1) This time they didn't need Jeffrey Maier. That's less a lame joke than a serious observation: after all the salaries have been paid, the spring training suffered through, the slumps endured, the streaks enjoyed, October baseball so often comes down to . . . freak luck. If, in 1996, Luis Polonia hits the ball six more inches, Paul O'Neill doesn't make the catch, Atlanta wins Game 5 2-1, then heads back to New York up three games to two, needing only one win the be the Team of the Nineties, with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine ready to go. Instead, O'Neill makes the catch, the Yankees go up 3-2 in games, and the Braves return to a Bronx they thought they'd not see again, at least not that year, having to do what they'd done a week ago: win two straight games. So: what happens tonight if, in the top of the eleventh, the one-out line drive is hit two feet either way? Tex doesn't make the play. One run for sure, maybe two. What happens if, in the bottom of the eleventh, Tex's shot hits three inches lower? A double, maybe. A-Rod is walked intentionally. Does Matsui bunt? Double play? Never know.
2) Where did these umpires come from? There has not been such atrocious baseball officiating since Eric Gregg's strike-zone-as-wide-as-his-ass noble moment in the 1997 NLCS, the game that brought Livan Hernandez to the world stage. The home plate umpire recalled Whitey Herzog's crack about another Blue Man: "He's lucky he only has two guesses." As for the left field umpire: really, and I say this as a Yankee fan, clearly Joe Mauer was robbed in the 11th. Not only was--Cuzzi, is that his name? Who are these guys--Cuzzi's call brutal, Cuzzi lacked the positioning that the lowliest Little League umpire learns his first game. With a ball heading for the corner, you straddle the line; in left field, you plant your left foot to the left of the line, your right foot to the right. You focus down the line. Thus positioned, you can judge foul or fair from 100 feet away.
Cuzzi, who had all the time in the world, walked up to the left-field foul line from foul territory as if walking to the edge of a diving board, and then leaned over the line and turned his head sideways, as if he meant to count the house or mark the exits. Thus positioned, he made his call based on the ball's trajectory, and not where it actually landed. The ball was headed foul, but clearly landed a foot to fifteen inches fair.
There is no overstating what a brutal call that was for the Twins. I see about 30 baseball games live per season, and maybe another 75 broadcasted, and I might go an entire season without seeing a call so horrible. And this with a crew of four umpires, not six. No, better: I coached a women's softball team for a half-decade, when the home plate umpire (usually some 22 year-old frat boy working through a triphammer hangover on a Sunday morning) was in charge of fair-foul calls of that nature. Always--always--the ump hustled down, positioned himself properly, straddled the line, and made the call that, if one is positioned properly, isn't really hard.
Who the hell are these guys?
3) Pettitte. Pettitte! Get 'em.