The New York Yankees are in an 0-2 hole in the 2012 ALCS due to three reasons, none of which are new. Biased umpiring, bad managing, and players wilting under pressure.
Flash back to Cleveland in 2007. Joba Chamberlain is on the mound for the Yankees in a pressure packed game two of the ALDS series vs. Cleveland with the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead in game two in the 8th inning. Midges, an insect prominent in the Lake Erie region, descend upon the field in a scene found in a horror movie. The players are understandably rattled as these insects crawl about their faces and arms and necks and everywhere else. The television announcers working the game and everyone at home await the stoppage of the game at any moment. Surely an important playoff game will not continue under such circumstances, right? Wrong. Froemming,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Froemming an umpire who was admonished for racial slurs left inadvertently on a women’s answering machine and threatening catcher Mike Piazza to autograph baseballs for him before a game by telling him that Johhny Bench refused to sign baseballs for him once and proceeded to go 0-4 with three strikeouts that day, allowed play to continue. Joba Chamberlain, noticeably shaken by the insects, allows the tying the run and the Yankees go on to lose the game.
Now flash back to just last year in game 3 of the ALDS matching New York with Detroit. CC Sabathia is on the mound vs. Justin Verlander. In the first inning Sabathia is forced to work hard as strike after strike is called a ball by home plate umpire Gerry Davis, a man who has a side business selling umpiring equipment,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerry_Davis_(umpire) a business that surely wouldn’t be hurt by free publicity. Throughout the game Justin Verlander is given an incredibly vast strike zone, with pitch after pitch outside the accepted zone being called strikes while CC and the pitchers who followed him in relief having the same pitches called balls. The Yankees went on to lose the game. http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/zoneTrack.php?month=10&day=3&year=2011&game=gid_2011_10_03_nyamlb_detmlb_1%2F&prevGame=gid_2011_10_07_arimlb_milmlb_1%2F&prevDate=103
By now everyone has seen last night’s incredulous call at second base. The only way to describe that call is “suspicious”. Any umpire supposedly skilled enough to be selected to be working an ALCS game is going to get that call right, but Jeff Nelson didn’t. This is the same Jeff Nelson that was behind the plate on September 27th of this year when Tigers pitcher Doug Fister set an AL record by striking out 9 consecutive batters. The play itself wasn’t even close to being close. The runner as clearly out by a mile, with absolutely no room for interpretation otherwise, yet was called safe, allowing a one run game to become a three run game. Manager Joe Girardi was ejected, the Yankees were clearly upset and rattled, and the Yankees lost the game.
Lost in the incredible hype of game 1 of this series was a call that probably cost the Yankees game one. Robinson Cano hit a bouncer with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning and clearly beat the throw to first base. As Yankee fans pumped their fists at drawing first blood and still having the bases loaded with mark Teixeira heading to the plate, there was only one “small” problem, the umpire called Cano out. Robby Cano is accused of being many things. Lackadaisical, lazy, laid back, cool, calm, and collected to the point of absurdity are all ways that Cano has been described. Never in his Yankee career in my recollection had Cano ever come close to reacting the way that he did after this blown call. Slamming his helmet to the ground and turning to scold the umpire, Cano displayed a reaction that nobody who had ever seen him play thought he even had inside of him. Tiger pitcher Doug Fister was out of the jam and a run was taken away. It is impossible to know what would have happened with Teixeira coming to the plate with bases loaded, but Fister had lost the strike zone and there is a strong possibility that he would have to have worked hard and run up his pitch count and that more runs would have scored. The run that we are sure should have scored turned out to be a game decider, as Raul Ibanez’ home run in the 9th inning was a game tying shot instead of a game winner. That run taken off the board also cost the Yankees captain Derek Jeter, as the extra inning play on which he was injured would have never have occurred with the game over on Ibanez’ home run.
Sure, manager Joe Girardi’s insane decision to pitch Derek Lowe in the 8th inning of game one instead of David Robertson contributed to the loss in game one, but the bottom line is that the Yankees losing a run and a favorable game situation on the blown call had far more impact.
Sure, the Yankees have had hitters disintegrating under the pressure of the postseason, but that doesn’t change the fact that they lost the opportunity to attempt small ball in the late innings of last night’s game.
Whether it is chicanery, larceny, incompetence or a bias against the Yankees and/or manager Joe Girardi, no team has been picked on and destroyed by the umpires in the postseason as consistently as the Yankees have been and if Bud Selig had one ounce of integrity in his body he’d have these umpires investigated or completely pull this crew from working any further games in this series.
The Yankees and their manager have been put in a hostile and unfair setting, feeling as if they are battling not only a good baseball team in the Tigers, but also battling the men in blue, who control the outcomes of the fortunes of teams.
The lack of instant replay in baseball has rendered it a joke as compared to the other major sports. It’s a sad day when it is obvious that women’s tennis officials are better equipped and funded with better technology to ensure the best possible officiating than the multi-billion dollar business that MLB is.
Nobody wants their team to win on bad calls. Not the players, managers, or the fans at home. All anyone wants is for both teams to have the same strike zone, and the calls at the bases to be called correctly. A call on a ball hit down the line 100 feet away from the nearest umpire can understandably be blown, which is why instant replay should have been utilized two decades ago. A call at first or second base with an unimpeded view by an umpire standing six feet away should never be blown. There are literally tens of thousands of umpires working baseball at the pro, semi-pro, and amateur levels. If MLB doesn’t care enough to ensure that the very best umpires in the world are working the most important games of the season, then they are displaying an incredible lack of caring about the legitimate outcome of these games. The calls do NOT “even out” in short series where even one call or one home plate umpire can decide the outcome of an entire series.
These calls are sickening and lead to the questioning of the integrity(with good reason) of the men making them, and that is very sad.
The Yankees have been poorly managed and failed to hit in this series, this much is obvious, but neither of those things should negate the right to have a fair chance in these games. There is no place in the MLB rule-book that states that a team who isn’t hitting well or whose manager makes incredible tactical blunders should be denied the right to have the same fair opportunities as the other team. The Yankees have been denied that right, and will probably be eliminated because of it. It’s not fair and it’s not right.