You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole damn courtroom is out of order!
by Mike Carminati
"Owen's Dropped Ball"
"The Mookie Ball Goes Through Buckner's Legs"
And now I give you, "Eddings' Execrable Call"
Move over Joe West. There's a new boneheaded umpire in town, and his name is Reggie Hammond, er, Doug Eddings.
As I'm sure you've heard by now, but in game two of the ALCS tonight, the score was tied with two out and none on in the bottom of the ninth. Kelvim Escobar was mowing down the hometown White Sox. A.J. Pierzynski worked a full count but then apparently struck out swinging on a mean sinker. Catcher Josh Paul, who entered the game an inning earlier, caught the ball and flipped it toward the mound, and the Angels departed the field to prepare for extra innings.
Pierzynski took one step toward the dugout as Eddings appeared to punch him out on the strikeout. OK, everything is normal yet far, but weirdness ensued.
Pierzynski for some unknown reason seemed to jerk himself around and run to first, apparently on the off chance that the ump would call it a trapped ball. In an instant, Pierzynski's delusion became reality. The confused Angel players were desultorily leaving the field. When Escobar raise his arms in a confused shrug. When Pierzynski reached first, we were informed that yes, he was safe (for some reason) and the inning would continue.
After a brief argument from a perplexed Mike Scioscia, the White Sox won on a nice piece of hitting by Joe Crede, doubling in the winning run on a slicer to the left field corner after allowed the runner to steal second by taking two strikes.
The game was over and the White Sox had won. But they were the only ones celebrating. To the Angels and the fans watching (or at least me), it was surreal.
Clearly, the replays showed that the ball did not catch the ground but was caught. The flip to the mound and Paul's general body language, though that can be faked, confirmed that. Eddings' callonce on the final strike and then the punchout when the ball was rolling to the moundseemed to confirm it. And if Eddings' signals were not definitive, the catch was apparent to the naked eye and should have been confirmed by third base ump Ed Rapuano, but when Eddings belated conferred with the other ump, he appeared to demure, not wanting overall the original call.
The rule itself is straight-forward enough:
A batter is out when (b) A third strike is legally caught by the catcher; "Legally caught" means in the catcher's glove before the ball touches the ground. It is not legal if the ball lodges in his clothing or paraphernalia.
The batter becomes a runner when (b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied
What is not codified in the rules is the signal to signify a clean strikeout as opposed to a strikeout with the out conditional on tagging the runner. I have never seen the "punchout" signal for anything besides a vanilla strikeout. I think the call itself was not as bad as the umps' inability to convey the meaning of the call. The Angels were left stunned, not knowing what was going on or how to react.
I know that a team cannot protest an opinion call, but I wonder if they can use the errant signal as a basis for a protest. It is after all what caused the problem in the first place.
As for Eddings himself, maybe he and Joe West can ride off into the sunset and they complete the LCSs with one fewer outfield ump in each league. Then again, that just increases the odds that another one of the men in blue screws up the next call.
I don't know how a strikeout that wasn't a strikeout can be topped. Maybe they'll just let a guy call "Mulligan" and start his at-bat all over. Nothing would surprise me now.