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Did John Hirschbeckís umpiring lose the last two games for the Blue Jays? No, it didnít. However, blown calls that Hirschbeck made cost us a run in two consecutive games that the Jays subsequently lost by one run and there is no argument around that.

The Devil Rays are the worst team in the American League. Perhaps the Royals are worse, but I challenge anyone to construct an argument that any other AL team has less talent on their 25-man roster than these two clubs right now. The Devil Rays had won nine road games in three and a half months and then they waltzed into the Rogers Centre and promptly took three of four from the Jays. This was only the second game they had won on a Sunday all season. No serious contending team could allow that to happen to them, right?

However, from June 20-23 the New York Yankees allowed the Devil Rays to do the exact same thing. Furthermore, if Lou Pinella possessed a quick hook to the bullpen and a willingness not to throw Travis Harper to the lions the Devil Rays might have swept the series. The Yankees are not the old Yankees, but they are a contending team and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to take a good look at the AL East standings. The Yankees currently sit a half-game back of first place in the AL East, which is proof that losing three of four to Tampa does not symbolise the end of a teamís season.

Yes, the Jays cost themselves a nice opportunity to move within 3.5 games of the division-leading Red Sox. However, Toronto is only 5.5 games back of Boston with two and a half months still left in the season. They also have 7 games remaining against Boston, 13 against the Yankees and 9 versus the Orioles. So, there are plenty of opportunities to gain ground on their AL East rivals.

Finally, as has been reported often by uglyone and others, the Jays have a very good run differential. It currently sits at +47, which is second in the AL East, just behind Bostonís. The Jays are unfortunately losing close games and winning blowouts, and given the strength of their bullpen this is something that seems almost certainly to be a result of fluke. Just look to this most recent series, where the Jays 20 runs and the Devil Rays scored 20 runs, yet the Rays won three times as many games.

The Jays lost the two one-run games in the series and there are a variety of factors that contributed to the loss. However, there was one factor that the Jays could not control or foresee and which appeared to play a direct role in the altering the outcome of both games. That factor was John Hirschbeck.

In Saturdayís game Hirschbeck was the first base umpire. In the fourth inning Joey Gathright tried to bunt for a base hit, as he so often does. Josh Towers got off the mound quickly and fielded the bunt. With Gathright right in front of him and a toss somewhat difficult, Towers did the easiest thing and tagged Gathright, needing to dive to apply the tag. However, Hirschbeck was running to position himself for a close play at the base, as he is supposed to do, and could not see Towers swipe at Gathrightís back. Hirschbeck signalled that Gathright was safe and Towers had missed the tag and the call stood, despite fierce protest from Towers and an argument from John Gibbons. The next batter was Carl Crawford, and he homered to deep right-centre, plating himself and Gathright.

The most frustrating part of this call is that it looked like Towers made the tag to basically everyone in the park. Hirschbeck had a bad angle to view the play and despite this he refused to ask for help, instead decisively calling Gathright safe. Crawford homered, Gathright scored and the Jays ended up losing by a run.

On Sunday Hirschbeck blew the call at home plate in Tampaís 3-run 8th inning. On Toby Hallís double Reed Johnson picked up the ball and threw it to Russ Adams who relayed the throw to catcher Gregg Zaun as Jonny Gomes headed towards home plate. Gomes slid in headfirst as Zaun caught the throw, tried to block the plate and apply the tag. The play was bang-bang in real life, although it looked, to me at least, that Zaun had tagged Gomes before he could touch the plate. It seemed unlikely that Gomes could have eluded Zaunís leg that was blocking home and reached home plate before the tag was applied.

NFHís photograph (posted in the Instant Replay thread) shows that Zaun clearly had the ball in his possession when Gomes was still several feet away from the plate. The photo shows Zaun with his leg firmly in front of home, and itís hard to imagine how a headfirst slide could get around the leg before Zaun would be able sweep across and tag the runner. Furthermore, slow-motion replays on TSN show Zaun tagged Gomes before he tagged the plate.

John Hirschbeck blew both of these calls, and both of them undoubtedly cost the Jays a run. Additionally, as was pointed out in the Instant Replay thread, Hirschbeck appeared inconsistent with his strike zone throughout the game and failed to call possible third-strikes on both Lugo and Cantu in the ninth inning. It reeks of bad sportsmanship to blame the umpire for a loss when they are trying to do their best and when there are so many other factors that influence the outcome of a baseball game.

