I used to play in an adult softball league several years ago. We were pretty low-budget; no uniforms, just t-shirts, and we didn’t have the money to employ umpires. With home plate, we actually placed a piece of carpet behind the dish – if the pitch hit the carpet, it was a strike. If it missed, it was called a ball. With plays in the field, it was mostly “on our honor” to the best of our abilities. The league was sponsored by local churches, so you just hoped that people acted fair and not like heathens.
After watching tonight’s Indians-White Sox game, I almost wish they would’ve just gone by this method of umpiring instead. This has to be one of the worst called games I’ve seen all year. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz was so inconsistent that balls in the dirt were strikes, balls about a foot outside were strikes, balls right down the middle were balls. And that’s before we discuss the sloppy field umpiring, most of which seemed to benefit the White Sox. In the 4th inning, Shin-Soo Choo hit what was probably a double; Michael Brantley (on base from a walk) was tied up around second and ended up falling down. He eventually made it to third, but Choo was forced to stay at first base. Replays showed that there was likely a collision between Brantley and Alexi Ramirez, but no umpires apparently saw this happen.
One of the other bad calls (technically, two possible bad calls on one play) came when Alejandro De Aza tripled off Frank Herrmann in the 6th inning. The hit was very close to the line, but was called a fair ball. It was close enough, that I’m willing to let that slide. As De Aza slid into third, he was tagged out by Lonnie Chisenhall, as was apparent from the replay. Yes, it was close; but nothing close seemed to go the Indians’ way tonight. De Aza scored on the next play, so the bad call cost the Indians a run. In the bottom of the 10th, again it was De Aza who was called safe at first, even though it looked like he may have been tagged by Matt LaPorta. Even though Manny Acta decided to pull Tony Sipp at that point, Sipp ended up getting ejected for arguing the play.
With a poor outing by Ubaldo Jimenez, and Gavin Floyd striking out 7 of the first 9 Cleveland batters, this one looked like it was (yet again) all Chicago early. The White Sox hit 5 triples tonight (and almost had a 6th in the 14th inning) – this was the first time since 1920 they had 5 triples in a game. (The last team to have 5 triples in a game was the Philadelphia Phillies in 1986 against the Chicago Cubs.) Despite all of this – the poor play, the poor umpiring – the Indians still fought back. They managed to tie the game and send it into extra innings. The Sox even had a leadoff triple by Alex Rios in the 11th inning; they managed to strand him there. The Indians had their own moment in the top of the 13th, when they had the bases loaded with only one out. Shin-Soo Choo struck out, and Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out to first to end the inning. I knew once they missed this golden opportunity, it probably wasn’t going to end well.
While I admire the Indians’ ability to fight back throughout the original 9 innings, there was a lot of disappointing baseball from the Tribe tonight that had nothing to do with the umpires. The pitching obviously must take some of the blame for those triples, but US Cellular Field isn’t exactly a triples park. Kosuke Fukudome and Choo looked horribly awkward in the outfield tonight, even though Choo is typically reliable as a defender. There were a number of poor at-bats tonight, especially during the first few innings and the last few innings.
So the curse of the White Sox continues – the Indians still have not managed to beat them since April 3. If they have any hope of postseason baseball (or even remaining in contention for the rest of the season) they need to learn how to beat Chicago.