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Update: Jim Caple of ESPN had an amusing take, noting in part the remarkable number of catchers ultimately involved, here. Bottom line, he blamed the ump, if not 100%. Another column noted that the ump was wrong, but c'est la vie. Yeah, life does go on, but one has the right to be annoyed about it. And, regarding Caple, nothing is ever all one person's fault -- nearly not. But, blame can be placed somewhere all the same.
Errors, including by officials, are part of sports. Like moms, officials need not admit their error, even if the game turns on it. Thus, the manager of the Angels had to shrug off a particularly horrendous one last night, including because his players just wanted to go to bed.
This issue deserves a mention. One can point to various spots in the playoffs so far where questionable calls could have turned the game and series. The Braves was up 6-1 in Game Four (down 2-1 in the series) in the eighth inning on Sunday, the inning continuing (until the Astros made it 6-5) via two questionable calls, one non-out at first many felt was particularly egregious (seeing replays, maybe). The Yanks also was victim of a call -- that could have led to them loading the bases with clutch hitter Bernie Williams coming to bat -- in Game Five, when a rarely called "running out of the baseline"/inference with the first baseman (whatever it was) led to an out at first base and end of the inning.
Still, we are not talking potential last out of game here. The situation looks worse if we step back. The Angels, after a break on Saturday, played four straight days (East Coast-West Coast-Chicago-Chicago). They won Game One (pitcher on three days rest) vs. the White Sox and left Game Two in the hands of someone who was just off his sick bed. He played 4 2/3 with no earned runs, but an error on the first play of the game led to an unearned run. Still, it was 1-1 in the Ninth, the White Sox ace going the distance (the day before, another ace went into the Ninth).
After a somewhat touchy first inning of work, the spot fifth starter of the Angels (two starts, 31 relief appearances) was in his third inning of relief in the Ninth. And, he got the nine outs -- the White Sox's line-up going around in the process. They saw him; they was more familiar with his stuff. Likewise, the guy -- don't know if he is a rookie, but surely not one of the team's time worn veterans -- was also liable to give up a key hit soon enough. One doubts if he would have came out in the Tenth, but maybe. The back-up catcher was behind the plate.
The third strike ... to both the radio and television announcers as well as the Angels (and probably many of the White Sox) ... the third out call as well. The plate umpire did the fist thing. Anyway, the ball hit the mitt, not the dirt, and it was a strike and out (vs. just a strikeout). So, the catcher rolled the ball back to the mound. But wait! It's not an out! The guy is safe on first. Steal, clutch hit, and White Sox wins game. Series tied 1-1. Bullshit.
One doesn't want to be a crybaby about the whole thing, but please. This business of "well, he had to get the out, no matter if the call was blown" business is technically accurate. Sure. Pitchers lose games all the time because of errors that they cannot pitch around, but we have three outs for a reason. And, we are not talking Colon or K-Rod here ... we are talking about a stretched out back-end rotation/relief guy, who minutes before thought he was out of the inning. Give a team another out when facing someone in their third inning of work, and clutch hits will happen more than probability dictates. And, this was not just any point in the game -- it was potentially the last out of the game. It also was not just a "well, it was a close play, but ..." deal. It was just stupid.
A nailbiter falls to umpire error. A Championship series nailbiter. A rather stupid error. And, then the umpires after the game circle their wagons and say that in fact it was not an error. Talk about balls. Home field advantage, apparently (the other two errors cited above were in the home parks of the beneficiaries). Still, now Anaheim has to win the series or lose it big. A 4-2 or 4-3 deal will be a freakening cheat. Meanwhile, the Cards won Game One the usual way.