Can you say "Ed Armbrister"? In Game Three of the famous 1975 World Series, the Red Sox were rooked when the plate umpire failed to call an obvious interference against Cincy Reds player Ed Armbrister, leading to an extra-inning win for the Reds.
Tonight, again in Game Three of a World Series (this time not against the Reds but against the team often nicknamed the "Red Birds,") the Sox again were rooked, this time when an interference/obstruction call that should not have been made instead was made, leading to the St. Louis Cardinals being awarded -- wrongly -- the winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
Why was it the wrong call? After all, the Cards player, who had falled down in a tangle with Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, clearly tripped over Middlebrooks when he got up and tried to make it home. Isn't that interference? Well, no. The runner is not owed an unobstructed path home from anywhere he wants to begin his attempt. Instead, the runner is owed a fair route home along the basepath. But the Cardinal runner, Allen Craig, was well to the inside of the baseline, as was Middlebrooks. Middlebrooks obviously did not intentionally trip Craig; and Craig made no attempt to get back to the basepath. Instead, Craig was at least three feet inside the baseline when he tripped over the legs of Middlebrooks, who was flat on his belly at the time. Yes, Craig tripped over Middlebrooks, but no, it was not properly called obstruction. In fact, it was an awful call.
That said, the Sox really should have learned from their loss in Game Two. Then, the winning run scored when a Sox player tried, from home plate, to throw a runner out at third, but the ball got away. Tonight, the same damn thing happened: Needlessly aggressively, Sox catcher Saltalamacchia tried to throw out Craig, who was advancing from second to third on a close play. In that situation, just as was shown in Game Two, the throw attempt is far too risky. For it to happen two games in a row is inexcusable. Too much can go wrong -- as it did tonight. The reason Craig was trying to get home at all was because Salty's throw to third got away. The Sox should have reviewed the situation after Game Two and learned that when the game is on the line, there's no god reason to try low-percentage plays. They blew it -- and then the umpires blew it even worse.
What a terrible way for a great game to end. And what a horrid reminder -- via a mirror image, meaning reversed -- of one of the many sore spots in Sox history. When the Red Sox deserve an intererence call, they don't get it; when they don't deserve it to be called against them, they get it. As a Red Sox fan, i object. Strenuously.
Update: After I return from church, I will write a new post updating this one. As Aaron points out in his blog post on the game, I was in some ways in error in my crticism of the umpires. There is not just one rule in play, though, but several, which must be cross-referenced. What it boils down to is a judgment call by the umpires, rather than a cut-and-dried error as I originally charged -- and, by the letter of the law, the umps made what might be the most reasonable call, all in a split second (or two). I will, however, also explain why I think the RIGHT call, also allowable under a reasonable interpretation of the rules, was to NOT call obstruction on Middlebrooks. But that's only if one really parses the rules and really looks hard at the replay. I'll explain, as I said, later today.