Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Umpire Strikes Back

... But for what?

I am, I guess you could say, a critical person by nature. I see faults in most everything, so I have done a lot of complaining about the Twins this year despite the fact that I have generally been satisfied with their play. One thing I have not complained about all year is the way games have been officiated. I certainly haven't agreed with all calls that umpires have made all year, and no doubt Gardy has had good reason when he's been kicked out, but I have several years of experience umpiring little league so I know what it's like to be crouched behind the catcher. With all that said, I have to say that I was absolutely DISGUSTED with the performance of home plate umpire Gary Darling tonight. I was talking online with Nick & Nick counterpart Nick Mosvick while I watched the later part of the game tonight, and I commented that the umpiring was bothering me... Darling had expanded his strike zone exponentially over the course of the game. I'm not a guy who complains if an ump has a zone that is too large or too small, as long as it is consistent. Early in tonight's game, Darling was calling an extremely tight zone for both teams, leading to three walks in the first couple innings and high pitch counts for both pitchers. As the game got down to the last few innings, it just seemed like Darling wanted to go home.

Angels' relievers Scott Shields and Francisco Rodriguez were getting numerous strikes called that were way off the plate. In the top of the 9th, the Twins were down by one run. Justin Morneau (who just seems completely lost, something has got to be done here) was called out on a check swing that was very questionable. Granted, this was the third base umpire's call, and in fact I did think that he swung, although Bert and Dick were fully convinced that he held up. Regardless, he was in a 2-strike situation because of bad called strikes. I was complaining about Darling's performance BEFORE he made what was one of the worst calls I can remember seeing: the called third strike on Matt LeCroy. LeCroy represented the go-ahead run and had a 2-2 count, and K-Rod delivered a pitch that was CLEARLY below the knees and 6 inches off the plate, and somehow Darling punched him out. This arose the anger of Gardenhire, both base-coaches, and even the mild-mannered and jolly LeCroy. The terrible call killed any chances the Twins might have had to come back and tie the game, both figuratively and literally. Darling had set up a strike zone so gigantic that Shannon Stewart next came out and struck out flailing at three curveballs in the dirt because he basically felt that anything he didn't swing at with a foot of the plate was going to be called a strike.

Alas, I am unable to appreciate a very impressive first career start for Scott Baker, because I am so damn frustrated by the way this one ended. I can't be mad at the Twins for losing against an Angels team that I feel is really the best in the AL, but they lost their chance at this one thanks to getting completely screwed by some bad umpiring. After getting defeated by the promising young Santana of the Angels today (Ervin), the Twins will get to throw their own Santana out tomorrow in hopes of winning the series. And wouldn't you know it, it is yet ANOTHER untelevised Santana game! AND the White Sox came back and beat the D-Rays late in tonight's game, pushing the AL Central deficit back to 9.5 games! I'm going to go scream into a pillow for a while.