I'm moving this one to the top, because you need to read this entry with this post in mind, so click the link, read the post over at BTF, then read the rest. Or don't, it's up to you. The Chronicler with a great post detailing other similar situations throughout the game. In a nutshell, on every single at bat that ended in a bounced third strike, Eddings waited until the batter had been tagged out to pump his fist. Also, it details how Eddings is a liar. Now, back to the original post.
Well, it's a shame it had to end that way. The White Sox were given this game by Doug Eddings. It's a shame that incompetence has to decide such an important game, but such is baseball. What makes this tough to take is that 1) You hate to use your bullpen up, have them pitch lights out, and have the game stolen from them, and 2) Eddings blew the call not once, but TWICE! He not only missed the fact that the ball didn't bounce, but he made the out call! He pumped his freaking fist!
A well pitched game on both sides, with it's share of close calls, this was one exciting baseball game. Buehrle was as good as most people expected him to be, and Washburn really gutted out a great performance under the circumstances. His error in the first inning proved costly, as it allowed the Sox to get on the board first. Poor coaching by Joey Cora cost the Sox a run in the second when he sent Rowand, who had doubled and advanced to third on a misplay by Vlad. Quinlan retrieved the ball and fired it to the plate where Jose Molina tagged out Rowand, just barely, preserving the one run deficit. Eddings had a large strike zone all night long, and both pitchers benefitted, perhaps Wash a little more than Buehrle. Admittedly, he called Konerko out on a bad called when he said Konerko swung at strike three. He didn't, and Eddings didn't even ask for help, a running theme for him tonight. Quinlan repeated his heroics of September 9th, when he homered off of Buehrle to tie a game the Angels eventually won, repeating the feat tonight. The Angels had an opportunity with Davanon on second, but Figgins continues to fail in crucial situations, and Cabrera's deep fly ball wasn't quite deep enough. The White Sox threated as well, getting Crede to second with one out before Uribe lined to left. Crede was caught off second and doubled off on a great throw by GA. The play wasn't without controversy, but the replays appeared to show he was out.
Escobar was terrific, pitching three innings and striking out five, inlcuding the play that will be talked about all series. Granted, the third strike to Pierszynski was close, but replays pretty clearly showed the ball didn't hit the dirt. Eddings called strike three, then, and I can't stress this enough, pumped his fist indicating "out". We all watch a lot of baseball, and we all know that umpires DO NOT MAKE THE OUT CALL until the runner has been tagged on a dropped or bounced third strike. Inexplicably, Eddings must have forgotten that. He allowed Pierszynski to reach first, Ozuna ran and took second on the slow working Escobar, and Crede, coming up big again, lined in the winning run.
Another coupla things about this play that seemed strange, and for which I'm sure we'll hear no explanation. First, do you ever see catchers not tag batters on dropped or bounced third strikes if there's any chance it hit the ground. Usually it's automatic. I think that's a clear sign that Paul knew he caught it. Second, EVERY SINGLE BALL that comes into contact with the dirt is removed from play these days. Seriously, watch a game and look for this and you'll notice it if you haven't already. Eddings could very easily simply gone and checked the ball. This isn't unprecedented. Umpires occasionally do this looking for shoe polish if a batter claim he was hit in the foot. All he had to do was walk out and look for the scuff mark. He froze. He screwed up not once, but twice, and when he could have taken corrective action, he failed to act. It's inexcusable, and he shouldn't work another post-season game. Fortunately, he'll be on the foul lines for the next couple of games, but that job requires a close eye on balls in the dirt, and I'm not sure he's up to the task. I know one thing, he ought to be thanking his lucky stars the next game is Anaheim. New York, Boston, or God forbid Philly, and he'd be ducking D-cells all night long. Hell, even in Anaheim, I might beg off for fear of my own safety if I were him.
