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Kulpa-Bull—Can't Anybody Umpire Anymore?
2005-10-15 22:50
by Mike Carminati

In an act of solidarity or perhaps a show of support for Doug Eddings, the two umpiring crews overseeing the League Championship Series have decided to go on strike. The form of that strike is to make at least one miscall a day.

Now, I'm joking of course. Bad calls are part of the game, but these guys are going above and beyond.

In game two of the NLCS, Mark Grudzielanek was called out after he hit a ball off his foot. In game three a pickoff attempt at first was miscalled. Both of these calls were readily apparent at normal speed without the help of instant replay. Then there was the Vald Guerrero strikeout on a play almost identical to the Eddings one in game two, umpire "mechanic" and all. The call, however, went against the batter this time.

However, Ron Kulpa, home plate umpire in the Angel-White Sox game tonight, had the piece d'resistance. In the bottom of the second the Angels were at bat trailing 3-1. The Angels had just scored on a Bengie Molina bloop single. Molina was at first and Casey Kotchman at third, and there was one out. Steve Finley was at bat with an 0-1 count. Finley hit a grounder to the first-base side of second baseman Tadahito Iguchi and sort of slowed and pointed at catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Finley was beat by a step at first as the White Sox completed an inning-ending double play. The next instant, Finley turned and continued to point to Pierzynski.

It turns out that Pierzynski's mitt was hit by Finley's bat as he started to swing at the ball. By the definition of interference in the rule book, the catcher was guilty of defensive interference:

INTERFERENCE… (b) Defensive interference is an act by a fielder which hinders or prevents a batter from hitting a pitch.

As the commentators stated the end result should have been bases loaded and one out. However, if Finley had run to first without making his case for interference and interference were called, he would have created option for manager Mike Scioscia. The runner at third would have scored, and Scioscia would have been given the option of letting the play stand with the interference, thereby closing the gap to 3-2. If he opted to accept the interference call, the run would have been taken off the scoreboard and the Angels would have the bases loaded. Even though it would have cost them an out (at second), I doubt they would give up a run.

Here's the rule:

The batter becomes a runner and is entitled to first base without liability to be put out (provided he advances to and touches first base) when… (c) The catcher or any fielder interferes with him. If a play follows the interference, the manager of the offense may advise the plate umpire that he elects to decline the interference penalty and accept the play. Such election shall be made immediately at the end of the play. However, if the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batsman, or otherwise, and all other runners advance at least one base, the play proceeds without reference to the interference. If catcher's interference is called with a play in progress the umpire will allow the play to continue because the manager may elect to take the play.

If that wasn't bad enough first-base ump Ed Rapuano missed call when Scott Shields picked Scott Podsednik off first in the fifth (as McCarver and company were discussing how relief pitchers have inferior moves to first). Podsednik stole second and later scored on a two-out Carl Everett single to increase the White Sox lead to 6-2.

The score ended up 8-2, so even without the Podesednik run in the fifth and with an additional Angel run or two in the second, maybe the result would have been the same. But it would have been nice if the umps called it right in the first place so that we wouldn't have to guess the actual result.

2005-10-16 09:50:06
1.   Alex Belth
Mike, I'm starting to believe that this is the "Curse of the Black Sox" rearing it's ugly head and exorcising itself out of the White Sox and onto the Angels (who can handle some misfortune after having won a championship a few years ago). I mean if you could ever make the barstool case that a series is being fixed this one is it. It's fitting that they've got a guy like A.J. P in the middle of it all. He's Christian Laetnerr or Bill Laimbeeer with a good dose of Chicago's own Bill Murray in him.
2005-10-16 16:56:42
2.   gracefan314
You can add this ridiculous strike zone in Game 4 of the NLCS to the laundry list of bad umping.

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