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You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole damn courtroom is out of order!
2005-10-12 22:33
by Mike Carminati

"Merkle's Boner"

"Snodgrass's Muff"

"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' call—once on the final strike and then the punchout when the ball was rolling to the mound—seemed 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.

2005-10-12 23:38:54
1.   snappy
Plate umpire Doug Eddings is a liar and he should be fired for it. Clearly he rang out the third out but then changed his mind. He is pathetic and so is MLB if he goes unpunished.
2005-10-13 06:41:07
2.   ChuckM
I just can't figure out what happened to the umpiring in these playoffs (or should I say play-oofs). I thought that MLB went to a grading system similar to the NFL's a couple of years ago as a way to insure the best umps were doing playoff games so this type of stuff would happen less frequently...
2005-10-13 08:00:18
3.   Bob B
Eddings and West both blew their calls but niether guy had the guts to say "I blew it". I accept bad calls as part of the game. At least in the old days, the umpires would say they made a mistake. That's life. Fans don't want instant replay or a machine calling balls and strikes. We just want the best effort by the players and the umpires. Players make errors and umpires make errors. If I'm the official scorer, I give Eddings an E on the play. Big deal. That's his tough luck. But that interview after the game was so self serving it should even bother Whitesox fans. Maybe we can get Joe West and Eddings in the World Series. THat would really be something.
2005-10-13 08:10:31
4.   PhillyJ
Another disgraceful display - and the CYA press conference afterward compounded it.

I have a rules question - and not being a rules buff I ask for some help...

Assuming the call was correct and decisive (neither of which applies here), and Pierzynski is entitled to try for for first...

We know that once the third strike is not caught, Pierzynski becomes a runner. As a runner, the rules state that he can legally run to first at any time before he goes into the dugout...

But it does not mention (as far as I can tell) whether he is allowed - or not allowed - to touch the plate.

If Pierzynski touched the plate, is that not, as a runner, considered running "out of order"?

Any insight would be helpful.

2005-10-13 08:29:04
5.   Cliff Corcoran
Somewhere, Don Denkinger is delited that his name isn't mentioned in Mike's post or in the comments. . . D'oh!

Anyway, here's my take from last night's Bronx Banter comments (with some additions):

"Although Buck, McCarver and Piniella (who is so quiet you forget he's there with Tweedledee and Tweedledum) failed to pick up on it, the replay did show that the ball appeared to skip ever so slightly into Paul's glove. It's almost undetectable, but FOX enlarged the frame and you could see it bounce up into the pocket of Josh Paul's mitt, though, again, the broadcaster's failed to pick up on it and all other replays were at regular size when it was next to impossible to see.

The point here is that none of the umpires could have seen that, least of all the home plate ump Doug Eddings, who was viewing the play from behind. He could only assume that since Paul's glove touched the ground the ball must have hit the dirt (though Pierzynski claimed to hear the ball bounce, so perhaps that's what Eddings responded to).

More significantly, while Eddings' first jesture was indeed for a strike (arm extended out to his right, hand flat), once Paul stood up with the ball in his mitt, Eddings pumped his fist, suggesting an out call. I would like to hear an explanation of that fist pump, as, were it not for that, one would be tempted to blame Paul for not tagging Pierzynski. It would have taken very little effort for him to have patted A.J. on the back with the ball and it would have made the whole mess about what the call was moot. But given Eddings fist pump, one assumes that Paul thought that Pierzynski had been called out, which is Mike Scioscia's interpretation of events.

That said, something made Pierzynski run. Surprisingly Harold Reynolds was very insightful regarding this play on Baseball Tonight. What Reynolds said is that Pierzynski, having caught the entire game in front of Eddings, knew his strike call from his out call and clearly didn't hear the latter, which is why he ran to first.

All in all it's an unfortunate ending to an exciting game, though go figure that Kelvim Escobar, as well as he's pitched since returning from surgery in September, couldn't get Joe Crede of all people to make some kind of out in that situation."

2005-10-13 09:10:14
6.   strangeluck
As everyone is saying, it was absolutely disgraceful on the part of Eddings, but you have to give credit where credit is due, and AJ Pierzynski should be given some props for selling the play and winning the game with what can only be described as "creative baserunning."
2005-10-13 10:39:46
7.   writerthesp77
PhillyJ, MLB rule 7.02 says that runners must advance to 1B, 2B, 3B, and HP, in that order. Once Pierzynski becomes a baserunner and touches home, he's running out of order.
2005-10-13 11:07:35
8.   Murray
When Fox finally enlarged that replay, what I saw was the ball bouncing inside off the webbing of Paul's catcher's mitt, and then into the pocket of his catcher's mitt. The pitch never hit the ground.

Definitely the worst umpiring gaffe I've seen since the 1985 World Series. I don't even like the Angels, and I think they got screwed.

2005-10-13 12:12:14
9.   Mike Carminati

Not quite. If that were true, then a right-handed hitter who steps on the plate on his way to first would be out.

As for Pierzynski abandoning the field, the rules already cover it, long story short, he didn't:

7.08 (a). APPROVED RULING: When a batter becomes a runner on third strike not caught, and starts for his bench or position, he may advance to first base at any time before he enters the bench. To put him out, the defense must tag him or first base before he touches first base.

2005-10-13 12:30:13
10.   PhillyJ
Mike and 77 - I know rule 7.08 but I find it curious that the exception to running the bases in order would not be specifically allowed in the rulebook - or am I missing something?

Thanks for the responses.

2005-10-13 12:47:37
11.   Mike Carminati

There's a lot that's not in the rulebook, believe me.

2005-10-13 22:11:38
12.   writerthesp77
Mike, AJ stepped into the opposite batter's box and then onto the plate. A right handed batter that steps into the opposite batter's box on a fair ball and then changes direction, touching the plate might very well be called out too.

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