Maybe you remember a game between the Pirates and the Yankees from two years ago, the one Jason Giambi won with a tenth-inning home run, signifying his return to the good graces of his loyal fans in the Bronx after he apologized for nothing in particular. Don't know if you recall the circumstances that sent that game into a tenth inning. Here is the AP report from that night, June 15, 2005:
Trailing 5-4, New York caught a big break in the ninth. With one out and a runner on first, Gary Sheffield's smash up the middle appeared headed toward center for a single. But it deflected off Mesa (0-5) to shortstop Jack Wilson, who tried to start a double play that would have ended the game.
Replays showed the relay from second baseman Jose Castillo beat Sheffield at first, but he was called safe by umpire Tony Randazzo.
“I don't need to see a replay. He was clearly out,” Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McClendon said. “It's not easy to take, that's for sure. We've got a nice little team here, but we're not good enough to beat the Yankees twice in their own ballpark.”
Pittsburgh's middle infielders protested a bit, though McClendon never came out of the dugout to argue.
“It was a bang-bang play,” Randazzo said. “They didn't complain. That's what I had out there, and that's what I called.”
But McClendon said there was only one reason he didn't dispute the play.
“I've come to learn that arguing gets me in trouble for some reason,” he said.
Two days later in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, it was acknowledged that mistakes were made:
Ed Montague, a 30-year veteran, acknowledged that first-base umpire Tony Randazzo incorrectly called the New York Yankees' Gary Sheffield safe on what would have been a game-ending double play in the ninth inning. The Yankees went on to tie the score that inning, then win, 7-5, in the 10th on Jason Giambi's home run.
How comforting it is to know that Major League Baseball has not raised its umpiring standards one iota in two years.
Yay, of course, that the Mets came back and beat the Nationals in twelve innings. But let's not let Tony Randazzo off the hook. Tony Randazzo's umpiring was a black mark on this baseball game. Tony Randazzo made four horrendous calls at first base at RFK Stadium that tangibly impacted the outcome of a Major League game. The fact that the fourth helped the Mets' cause does not excuse the first three that nearly doomed them. There's no excuse for any of them, actually.
Bad calls at first occur all the time. There was a howler of a miss on Wednesday afternoon in which Beltran was ruled out despite clearly beating the throw. Presumably because it was the final out of a game the Mets trailed by six runs, nobody argued it, but it was an obvious miss. There was an obvious miss that went in the Cardinals' favor on the first night of the season in St. Louis, but it didn't figure in the outcome, so I pretty much forgot about it.
I don't want to forget about the unprofessional, incompetent performance turned in Saturday night by Tony Randazzo. It would be easy enough to kick back and revel in the several and varied contributions of Tom Glavine, Julio Franco, Damion Easley, Jose Reyes, Aaron Sele, Carlos Beltran, Shawn Green and the indefatigable Endy Chavez. It was the second succulently sweet twelve-inning triumph in five nights and it allows us to feel much, much better about our the perseverance factor of our recently stymied attack.
But I can't forget the shameful effort put forth by one Tony Randazzo, especially since he has a track record in this area. It is a pox on the house of baseball and why this sort of ineptitude is permitted to flourish wildly is completely beyond my understanding as a fan. Even allowing for the imperfections inherent in the human element — if they can build a robot to do the same job, by all means build it — it was embarrassing to watch. It embarrassed the Nationals, it embarrassed the Mets, it embarrassed the sport.
What's that? Umpires get most of them right? Their job is to get them all right. Or get them all right and be forgiven for one here and there that goes wrong and in general not be noticed. Anything beneath that standard is not worthy of the position. Tony Randazzo was not close to that standard Saturday night. Not even in the same ballpark.
Ryan Zimmerman, despite a great effort, did not throw out Damion Easley at first in the fifth inning yet Easley was called out. Despite another great effort in the same inning, Zimmerman did not throw out Jose Reyes at first, yet Reyes was called out. Likewise, Felipe Lopez did not beat out Easley's throw to first and should have been erased on the back end of an inning-ending double play in the sixth. But he was ruled safe and eventually scored. And to be fair, Easley was nipped by a hair at first in the ninth with two out yet he was called safe. Instead of the game ending, it continued and the Mets took advantage (praise be).
Four plays at first, all close, all blown by the same umpire, an official who did not exhibit the professionalism to turn and walk away when Willie Randolph (finally) bolted from the dugout to argue the third of those travesties. Sunday afternoon, Tony Randazzo will move behind the plate and calls balls and strikes.
What a system.