Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 4/9/13
I’ve watched a load of baseball over the last 50 something years, and yet I’ll never say that I’ve seen it all. Proof of that declaration came last night as I viewed the end of the game between the Rays and Rangers. This was a game in which I had no involvement, I was simply watching. Thus, I guess I can say that I was fortunate enough to have witnessed what might well have been the worst game-ending ball/strike call ever.
Here’s the scenario. Joe Nathan is trying to nail down his 300th career save and he’s not exactly at his best. Nathan has already yielded one run to make it a 5-4 ballgame, the tying run is on base, and it’s a full count to Ben Zobrist with Evan Longoria on deck. Longoria is having a perfect night at the plate, going 3/3 and also drawing a walk. So Nathan really needs to close it out by retiring Zobrist. But Nathan misses badly with the 3-2 pitch, as it dives low and wide. Ball four and here comes Longoria, right? Uh no, as from out of nowhere home plate umpire Marty Foster rings up a stunned Zobrist, and the game is over.
The reactions were awesome, and clearly indicated just how badly Foster missed this call. Zobrist was not surprisingly shocked as his jog to first base was rudely interrupted. But better than that was the dead giveaway on the part of both Nathan and catcher AJ Pierzynski. The latter was clearly about to trot to the mound to talk about how to go after Longoria and to settle down Nathan in the process. As for the pitcher, he had already thrown his arms in the air in disgust with missing the pitch as badly as he did. Nathan admitted after the game that he had no idea at what had just taken place, as he said that he figured he was the last one in the park to realize the game was finished.
I have no idea what Foster was looking at, but it’s a shame that a game has to be potentially decided in this fashion. I’m a staunch advocate of replay for safe/out and fair/foul, but have held firm in believing we need to leave the balls and strikes strictly to the umpire. A few more calls like this one and I might be convinced to change my mind. At the very least, there needs to be some kind of challenge in place, so that a call that’s this bad doesn’t necessarily stand.
The free play won again on Monday as the Reds put a nine-spot on the board in the ninth at At. Louis. Four straight road dog winners on the comps. That streak has to end here as I’m going with a Total tonight.
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04/09 07:05 PM MLB (923) OAKLAND ATHLETICS VS (924) LOS ANGELES ANGELS
I don’t put too much weight on exhibition stats, but when they carry over to the regular season, that mindset changes in a hurry. Jarrod Parker got cuffed around in the spring games, but those stats were at least excused to some extent as he was working to improve his off speed stuff. But Parker was extremely ineffective in his first real start of the season, so maybe there was something to the rough spring after all. The Angels have to be very concerned about the top of their rotation. Weaver has not been good, and CJ Wilson was also shaky in his opening effort. In both cases, velocity drops have to be at least a bit of a worry. Wilson averaged 91.7 with his fastball, and in fact there was a reduction across the board on all of his pitches. In some cases, a sluggish start in this area is no big thing. But Wilson has never displayed this April tendency, so for me it’s a red flag. The totals are never high at Anaheim, and this will never be a haven for hitters at night. But given the fact that both pitchers are coming off shabby starts and there’s loads of power available in both lineups, I expect some scoring tonight. I’ll go Over the 7.5 with the A’s and Angels for the free play today.