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Rays have no recourse over costly call

Baseball may or may not decide that umpire Doug Eddings erred in his call. The Rays will never know.

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Baseball may or may not decide that umpire Doug Eddings erred in his call. The Rays will never know.

ST. PETERSBURG — As much as the Rays might feel obstructed by the controversial call involving A.J. Pierzynski in Sunday's loss to Chicago, there isn't much they can do about it.

The Rays can complain or send a video for review to Mike Port, Major League Baseball's vice president of umpiring, but it won't accomplish anything.

Even if Port and/or other MLB officials reviewed the play and determined the Rays were right and the umpires were wrong, there would be no acknowledgement or apology and definitely no change in outcome.

And even in the rare case MLB felt strongly enough to discipline umpire Doug Eddings (or other members of the crew) or make note in their evaluations, which are used to determine postseason assignments, the Rays wouldn't even get the satisfaction of knowing because such actions are not made public. (Only in extreme cases where umpires are suspended is it announced.)

"It's definitely a tough situation, and one that is hard to swallow, but mistakes happen — and it clearly in our opinion was a mistake — but nothing can be done after the game to rectify it," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Monday.

"At this point, it is what it is. And we're banking on the notion that things tend to even out over time."

Port did not respond to an e-mail from the Times. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said: "The umpires do a remarkable job, and their goal is make the calls accurately. In the instances when there are errors, we deal with them on an individual basis."

Even if MLB had started using instant replay, it wouldn't have helped the Rays because its use will be limited to whether balls are home runs and not judgment calls.

It was the second controversial and somewhat unusual call in less than a week that went against the Rays, following what manager Joe Maddon called an "unconscionable" and "fabricated" call by Jerry Meals on Aug. 19: that B.J. Upton made an attempt to go to second.

Although the Rays won that game, Maddon said he got as upset as he did because, "All I could think about is that it's one play that could keep you out of the playoffs."

The Rays could feel the same after Sunday's call. It could also be the difference between winning the division and ending up as the wild-card team or between having homefield advantage in the first and/or second round of the playoffs.

Pierzynski, who spent some childhood years in Hernando County, lives in Orlando and is a big Florida Gators fan, essentially admitted he was willing to try anything to get out of the baserunning mess he got into, stuck in a 10th-inning rundown between second and third, and was looking for "somebody to get close enough to where I could touch them."

Pierzynski — a known instigator with a list of prior controversies — did, sticking out his left elbow toward Rays third baseman Willy Aybar after Aybar had thrown to shortstop Jason Bartlett, not only getting called safe (despite being tagged by Bartlett) but being awarded third base. He later scored the winning run as Chicago avoided a three-game sweep.

Monday, before the White Sox's game in Baltimore, Pierzynski was unrepentant.

"The umpires' quotes said it all," he told the Chicago Tribune. "It was the right call, the right play. Whatever."

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen lauded Pierzynski for being "a quick thinker" who is "always in the game" and also backed the umpires: "I think people thought we were lucky because we beat Tampa Bay one time in 20 games, but they made the right call."

The Rays and White Sox are done playing for the regular season, but if the standings ended up as they were Monday morning, the teams would meet in the division series — Game 1 at Tropicana Field, Oct. 1 or 2.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.come. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@sptimes.com.

Reader reaction to the call

."Ridiculous is an understatement. I think the umps had dinner plans and wanted to finish the game." — Res

."The sad thing is that this type of behavior ('bending the rules' while playing, aka, 'flopping' in the NBA to draw a foul) is reinforced when the refs give him the call. Thus Pierzynski has learned that he'll get these calls, and other players watch and have an incentive to play the same way." — Chris

."There is no doubt that Pierzynski cheated and got rewarded for it. MLB needs to do something about calls like this that are so obviously blown. There needs to be some sort of redress to these umps that see things that didn't happen." — Ken

."I thought the B.J. Upton call at first base last week was the worst call ever. Well, this takes the title without contest. How can you reward someone for playing like that? How can you let kids believe that is the way to play? You would think Bud Selig would do something. You know if Pierzynski would have done that to the Red Sox, I would bet anything that this would be the biggest story on SportsCenter." — Jeremy

."I'm not even a Rays fan, but that was the worst call I've seen in 40 years of watching major-league baseball." — Frank

."The Rays are playing great baseball without two of their stars in the lineup and on the field. It is an absolute travesty to continue to have umpires make horrendous calls against a team battling through a time of adversity. A.J. fell over about three seconds after Aybar apparently ran into him. Can someone please explain to me how if someone were to hit your left arm that you extended outward, you would fall over backward onto your rear end? Makes no sense to me, but maybe I'm vertically challenged." — Joe

And the pundits chime in:

."It's not the worst call I've ever seen. It might be the worst I've seen this year. … I've watched the play a dozen times. The key question is whether or not the fielder impeded Pierzynski in any way. He did not. Pierzynski leaned toward Aybar, stuck his elbow out, and still there was almost no physical contact (or perhaps none at all) before Pierzynski tripped over himself and fell on his butt." — Rob Neyer, ESPN.com

."A.J.'s like the kid who calls 'timeout' all the time during a fight and then gets in a late shot to your ribs." — David Brown, Yahoo! Sports

Rays have no recourse over costly call 08/25/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 11:07am]
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