Twins.  The Twins had a remarkable September and captured the AL Central crown in a one game playoff against the Tigers.  I picket the Yankees in 4 allowing for a game three Twins win at the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome, also known as visiting team Hell.  The Yankees swept the Twins but game two and three were close and the Yankees came from behind in both to win.

So here they are:  First the National League and the Phillies against the Dodgers.  Pitching is a wash as the Phillies have the better starters with Lee and Clay Hammels but have a suspect bullpen. Closer Brad Lidge seems to have gotten his stuff back after a miserable season.  The Dodgers have a patchwork rotation of decent but not outstanding pitchers but have an amazing bullpen.  In the hitting department both teams have great offensive potential but I give the edge to Ryan Howard’s wrecking crew.  In the regular season the Dodgers took the series between the two teams 4-3.  This will be close and the Dodgers are capable of winning in unusual ways as evidenced by game two of the NLDS.  I think this goes 7 with the teams splitting in LA, Philly taking 2 at home and splitting the final pair with the Phillies taking the down the Dodgers for the second year in a row.  While I am picking the Phillies this series could go the other way.  I never will forget the 1981 Dodgers who played had a miraculous series of playoff wins which culminated against the Yankees.  They lost the first two games and won the next four closing the series at Yankee Stadium.  So I believe that anything is possible, but I’m still picking the Phillies and watch the game in my San Francisco Giants gear.  I guess I do have some emotions invested in this series after all.

Now I’ll move over to the American League and talk about the Yankees and the Angels.  This should be a great series.  The Halo’s won 4 of 6 in the regular season and outscored them by a pretty large margin in Anaheim.  Now both teams have a lot of firepower as well as pretty solid pitching.  The Yankees are coming off the best season the have had in a number of years and their 103 wins were the most in baseball.  The Angels have had a very good season as well.  At this point it is hard to pick a winner.  I think that the Yankees have the edge in personnel and are the hungriest for the pennant that I have seen them in years.  The Angels too are hungry and have something of an “X” factor in the incredible bonding and team spirit brought about by the loss of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart.  The series will start in New York where the weather forecast is crappy for the weekend, especially Friday where there is an 80% chance of rain and temperatures in the low 40s.  The temps will remain about the same the entire weekend and the precipitation is forecast at 40% for the weekend.   These are not baseball conditions and could be a factor in who wins and loses the games in New York.  With the weather as much as a factor as it could be I think that negates some of the Yankees home field advantage.  I think that the teams split in New York and go to Anaheim at 1-1.  When the teams get to Anaheim next week the weather should be perfect Southern California fall weather clear and temperatures in the 70s at game time.  They Angels dominated the Yankees at home and I think that they will take at least two of the three in Anaheim and go back to New York up 3-2.  The Yankees are a great clutch team and this year and have been awesome in the come from behind situations.  The series could go either way at this point but I think that the Angels can steal this from the Yankees and put them away in game six, just as they came from behind to defeat the Red Sox in game three of their series.  My pick is the Angels in six.

So my picks are the Angels and Phillies to get to the World Series.  Of course I could be wrong as these are all great teams and each has something to prove. The Phillies want to repeat, the Yankees want to make up for years of disappointment of being so close but so far away, the Dodgers are trying to reclaim a winning heritage and gain the respect that they deserve and the Angels, they are playing for something so totally intangible that it is hard to put a value on, they are playing for the love and memory of a team-mate and have an almost magical and mystical feel to their season.  There are individual players trying to recapture past triumphs and others still trying to escape the demons and come out from under the cloud of not having won it all. I expect some great baseball no matter who advances to the Series.  The way I see it even if I am wrong on my picks this should be some great baseball.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Bring Out the Brooms: Dodgers, Angels, Yankees and Phillies Advance to League Championship Series

So far the MLB playoffs have not disappointed unless you are a Cardinals, Twins, Red Sox or Rockies fan.  There was a lot of drama, great play, and miraculous comebacks and for the shear sake of humanity some bad calls by some of the umpires.  But that’s why baseball is so much better than football; it is human and not clouded by the artificial attempt to impose “fairness” by reviewing up to 12 plays a game at the request of coaches and more for “mandatory” reviews.   These four series plus the one game

The human drama of baseball was played out before our eyes. The stories were amazing and every game had stories within the story of players and teams doing amazing.  As my readers know I made predictions about the divisional series over at https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/padre-steve%E2%80%99s-mlb-divisional-playoff-picks/ So far with the exception of the Cardinals being swept by the Evil Dodgers, the divisional series went pretty much as I expected as to the winners though I did not expect all of the sweeps.  I gave the Twins one game and thought the Angels and Red Sox would go five with the Angels winning.  The Phillies and Rockies series went very much as I expected and the Rockies almost brought in back to Philly.

