ALCS delays, umps and Manny

How can MLB not have a backup ump ready? Would the Red Sox have made the playoffs with that lineup all year? The readers write.

By King Kaufman
Published October 20, 2008 4:35PM (EDT)

Let's take a dip into the old mailbag because a couple of interesting topics came up following the weekend's action in St. Petersburg.

We'll start with the big delay. Not the Steve Harvey delay. I think there's worldwide agreement on the utter ridiculousness of that fiasco. But the delay resulting from home-plate umpire Derryl Cousins leaving Game 6 with an injury Saturday night. The game was held up about 15 minutes while crew chief Tim McClelland, who had been working first base, changed into protective gear to work home plate.

The rest of the game was umpired by a five-man crew, though Cousins, who has a bruised collarbone and is reported to be sore but doing fine, was replaced by Angel Hernandez for Game 7.

lizziebeth I was flabbergasted that MLB has no backup plan for an injured umpire in a postseason game. I mean, there are dozens of umps who aren't working these games -- can't they shell out the money to pay one more to travel with the crew in case of injury?

boston-josh It took 15 minutes for the umpire to get into all of the protective gear so he could work behind the plate. There are two extra umps at all playoff games. They stand down each foul line and do absolutely nothing. What exactly would you have them do, have an ump dressed in all of the gear waiting for that freak moment when the umpire behind the plate needs to leave after being hit by a ball?

Having watched thousands of games over the years, I've seen that happen a handful of times and there's always a few minutes break.

I strongly agree with both of you!

I too was flabbergasted that there isn't a backup umpire at the game. We're talking about paying one extra ump to be on hand at each series, a grand total of four guys, one of whom works three weeks, one works two weeks and the other two work one week. Or seven guys working one week each. Work it out among yourselves, but we're talking relative peanuts.

That said, Mike Port, MLB's vice president in charge of umpiring, said that an arrangement to have a backup ump present would have to be collectively bargained with the umpires union. Doesn't seem like it would be a major point for either side, and it's hard to believe it wasn't taken care of long ago as a matter of course.

Boston-josh is right, the delay would have happened anyway. It's going to take a little time for one of the non-home umpires to change into the gear. It's not as quick as it is for a catcher, since it all goes under the clothing.

But the umpires down the lines don't "do absolutely nothing." They're there for a reason. Baseball wants there to be extra scrutiny on home run and fair-foul calls in the outfield in the more-important postseason games. It's the same impulse that had baseball introducing instant replay for similar calls this year. It just predates the technology.

Perhaps the technology renders the outfield umpires obsolete in the modern age. Separate question. Whatever you think of the outfield umpires, baseball has, through its rules, indicated that it considers them important enough to use in playoff games. And if they're important enough to use, they're important enough to back up. The alternate umpire, dressed in the black jersey and gray slacks, should have been there ready to take over on one of the foul lines.

the_platypus One Question: How does an otherwise well played 3-1 game take over 3-and-a-half hours to play?

Four mid-inning pitching changes had a lot to do with it. Also, a lot of pitches. The Red Sox work counts. They saw 163 pitches. There were 21 strikeouts and five walks in the game and a total of 279 pitches thrown.

Combine all that with the more deliberate pace that's been a part of playoff baseball for longer than anybody's been complaining about length of games, and 3:31 seems eminently reasonable to me. The average regular season game is about 2:50 these days.

libertarius Boston's lineup made the Rays pitchers look good. Manny is gone and Ortiz, who never was much good without him, is done. Ellsbury, Crisp, Lowrie all disappoint. Varitek is through; Bay is nothing special; Kotsay is nothing at all. If Boston had played the entire season with this line-up they wouldn't have gotten anywhere close to post-season baseball.

I disagree with a lot of your points here. Just to name one: Coco Crisp went 9-for-20 with two doubles and four walks in the ALCS. If a 1.092 OPS from a slick-fielding center fielder disappoints, I'd suggest more realistic standards. Why didn't the Red Sox lineup make the Los Angeles Angels pitching look good? The Angels had the third best ERA in the league this year, right behind the Rays.

Let's do a little Harper's Index on the Red Sox lineup, and how they might have done with this lineup for the entire season:

Rank of Red Sox in A.L. runs scored per game: 2
Red Sox runs scored per game: 5.22
Rank of Texas Rangers in A.L. runs scored per game: 1
Rangers runs scored per game: 5.56
Red Sox runs per game before Ramirez trade: 4.94
Red Sox runs per game after Ramirez trade: 5.79
Red Sox record before Ramirez trade: 61-48, .560
Red Sox record after Ramirez trade: 34-19, .642

The Red Sox were a good team with a good offense that got shut down in a short series by good pitching, immediately after having not gotten shut down in a short series by very similar pitching. Happens. There's no need for revisionist history about how good the lineup was.

King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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