Joe West, in a daring display of umpiring, wrested control of the Yankees-Angels deciding game five tonight away from the players and, in unprecedented fashion, become the first ump to single-handedly win a postseason series. He will met the White Sox in Chicago tomorrow with Joe West getting the start. Actually, Joe West will play every position a la Bugs Bunny and will also call balls and strikes.
West appeared drained as he left the field, saying, "Well, I left it all out on the field. It's hard work keeping the strike zone constantly shifting. A few hitters locked in up there. It was great Having McCarver and Buck up in the booth agreeing with every ridiculous call though. Those guys were great. And guys like Matsuiwhat did he strand 8 baserunnersand A-Rod. They really helped. I couldn't do it alone."
West's best and most controversial play of the night was in the fifth. With the Yankees trailing, 5-2, Alex Rodriguez lead off by getting hit by a pitch and Jason Giambi singled to right. After Sheffield softly flied out to left and Matsui popped up. Robinson Cano swung at strike three but the ball got away from catcher Bengie Molina, and Cano ran down the line apparently reaching first safely while Molina's throw got away from first baseman Darrin Erstad.
"I really had to step in there. Cano was running slightly inside of the line, but that really had no bearing on the play. Besides that was on the first half of the distance to first when the rule doesn't apply. He ran more on the line or slightly to the right of the line for the second half. Besides when the ball came in when Cano was a few feet from first, and of course, the runner does have to run outside of the basepath when he touches the base, but doggone it, that's what's great about having judgment calls on your side.
"I mean, when the runner is cringing trying to avoid the throw and the ball is nowhere near the fielder, it's tough to go for the interference call, but god willing, it was there and I jumped at it.
"I thought I might be pushing it after calling Cano for leaving the bag too early in game two when a slow-motion replay was inconclusive and a middle infielder typically is in the vicinity of second without necessarily touching it on a good percentage of calls. You know, going to the Cano well to many times. But it's a good thing that us umps are bigger than the game itself."
The rule in question is 6.05 k which reads:
In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire's judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base; except that he may run outside (to the right of) the three foot line or inside (to the left of) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball.
When asked what kind of game his game one opponent Jose Contreras would have Tuesday night, West was overcome with peals of laughter, but he contained himself to say, "I'll take my chances. Right now, I'm just enjoying this one."