I'm not sure what the rule is in this situation. Judgment calls are not protestable (a perfectly cromulent word), but in this instance, I'm not sure if the Angels can protest the game on the basis of their reliance on Eddings call of out. He can't even really claim that he changed his mind at that point. It's one thing to start making a call of out, then change it to safe when you see a ball drop, or a foot come off the bag, or something similar. It's still within the flow of the play. But imagine a bases loaded situation, a batter grounds out, the first baseman catches the ball, the ump calls out, the players leave the field, and the runners keep running for some reason. An ump couldn't very well change his mind a minute or two after the fact. I don't know, maybe he was just pumping his fist because he liked the organ music or something. If I'm Scioscia, I lodge my protest, and I let Major League Baseball tell the world that they're fine with incompetence. Again, I'm not talking about an error or difference in judgment. I'm talking about a team's reliance on the call made by an umpire.
Coincidentally, the Arkansas Travellers, the Angels AA affiliate, lost their championship this season. The game ended when the final batter struck out, AFTER four balls had been thrown. The ump lost track of the count, called the batter back to the box, and called him out on the next pitch. Shoddy officiating and out and out incompetence is one thing in AA. But this the ALCS. Eddings joins a select group including Don Denkinger, and probably some other people I can't remember right now. The sad thing is that Josh Paul, who did nothing wrong, get's charged with the error that leads to the Sox second unearned run. And I don't care John Kruk says. He can take that ball and shove right up his chute. Josh Paul caught the ball, on the fly, and the umpire signaled out. It's really that simple. When he called strikes, he stuck his right arm out.
But that's baseball. That's why we watch. You never know what's going to happen. Certainly the Angels didn't deserve to win, but they didn't deserve to lose either, and they DEFINITELY didn't deserve to lose like that. It's unfortunate, and it puts the Angels really in a must win situation in game three. They have arguable their best pitcher going. He'll be on full rest. And they're facing a guy they've hammered this season and over his career. But Chone Figgins needs to show up. Vlad needs to show up. Somebody with a bat needs to show up.
We'll see ya Friday night.
**Update** after replays, Doug Eddings is a flat out liar. The man is a bald faced liar. If he is claiming he didn't call AJ out, he's a liar. You can watch every strike out. His strike call is to flex his right arm out, almost like a one handed safe call with his right hand. To make the out call, ALL NIGHT LONG, he pumped his fist. He called AJ out. And great job by Harold Reynolds and the baseball tonight crew to point this out. The fact is, the Angels were robbed. Like I said, they didn't deserve to win, but they didn't derserve to lose like that. FWIW, the one Sox fan I've talked to tonight (my law school roommate) agrees with me. If I were him, I'd take it. Lord knows the Angels have benefitted from bad calls this season. But this is really an embarrassment. Doug Eddings should be removed from the crew. First, he's not a very good ump. Second, he's a liar. I have a lot more respect for umps that suck, but stick by their calls. Anyway, I'm clearly bitter right now, and I didn't write a lot of things that I wanted to. The guys at South Side Sox have been nice enough to link over here, and hey, I like the traffic, so I'm trying to seem fair, although one of the reasons they've linked here (I can only imagine) is to show the Angels fan side of things. So Sox fans, if I'm way off base, feel free to say so in the comments.
**UPDATE 2** Apparently there's some discussion about reliance on the call. Paul may have tossed the ball back before Eddings made the call. Two things. First, replays are incoclusive, but there may be some merit to that. I see the fist pump, then I see the ball come into the screen. Regardless, if there was any doubt, Escobar could have been there to pick it up and throw AJ out. It's not just Paul's reliance that I'm speaking about. It all of the Angels infielders. And they all saw it. Second, none of us know what he said, if he said anything, or if he ever says anything. There's no way to tell on this point.
**UPDATE 3** If you have the chance, watch the strikeout of Bengie Molina in the 6th. One argument being made is that the fist pump is his strike call, not his out call. Couple of problems for this. If this is the case, he didn't signal out on a strikeout all night. 12 guys walked back to the dugout without being signaled out. Second, watch that Molina play, it's the smoking gun. Bengie swings and misses, and the bat goes flying. AJ catches it. Eddings makes the no contact sign. Then he waits. He had a rhythm to the two arm motions all night long. Not this time. He waited until AJ tagged Molina before making the fist pump. If he's claiming that he never made an out call, he's a liar.
The other side: Exile in Wrigleyville; South Side Sox.