Nevertheless, Hirschbeck cost the Jays a run each game and there is no way around that fact and he apparently refused to ask for help on a play he didnít see, for which there is no excuse. There is no telling what would have happened if neither Gathright nor Gomes had scored, but there is certainly a good chance the Jays would have won at least one of the two games.

Thereís plenty of blame to go around for each loss and Jays fans canít blame Hirschbeck alone. Hillenbrandís pop out with the bases loaded in Saturdayís game was very costly, as was the Jaysí failure to score Hill from third with one out on Sunday. Towersí inability to retire batters after getting two strikes on them was very costly on Saturday and there is little excuse for making Mark Hendrickson and Seth McClung look like above-average starters. Backup catchers like Adam Melhuse provide pinch-hit doubles to tie ballgames in ninth innings, while backup catchers like Ken Huckaby can often only strike out weakly when inserted into the game.

Iíd write something clever or insightful or Magpie-length (or however close mortals can come), but there is little motivation after a series like this. Take what positives you can from the game, such as a strong outing by Pete Walker and defensive gems from Aaron Hill and particularly Reed Johnson, and move forwards. If the Jays want to let JP know they intend to stick around in the race for real they need to win five of the next six games. Losing a series to Seattle or Kansas City after this would be disastrous.
Devil Rays 5, Blue Jays 4: Hirschbeck 2, Blue Jays 0 | 28 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Paul D - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 01:24 AM EDT (#123045) #
I was at the game, and as soon as Batista hit Hirshbeck with a pitch, everyone around me started to say that that was a bad idea. Sure enough, within a minute Hirshbeck made what appeared to be a bad call, although it was certainly not clear to me (sitting in the first deck up the third base line) that it was bad.

The funny part was that the crowd wasn't really into the game at all until something went horrible for the Jays, at which point the booing and the cheering really started.
TamRa - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 01:47 AM EDT (#123047) #
All true, but the Yankees ALSO have a 10 game winning streak, and that was part of a three week run of 16-2.

Coming out of the break, I could see the Jays doing something similar - right now, I can't imagine it.

I would very much like for them to prove me wrong.
Chill - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 01:54 AM EDT (#123049) #
Anyone know the next time Hirschbeck will be in town?
Pistol - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 08:21 AM EDT (#123050) #
Maybe it's just me but many are getting way too caught up with missed calls. They work both ways over the season. Am I the only one remembering the Jays getting a win in Tampa after John McDonald was called safe at first when it was pretty clear he was out?
Marc Hulet - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 09:04 AM EDT (#123051) #
Regardless of the fact the call went against the Jays yesterday (I'm sure the Jays have received an equal number of bad calls go in their favour), I feel the need to reiterate my opinion that the umpiring in baseball has taken a HUGE downturn in recent years. Umpires are starting to affect the outcome of games.

Even the ESPN Sunday night game had some very questionable calls in it and a number of players complaining about the strike zone. I don't think it is a coincidence that the umpiring took a turn for the worse when all those umpires were let go after that botched resignation a few years ago. I also think MLB's attempt to get the umpire to re-establish the strike zone and call the high strike (which they're still not doing) didn't help matters and just further muddied the waters.

I would like to see a petition get started to send to MLB so that they will do something about the lousy umpiring throughout baseball. I think there should be umpire graders at every game for the rest of the season. Every time they screw up a strike/ball call they should lose a point. If they mess up an out call, then they should lose ten points, etc.

This is not a new problem: For years umpires have given questionable strikes to veteran pitchers who are facing rookies, etc. Not acceptable. A strike should be a strike.
jsut - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 09:46 AM EDT (#123054) #
The missed call out Tower's tag was understandable. He tagged him with the ball on the back, and the ump was completely unable to see that that had happened. All he could see was the guy lunging out of the way, and Towers' glove (which didn't have the ball in it)

The call at the plate though i don't have any excuses for. I haven't seen any replays or anything though, just when i was at the game so i have no idea if it was actually a bad call or not, though it sure seemed like it from 524b at the time.
hugh - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 11:57 AM EDT (#123060) #
Jsut,
I disagree -- Hirschbeck should have held a conference about the diving play, especially after being confronted on it -- one of the other umps had to be looking that direction. It was clear to everyone except Hirschbeck, and that's why there's more than one ump.

