- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

Time for baseball to make the obvious call

Just when it seemed certain that this postseason would be remembered as major league baseball’s first (scheduled) foray into November and Alex Rodriguez’s introduction to October success, a new revelation has made itself unavoidably clear.

Night after night.

Something has to be done about the umpires.

How many blown calls and grotesque distortions of the strike zone in October does it take for baseball to realize this?

If the breaking point hasn’t been reached already this postseason — in just one round, no less — then it isn’t far away. The division series were chock full of bad calls, and not just the routine kind. There were several of the outcome-altering, what-the-heck-are-you-looking-at variety.

At Yankee Stadium last week, Phil Cuzzi stared right at Joe Mauer’s sinking line drive in the left-field corner and ruled it foul after it hit Melky Cabrera’s glove — never mind that the ball landed in fair territory.

Almost as bad were the calls made on Chase Utley’s dribbler in Game 3 of Phillies-Rockies on Sunday. First, home plate umpire Jerry Meals didn’t notice that the ball hit off Utley’s leg. Then, after closer Huston Street retrieved the ball and threw to first, umpire Ron Kulpa incorrectly called Todd Helton off the bag.

The umpiring the next day in that series was so shaky that Rockies manager Jim Tracy nearly argued for the cycle — that’s the rare but unofficial feat of disputing calls made by the arbiters at every base.

But really, what can be done? The only solution is to expand instant replay. But thanks to commercials, pitching changes and other assorted delays, playoff games have become bowl games minus the halftime show. There’s just no room to wedge in more replay stoppages.

And that’s the problem. Major League Baseball could enforce the speed-up rules and cut the ads, halting the four-hour slogs that have dragged down this postseason and creating more time to expand replay. But it seems to have no interest in doing so. That might be baseball’s worst call of all.

He Said What?

“If they asked me to go back, yes, I would have, but they didn’t, and that’s it.”

— Phillies pitcher Pedro Martinez on his removal after seven innings of the Dodgers’ 2-1 comeback win Friday

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