Tim McCarver's flying start

In Game 1, the Fox analyst reassigns a catcher's nationality and ducks a good question. Plus: Arguments, logos.

By King Kaufman
Published October 23, 2008 5:20PM (EDT)

Some leftover thoughts about Game 1 of the World Series, which the Philadelphia Phillies won 3-2 over the Tampa Bay Rays.

• As Rays catcher Dioner Navarro batted in the fifth inning, Tim McCarver pointed out that he and Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz are both from Venezuela. Fox showed a replay of Navarro and Ruiz having a brief conversation as Navarro was about to hit. It ended with Navarro patting Ruiz on the head. "And there are the two fellow countrymen talking to each other at home plate," Joe Buck said.

It was all very nice. Except Ruiz is from Panama.

• McCarver fumbled again, in a more serious way, when Buck asked him what Rays manager Joe Maddon was talking about in his discussion with home-plate umpire Tim Welke following Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels' pickoff of Carlos Pena in the sixth inning.

Pena had taken off for second as Hamels started his pitching motion. Hamels spotted him and threw to first, and first baseman Ryan Howard threw Pena out at second. The Rays argued that Hamels had committed a balk by not stepping toward first when he made the throw.

Umpire Tim Welke was wearing a microphone, and Fox replayed the remarkably civil conversation he had with Maddon at the inning break, a fine use of the "Sounds of the Game" feature, which Fox has been doing good work with this postseason. Here's the main part of the conversation:

Maddon: My concern is this. He doesn't read. He doesn't read. So he's going home all the way right there, and then he decided to throw to first base. That's why I've got it as a balk. If he was a reader, I have no dispute whatsoever."

Welke: I understand what you're saying. The only thing I look for is if I see a step. His feet start this way, together, and he ended up stepping that much closer [holds hands about a foot apart] to first base.

I think Buck spoke for America when he asked McCarver, "What is a read? What's he talking about, when Joe Maddon's talking?"

Rather than answering, McCarver talked about how a pitcher has to step in the direction of his throw or else it's a balk. We already knew that, of course, because McCarver had explained it several times right after the play. What he'd done, in that way he does, was explain that the pitcher has to throw to first base if he's going to throw to first base. That's why we already knew it, though most of us knew it anyway. But he explained it, and then he explained it again. And if the pitcher throws home, he explained, he has to step toward home. That's why we knew that. Because McCarver had explained it already.

So I don't know about you but I still don't know what Maddon was talking about when he said Hamels "doesn't read." I suspect McCarver doesn't know either. It's entirely possible Welke doesn't know, though he said he understood. His reply didn't address the "reader" business.

If McCarver didn't know, he should have said, "I don't know." And then Fox should have had one of its two sideline reporters, Ken Rosenthal or Chris Myers, ask Maddon what he meant and report back.

Well, Rosenthal. Myers was busy tracking down Taco Bell executives for fascinating interviews about cricket.

By the way I love that mlb.com has posted the video of the balk sequence and didn't censor the moment when Fox's microphones caught Maddon, just after the play, yelling to Welke, "That's bullshit!" The mike cut out immediately and we didn't hear Maddon repeat himself. But you can hear the first one on mlb.com. Yay, Internet!

• I wonder why the Rays didn't argue that Pat Burrell was out of the baseline when he was safe at first on Pena's error in the fifth inning. Burrell hit a little roller near the first-base line, then ran directly at the ball, well onto the infield grass.

He swerved back toward the baseline as pitcher Scott Kazmir fielded the ball, and Kazmir was able to pick it up cleanly. But the Rays could have argued that Burrell had violated Rule 7.08 (b), which declares a runner out if he "hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball."

That argument might not have flown, but the next one would have been rock-solid. Burrell continued to run inside the first-base line, in fair territory. Kazmir was just barely in fair ground when he made his throw to Pena, who may have had his view of the throw blocked by Burrell. Pena fumbled the throw and Burrell was safe.

There's a three-foot running lane -- here's a good picture of it -- in the last half of the first-base line, and the batter is required to have both feet in it as he runs to first when there's going to be a play at first.

Rule 6.05 (k) calls the batter out if, "in running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire's judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead."

It was pretty clear Burrell, running well to the left of the foul line, interfered with the fielder taking the throw.

A comment clarifies: "The lines marking the three-foot lane are a part of that lane and a batter-runner is required to have both feet within the three-foot lane or on the lines marking the lane."

It ended up not mattering. Shane Victorino grounded into a force play to end the inning, but it was strange that the Rays didn't raise a peep.

• I know I talk about this every year but I wish Major League Baseball would knock off affixing the World Series logo to the left side of both teams' caps. It just looks terrible.

The baseball cap has been around for well over a century, and it's become pretty clear over that time that in the sports context, the thing looks best with a design centered on the front. A smaller element, usually something like the MLB logo, centered on the back is a fairly recent development. I'm not a fan but it's fine.

But that big logo glommed onto the side of the cap throws off the timeless symmetry of the thing. And aside from that, the World Series logo is always so busy that when it's shrunk down enough to fit on the side of a baseball cap, and that cap is viewed from more than a few feet away, it just looks like the cap has been targeted by a large bird that had a big lunch.

• I'm going to seek therapy about this, but I think I'm actually missing Frank Caliendo.

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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