CURRENTLY IN PRINT
Volume 1, Issue 4
A Conversation With The Mayor
Bill Foster Shoots From The Hip
Due to recent events surrounding the City of Saint Petersburg and its retaining of legal counsel to deal with potential Tropicana Field-lease issues, as well as the on-again-off-again chatter surrounding the possibility of a new stadium, we thought that the readers of the RAYdar Report would like to hear the mayor weigh in on these topics.
Recently, correspondent Cliff Gephart sat down with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster to discuss the city’s relationship with the Rays and the talk surrounding a new stadium.
CG: In many interviews and conversations, you’ve said that the Rays know where you are. Have they re-established contact with you?
BF: I’m not sure they know what to do at this point. There’s no public money to build a stadium. I’m not sure they can afford to build a retractable roof facility. In this environment, I appreciate the fact that they’re just focusing on winning ball games. They started 0-6 and now they’re just maybe one and a half, two games behind the Yankees. They’re concentrating on winning games and bringing a division championship back. And I do appreciate that. I know that they’re concerned with the future suitability of their facilities but for the present I think they’re just playing ball, and I’m happy with that.
CG: As a lawyer yourself, do you think announcing the retaining of the law firm might be seen as an overly aggressive, offensive move by the city – kind of like firing across the bow?
BF: I didn’t announce it. Truth be known, I just assume that not had gotten out. That was a public records request and a very broad records request through the Tampa Tribune – which was any and all correspondence, e-mails, and things like that. The contract in the retention letter happened to be e-mailed to me from John Wolfe for my review. So, under public records law, we had to turn that over to the Tampa Tribune. Once it went to the Tribune and it was published, the Times picked it up, television mediums picked it up, and now the RAYdar has picked it up. But I did not announce that. It doesn’t hurt me in any type of strategy in dealing with our partners, but I would have preferred that that be kept in house. And again, my public comment has always been, ‘we are prepared for any and all scenarios.’ Reasonable prudence and due diligence tells me that we need the best legal help to make sure that we truly are prepared for any and all scenarios. I fully expect not to use this law firm. I fully expect that this partnership will continue with grace for as long as we possibly can. If we don’t need them, they’ll send it back. But, no I did not publish that.
CG: I know that keeping the Rays is a top priority to you and there have been a lot of formal and informal talks about where a stadium would be built. Based on all the things that you’ve heard, where do you think a good stadium location would be?
BF: Well, in my list of top 10 priorities, dealing with the stadium is not on my radar. Top is budget, foreclosures, housing, economy, public safety, education. The list goes on. What’s truly important when it comes to a central means for the people – where they (the Rays) play baseball is not a priority, because under this agreement they have a great facility and we provide that. They provide the baseball and so far so good. If I had my preference, we wouldn’t be discussing facilities until 2018 – at which time I would not be mayor. And the bonds would be paid off in 2016 – at least the big ones. There’s still some indebtedness. Right now, the balance due is about 93 million. I would love to not have this conversation, but suitable stadium sights for down the road…. The existing Tropicana site makes all the sense to me. There’s plenty of land. There’s 85 acres. The infrastructure is in. The interstate accessibility, transportation, ingress and egress – it all seems to work there. So, the logistics, the ease of getting in and out…the fact that just a few years ago the Rays organization thought a few blocks over was a dynamite site and they were willing to invest 100 million dollars in a site just a few blocks away. It happened to be on the water. It wouldn’t work. So all of these experts that say it couldn’t work on the existing site, I don’t buy a bit of it. So that site would certainly be a preference for down-the-road conversation…areas in the Gateway…we certainly have developable land, some owned by city and county, some privately owned, but there’s a lot of land in the Gateway area to be considered.
CG: What about the dog track area (Derby Lane)?
BF: We don’t own it. It’s in a flood zone. But anything’s possible.
CG: I know there’s a lot of talk about the battle between the different sides of the bay (Tampa vs. St. Pete). The Buccaneers had what some would consider a dismal attendance record in 2010. They only have to sell eight season tickets and the Rays have to sell 81 tickets. Do you the think the fact that the Bucs couldn’t draw enough people for eight games diminishes the credibility of the Rays moving to Tampa?
BF: I’m not going to read that much into it, although, the Buccaneers were a competitor for the entire season. They won 10 games and 90% of the time – 9-6 gets you into the playoffs. Sometimes 9-7 gets you into the playoffs. So, (with) a goal of 10 wins, there’s no reason they should not have made the playoffs. They just happened to hit a year where the math didn’t work for them. They were in the playoff hunt until the very last game and they still couldn’t sell out a game. So, the Glazers, (Raheem) Morris, and the players – they did their part. We didn’t do our part. But not once did the Glazers blame the facility or blame the fans – not once. They didn’t blame the economy. I think that gives true credibility to the argument that ‘look you’re in the Tampa Bay area. There are a lot of options. There’s a lot of things to do, and a lot of competition for tightening expendable cash.’ So, I think it gives credence to the argument that when the economy is down and hurting, people will spend money on fewer amenities – of which baseball, football, and other sports – they’re kind of amenities.