The Zaun tag, on the other hand, was really difficult to discern until about the fourth replay on TV (which umps don't get to see), and if it takes that many replays to see how the play unfolded, then it's one of those ones where you have to shake your head and hope it goes your way next time.

Least that's my take on it.
Joe - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 12:25 PM EDT (#123063) #
Not too long ago, we had a poll as to the most valuable player to a team. The overwhelming majority chose Halladay as the Jays' MVP. I wonder whether anybody considered Zaun.

Think about it. How awful was the team when Huckaby was the only catcher? Zaun has anchored the pitching staff, made some good defensive plays, and is one of the team's better hitters.

I don't want to see this team without either of Zaun or Halladay, and certainly not both. And I think I'd choose to lose Zaun, if I had to make such an awful choice. But I'd have to think hard.
jsut - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 02:00 PM EDT (#123072) #
I'll have to take your word for it that it was clear to everyone except Hirschbeck that Josh got him. Calling a conference doesn't necessarily yield the right call. It didn't help us on the foul ball home run in texas.

I think Josh further complicated the call by bare handing the ball into his glove, then pulling the ball out of his glove and tagging him with that. Oh well, who knows.

Hopefully they'll win tonight and everyone can move on ;)
Thomas - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 02:51 PM EDT (#123078) #
Hopefully they'll win tonight and everyone can move on ;)

If the umps award the Jays a win without playing I think that would certainly make up for the two blown calls.

Thomas - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 02:56 PM EDT (#123079) #
Pistol, you're telling me that you don't think Jays fans aren't entitled to mope and complain? I think we certainly are.

Of the Jays last seven games played, they have lost three where umpires have made incorrect calls (as conclusively proven after the fact) that in each case scored a number of runs equal to the amount the Jays lost by. That's a pretty depressing streak of bad luck.
Mike Green - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 03:35 PM EDT (#123087) #
There is one factor, other than the bullpen and luck, that likely plays an important role in one-run record: bench strength. The Jays have a particularly weak and short bench. Eric Hinske and Frank Catalanotto would be excellent role players on an improved Jays bench, if the team chose to go with a 6 man bullpen. An improved backup catcher would help too, as Thomas points out.

So, imagine, Gross, Wells and Rios in the outfield, Hill, Adams, Hudson and Koskie in the infield, Hillenbrand DHing and Cat, Hinske, Menenchino, Johnson, McDonald and a real backup catcher on the bench. Even if no trades are made, this team can be better than it has been.
Sheldon - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 03:55 PM EDT (#123096) #
What sort of formal recourse do baseball teams have to complain about consistantly poor umpiring?
bobby_cola - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 03:57 PM EDT (#123097) #
Maybe I just didn't see the replay eneough times or i didn't see a good angle but to me, he looked safe. I thought he just got his fingers in there, but it definitely could've gone either way.

That being said, I think the call went in the Rays favour because of...past experiences. But that's just me.
Dave Till - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 05:50 PM EDT (#123115) #
So, imagine, Gross, Wells and Rios in the outfield, Hill, Adams, Hudson and Koskie in the infield, Hillenbrand DHing and Cat, Hinske, Menenchino, Johnson, McDonald and a real backup catcher on the bench. Even if no trades are made, this team can be better than it has been.

One thing I've noticed lately is that there are two schools of thought on Gabe Gross. Some people (such as Mike) are arguing that he should be given a starting outfield job. Other people believe that he isn't good enough to play outfield regularly in the major leagues.

I must confess that you will have to count me as one of the people who believe that Gross isn't going to make it. While his sample size is too small to draw definite conclusions, it's telling that he has batted 38 times, scored precisely two runs, and hasn't driven anybody in all year. Yow.

The question I have for the true believers is this: what do you see in Gross that I am missing? I know, from long experience, that I am a lousy scout, so I definitely could be wrong. But, to me, he often looks overmatched out there.

Lefty - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 06:26 PM EDT (#123119) #
Prior to the start of the regular season Gross has shown a level of proficiency at every stop. But we can probably throw out his performance in Spring Training now.

