Sunday, October 27, 2013

Red Sox & Their Fans Deserved to Lose Game 3 That Way

As weird as this sounds, the freaky play that ended Game 3 of the 2013 World Series is a good thing for baseball.

It's gotten people talking about baseball, even on a night when there's been big college football games, not to mention the Devils' miraculous win against another Boston team (2 goals in the last 2 minutes against the Bruins to go from 3-2 down to winning 4-3).

Even tomorrow, when it's an NFL Sunday, with a couple of major rivalry games (Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders), people are still going to be talking about what's probably already being called The Middlebrooks Play.

The game, between the Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals at the new Busch Stadium, was tied 4-4 in the bottom of the 9th.  With 1 out, Yadier Molina, Cardinal hero of the 2006 NLCS against the Mets, singled to right.

1.Matt Adams strikes out swinging, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to first baseman David Ortiz. Allen Craig pinch-hit for Trevor Rosenthal, and he Sox brought in their closer, Koji Uehara. Craig doubled to left, but Molina, known for his defense, wasn't fast enough to score, so he only got to 3rd.

The batter was Jon Jay, the Cardinal center fielder. He grounded to 2nd, and Dustin Pedroia dove for it, and threw home to throw Molina out. That was the 2nd out, and it was completely legitimate.

Had Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia simply held onto the ball, the play would have ended right there, Craig would have safely advanced to 3rd, and the Sox would've needed just one more out to get out of the jam and send it to extra innings. The next batter was Pete Kozma, the shortstop, who was 0-for-4 at that point, and can't buy a base hit: In the NLCS and World Series combined, he's 1-for-19 (although he did bat .400 in the NLDS and have 3 walks and an RBI in the NLCS). So the Sox' chances were good.

But when Saltalamacchia saw Craig going for 3rd, he threw to Will Middlebrooks, and he couldn't handle it. He dove for it, but it went past him into left field. Craig, naturally, got up from his slide, and broke for home...

Except he tripped over Middlebrooks, whose legs seemed to rise in such a way that he was attempting to trip Craig up. He was then thrown out at home by Sox left fielder Daniel Nava...

But 3rd base umpire and crew chief Jim Joyce, who infamously got a call wrong at 1st base to deny Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game (and even a no-hitter) in 2010, ruled that Middlebrooks interfered with Craig, and that Craig's run would have scored without the interference, and declared that the run counted, and the Cardinals had won, 5-4.

To me, it doesn't look like an obvious attempt to obstruct. However, those legs going up, which did trip the runner up, sure look suspicious.

The NFL's standard for instant replay is that a call has to have been obviously wrong for it to be overturned; otherwise, the call has to stand. I can't say that I see enough evidence to decide that this call was obviously wrong.

Many of you have seen the play, also in Game 3, in the 1975 World Series, where Ed Armbrister of the Cincinnati Reds seemed to interfere with Carlton Fisk, apparently costing the Sox Game 3 and, by extension, that classic Series that went 7 games (all but one of them very good games, and Game 6 is regarded as one of the best games ever played, and Game 7 was damn good as well).  Home plate umpire Larry Barnett got death threats over that refusal to call Armbrister out for interference.

I've seen that play many times (even though I wasn't yet old enough to watch baseball on TV, especially at such a late hour), and in that case, whether there was purposeful interference was even less clear. But Sox fans have been moaning about that play for 38 years, and now one of their guys has been caught "doing the same thing."

Two more things to keep in mind:

1. This Series is not over. Not by a long shot. There will still be a Game 4 and a Game 5. If the Sox can win those, they'll only have to win 1 of the last 2 at Fenway; if they split, they'll have to take the last 2, but those games would be at home.

2. For all the steroid use by Red Sox players, and for all the purpose pitches (hitting batters on purpose for purposes of intimidation), Sox fans need to shut the fuck up about this call. They have gotten more breaks from the "government" (in this case, umpires and Commissioner Bud Selig) than a "too big to fail" corporation.

If they end up losing this Series, especially if it goes to 7 games, they deserve it.

Maybe this is The Curse of the Bambino reasserting itself, as it may have done in September 2011. The Curse lives? 1918 * Forever!


RandsontheRoad1 said...

Two more reasons why Boston deserved to lose that game: 1) They didn't do a double switch to move Workman down in the batting order. Chalk it up to inexperience with NL rules and pinch hitting strategies; and more importantly 2) they should have given Jay an IW to load the bases, making forces outs at all bases and easier double plays, not to mention that they would then be pitching to Kozma, a weaker batter.

Uncle Mike said...

Interesting call -- especially since 1. Terry Francona and, yes, Bobby Valentine have both managed in the NL and would have known the right way to double-switch; and 2. as we both pointed out, Kozma can't buy a base hit since the Division Series ended.