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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Favorite Underdogs!
by Hal Vickery

So do you feel tainted and dirty? This was the theme of one of the threads on the WSI message boards this week following the controversial play Wednesday night in which Angels catcher Josh Paul either trapped or caught strike three on A.J. Pierzynski with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Piersynski waited until Paul rolled the ball back toward the pitchers mound before taking off for first base.

Fortunately I was at the game and didnít have to watch the repeated replays that followed. My commute to work makes it necessary for me to wake up at 4:30 a.m., so I didnít have a chance to view it on the early morning news shows.

When I got home from work Thursday afternoon, I had several things to do, including catch up on sleep, that also kept me away from the television. The same was true for Friday, when I didnít get to a TV until after the game had started.

I didnít get a chance to look at the replay until Saturday when I managed to get to Major League Baseballís web site. I examined the replay from Wednesday nightís game telecast repeatedly, probably fifty times in all, before I reached any kind of conclusion as to what happened.

For what itís worth, here is my conclusion, based solely on the replays shown during the game itself and without benefit of freeze frame. Plate umpire Doug Eddings blew the call. Josh Paul caught the ball in the webbinge which appeared to be in contact with the ground, and the change in direction that Eddings and his supervisors saw came during the process of catching the ball.

There. Another opinion. Another precinct heard from.

So what does the blown call mean in the scheme of things? Absolutely nothing! Umpires blow calls every game. This call was very close. In the process of watching the side view of the shot I thought I saw a spot appear in the dirt near where Josh Paulís glove was. It could have come from the ball bouncing, or it could have come from Paulís glove. Big deal.

The call was made. It was then up to the Angels to get the third out. They didnít. Pablo Ozuna, pinch running for Pierzynski, easily stole second off pitcher Kelvim Escobar. Paul didnít even have a chance to throw the ball. Escobar still could have gotten Joe Crede but instead hung one that Crede drove to the left field fence.

End of game, end of discussion. The Angels got a bad break and couldnít execute to prevent that run from scoring. The Sox cashed in on a good break by executing. Thatís baseball.

Unfortunately for the Angels, and fortunately for the Sox, the Angels seemingly are unable to put the incident behind them. This was evidenced in Saturdayís game when Darin Erstad was apparently involved in a catcherís interference play.

Erstad, at bat with two men on and one out and the Angels trailing 3-1, hit into a double play. The play at first wasnít even close. Why not? Because plate umpire Ron Kulpa didnít hear the contact between the bat and Pierzynskiís mitt.

The proper thing for Erstad to do, which he admitted after the game, was to run the play out, call time if he made it to first, and then make his complaint. Instead, Erstad turned part way around while in more of a trot than a run, pointed towards Pierzynski, and started shouting at Kulpa that Pierzynski had interfered with him.

Would Erstad have done the same thing if not for Wednesday nightís incident. No one can really say, but since Wednesday there has been an awful lot of bench jockeying by the Angels on every perceived missed call.

It wasnít the non-call on the catcherís interference that killed the Angelsí rally. It was Erstadís failure to run out the play. Had he done so, the runner on third would have scored. Even then the Sox lead would have been 5-3, and the way the Angels have been hitting, there is no guarantee that they would have scored anymore. The failure of the Angels to hold the Sox to less than eight runs Saturday night cost them the game.

Sox fans are understandably irate at the coverage by the media, especially the Fox TV crew of Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, and Lou Piniella. They have done nothing but dwell on the blown calls and failed to give much credit for the Sox scoring five and eight runs in the two games following the Wednesday incident. The only credit they seem to be able to give to the Sox is for their dominant starting pitching.

I think maybe Sox fans should thank Fox for making it look as if it is bad calls that are responsible for the Angelís failure thus far. If the Sox go on to the World Series, they might just end up being the underdogs again, as they have been in the mediaís eyes since March.

That seems to be a position the Sox relish. The media wouldnít believe the Sox were for real when they took a big early lead. They wouldnít believe the Sox were for real when that lead expanded to fifteen games in August.

They were quick to shout, ďWe told you so,Ē when Cleveland made a terrific charge in August and September. They wouldnít believe that the Sox could dominate the ďWorld ChampionĒ Red Sox after they not only held off the Indians but spanked them by sweeping them at The Jake in the final series of the regular season.

They wouldnít believe that the Sox could compete with the Angels, whose offense is supposedly much stronger than that of the Sox and whose pitching is supposedly superior. If the Sox take this series, a combination of bad calls and the loss of Bartolo ColÚn will be blamed for the Angelsí loss. The Sox will be underdogs again when they face the NL champions, whoever they may be.

Sox fans should rejoice in this. Look where being the underdogs has gotten this team so far!


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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