In this Divisional series six games were decided by one run.   Five games were decided in the 9th inning or extra innings. Six games were comeback wins where the winning team gained the lead in the 7th inning or later. With a few exceptions the games were close even late in the game.  There were a number of plays that the umpires blew the call on, sometimes badly, oh well, humanity strikes again.  That is no reason to implement the insanity of the NFL’s replay policies or anything like them.

Let’s go back to my picks. I picked the Cardinals in four over the Dodgers.  The Cardinals, who were not even picked for the playoffs dominated the NL Central but Tony La Russa, one of the outstanding managers in the game has a way of making things work.  My expectation was that Chris Carpenter and Jonathan Wainwright would shut the Dodgers down at Chavez Ravine and then go back to St Louis where their hitters had been awesome throughout the season.  Their major weakness was their bullpen. A lot broadcasters and experts predicted a Cardinals sweep.  Having seen the Dodgers perform miracles in past playoff series, including in 1981 and 1987 I did have a sense of unease in picking the Cardinals, but I went with logic and this time it failed.  The Cardinals pitching was shaky and their hitting died. The turning point was in game two where with two outs that the Cardinals up 2-1 Matt Halliday lost a fly ball in the lights allowing a runner and the Dodgers then finished them off.  I think that it was a finish that could only happen with the Dodgers in the playoffs. I owe my Dodger fan nephew Joe a beer the next time I get to San Diego as I promised in my prediction of the Cardinals lost.  What is more interesting now for the Cardinals is what happens in the off season as Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan’s contracts expire at the end of the month.  If I had my choice Billy Beane would bring him back to Oakland a move which would be good for him as La Russa has many connections and business interests in the bay area.

The Angels and Red Sox were a tough call.  I picked the Angels in five because the Red Sox have not been the same team as they were the past few seasons. Some of their key players are showing the signs of age and losing a step or two. Additionally their starting pitching staff was inconsistent during the season and had some key injuries.  I also picked the Angels because they are a better team than they have been the past few years and there was the “X” factor of Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart killed after his first start in the second game of the season. The amount of unity on the team was something that I have not seen in a long time.  In their sweep of the Red Sox the Angels pitchers shut the Red Sox down until game three when Boston made a got out to an early lead which they reinforced in the bottom of the 8th.   What was surprising was the manner in which the Red Sox lost.  Jonathan Papelbon gave up not only his first ever run in the playoffs but blew the save and got the loss.  Previous to this he had pitched 27 innings of shutout playoff baseball.  The Red Sox have some decisions to make during the off season to see if they can get their edge back.

The Twins and Yankees series was the classic “David versus Goliath” story.  The Twins came from nowhere to overtake a Tigers team that faltered at the end winning the one game playoff at the Metro Dome.  The Yankees played all year with a chip on their shoulder and won 103 games, the best in the Majors.  They had an attitude and played all year as a team, they had very few injuries and every part of the team was strong.  The Yankees have played all year like they wanted to win the whole thing. I didn’t think that the Twins had a chance; they had lost all seven games to the Yankees including three in a row at Yankee Stadium on walk off hits.  The Yankees clubbed the Twins in game one and C.C. Sabathia got his first playoff win and like Rodriguez shook off the demons of playoffs past. In game two the Yankees had to come back to beat them as usually reliable closer Joe Nathan blew the save when Alex Rodriguez hit a two run homer in the bottom of the 9th.  Mark Teixeira hit a walk off shot in the bottom of the 11th.  I thought that the Twins might win one in the twisted hell of the Metro Dome, but the Yankees came back to win there with Alex Rodriguez Jorge Posada teamed up in the 7th with single homers off former Yankee Carl Pavano and Mariano Rivera closed out the game.  Throughout the series Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and a host of other Yankees played solid baseball getting the key hits and making the key plays to win the series. The Twins had a remarkable season but were simply outmatched by the power, pitching and speed of the Yankees.  Even so the final two games were dramatic as the Twins led by Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer played a great series.

The defending World Series Champion Phillies and amazing Rockies series was great.  I expect the teams to go to five games with the Phillies winning at home in game five.  The Phillies won game one in a walk, but the Rockies showed great character and surprised the Phillies in game two.  Game three had one of those only in Denver moments when it was postponed due to winter weather and snow.  Why the heck the Rockies wouldn’t have built Coors Light Field with a retractable dome like Milwaukee beats the hell out of me. The game was made up Saturday and the Phillies won a nail biter in which the lead changed often and the Phillies winning on a Ryan Howard sacrifice fly.  Game four tonight looked like the Rockies had the Phillies reeling when in the bottom of the 8th they scored three runs to go up 4-2.  The Phillies came back as Ryan Howard had a 2 RBI double with 2 outs in the top of the 9th and was driven in by Jaysen Werth for the winning run.  Beleaguered Phillies closer Brad Lidge saved both game 3 and 4, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and big Ryan Howard were all clutch hitters for the Phillies.  The acquisition of Cliff Lee by the Phillies

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