However, what I see in Gross is a fantastic level of plate discipline. I first noticed this in a Chiefs / Lynx game facing John Maine in May. Gross worked a deep count off him in three of four AB's.

I have watched this closely whenever I had a chance to see him for the Jays this year. This is a level of maturity and discipline that is not very often taught.

Although I wouldn't ever project him to be a star player I still think he's a .270ish hitter with medium pop and great defense. As has been witnessed this year he plays the field with a plan. When I seen him in Ottawa he made a fearless fullspeed forward running dive and came up with the ball.

This kid wants to be a big leaguer. I have faith.
Ron - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 07:30 PM EDT (#123123) #
Gross has been jerked around all season. Someone mentioned here that JP was on the radio and it sounded like Gross was still in JP's plan. Gross is no longer a young pup. I would classify him as an old prospect right now.

I'm on the fence about Gross. Sometimes I feel like he's capable of being a solid ML OF while other times I feel like he hasn't earned the right to take playing time away from Cat and Reed. During his brief big league career he has shown very little at the plate.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say if Gross is going to be a everyday ML'er than it won't be with the Jays despite what JP said.
CeeBee - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 07:44 PM EDT (#123124) #
38 at bats and many times only one or 2 in a game do not tell you much about a player, let alone a prospect trying to earn a full time job. I'd like to see Gabe in there most every night for the rest of the year and then we can talk about his chances or lack of. As for his discipline at the plate, I've noticed it too and that along with his defence make me a believer in at least giving him a fair chance :)
Thomas - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 08:49 PM EDT (#123128) #
Bobby C, one of the Sportsdesk-type shows paused the replay on their late evening highlight show last night and the image showed Zaun applying the tag and there didn't appear to be anyway Gomes could have been touching home plate at that time. Add in NFH's photo and the conclusions that can be drawn there and I am fairly confident in saying that he was out.
King Ryan - Monday, July 18 2005 @ 08:54 PM EDT (#123129) #
How about some good news for the Blue Jays?

Corey Koskie began his rehab assignment in Syracuse today. He hit a double in his first plate appearance.
Dr. Zarco - Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 12:04 AM EDT (#123152) #
Did y'all see what happened in the Bos/TB game? A bang-bang play at first was originally called safe. Francona came out to argue, the umps got together, and CHANGED THE CALL! So Sweet Lou of course went nuts and blew his cap. Ha, the Rays deserved it after their luck this weekend. More seriously, has anyone ever HEARD of a call at 1st being reversed like that? I certainly haven't.
VBF - Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 12:34 AM EDT (#123153) #
Yep I saw it. I'm choking on the irony, it's so thick.
VBF - Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 12:35 AM EDT (#123154) #
What umpiring crew was that? Looked like the C.B. Bucknor gang.
David Paul - Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 12:43 AM EDT (#123155) #
Here's a picture of Lou losing it (viewer discretion advised).
King Ryan - Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 12:48 AM EDT (#123156) #
The worst thing is that the Devil Rays actually won.

Cry me a damn river, Lou.
David Paul - Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 01:08 AM EDT (#123157) #
It's got to balance out a little. Boston got two reversed calls in game 6 against the Yanks last year.

Lou looks like Inigo Montoya after hearing someone killed his father.
uglyone - Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 03:06 PM EDT (#123199) #
The ridiculous thing about the call that Schilling got reversed last night is that the 1st base ump was in PERFECT position to make the call (of whether or not Schilling was touching the base)....and none of the other umpires could possibly have had even a decent look at it...let alone a better look at it than the 1st base ump. there is no way that that call can possibly get changed by an ump standing 90 feet away.

meanwhile, in the jays' case, hirschbeck was the only ump out there who was in NO POSITION TO SEE THE TAG. The only one. All the other umps could easily see the tag. Being completely blocked from seeing the tag by the runner, it only made sense that he would call on at least the home plate ump to help make the call.

ridiculous.



Magpie - Tuesday, July 19 2005 @ 04:13 PM EDT (#123204) #
The umpiring crew in Fenway last night:

Home - Laz Diaz, First Base - Dana Demuth, Second Base - Troy Fullwood, Third Base - Marty Foster

That's a wonderful picture of Lou. Brought back memories...

Devil Rays 5, Blue Jays 4: Hirschbeck 2, Blue Jays 0 | 28 comments | Create New Account
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