CG: If the city does decide to build a stadium, should they go to the public and ask them to help finance it again?
BF: If the people, by referendum, decide that they want to back a new stadium, that’s the only way I can see that happening. Tourist development tax is a way to secure bonds. I’m absolutely in favor of that. Building those brick-and-mortar things that will draw tourists – put heads in those. But, the days of heavy public financing for sports facilities – I think that’s behind us. Especially the more you look at what happened to Miami, and how truly the people of Miami were just raked over the coals. That is a terrible deal that happened in South Florida. And I think that people are waking up and saying that ‘this corporate greed has got to stop.’ The way the Marlins handled the people around South Florida was awful.
CG: I think a lot of people or most people in St. Pete think that you’re handling the Rays the proper way. You’re there supporting the city. When you talk to people that are outside the city, they seem to think that you’re kind of getting heavy-handed and too stern. What would you say to the people who aren’t in your district concerning your handling of the negotiations?
BF: Easy. I’m the mayor of St. Petersburg. I am not the mayor of Tampa Bay. The moment somebody wants to have an elected mayor of Tampa Bay, I might consider that. But right now I’m the mayor of Florida’s fourth largest city. I’m the mayor of the city that fought to get this baseball team. I am the mayor of the city that has invested hundreds of millions of dollars on the support of Major League Baseball. I’m the mayor of the people that deserve to be represented in that. I’m not the mayor of Tampa Bay. Nobody has more invested in this team than the people of Saint Petersburg, and next to that, would be the people of Pinellas County through county efforts and things like that. So, the folks in Hillsborough County – they don’t have a penny invested in this team. Now, you can call it a regional asset all you want and I appreciate their love and support, but all they do is buy a ticket and then they complain because they have to drive over the bridge. You don’t hear people complain that much about going to Bucs’ games or Lightning games. We just do it. We’ve always done it. But, our folks on this side of the bay are very well invested. I’m always going to protect their interests.
CG: Last question. When you run for re-election in a couple years and Sam Fuld decides to run for mayor – do you think you could beat him?
BF: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, there’s no way I’ll ever out-hit him, out-catch him, or out-throw him. But I can out-talk him.
Crunching The Numbers
Tampa Bay Stays Streaky To End The Month Of April
By Jordan Wisecup
The Rays rounded out April with a solid 15-12 record, on the strength of a 14-4 binge at the end of the month. This is the same team that stumbled out of the gate: dropping eight of their first nine contests to kick off the 2011 campaign.
The team has already seen its fair share of troubles with Evan Longoria hitting the DL just two games into the season and the bizarre retirement of Manny Ramirez. However, Joe Maddon has rallied the troops around solid starting pitching and timely, if not downright lucky, hitting.
There’s been the emergence of the legend that is Sam Fuld, Johnny Damon has ingratiated himself to his new fans with a pair of walk-off hits in a three-day span, and they closed the month in typical Rays fashion: a fortuitous wild pitch from the Angels’ Fernando Rodney, that caromed of catcher Hank Conger, sending Matt Joyce bounding home from third with a walk-off win in the tenth inning of their game on April 30.
Joyce exemplifies the turnaround that’s infected this group of Rays. When we’re good, we’re pretty damn good. When we stink, we are almost deserving of playing in the juice box that is Tropicana Field. Joyce along with Damon, Fuld, John Jaso, Ben Zobrist and the other role players stepped up in the absence of Longo; providing substantial run support for a pitching staff that has one of the best ERA’s in the AL. But these guys are hitting in bunches and at times, not at all.
Let’s take a look at some of the Rays streakiest bats through April.
At the top of the class, and on the heels of his single day heroics that sent stat-heads scurrying to dig up names like Nate Colbert and Jim Bottomley, is Ben Zobrist. Zorilla stumbled into the season, getting just eight hits in his first 45 at-bats. Since then, he’s exploded, becoming a one man wrecking machine. Similarly, Matt Joyce started 2011 going 1-for-20, and like Zobrist, he’s gotten himself into a sweet little groove highlighted by scoring both runs in April 30th’s walk-off. Damon also started slow, collecting only four hits in his first 32 at-bats of 2011. He then immediately started a 16-game hit streak that was snuffed out on April 29. John Jaso wasn’t able to get on base for his first 11 plate appearances (ridiculously small sample size, I know, bear with me) but has also got it going early in 2011. Add into the mix Casey Kotchman, who was called up from Durham just in time to be a part of the Rays offensive awakening, and you have an offense as potent as any in baseball. Here are the stats through the end of April – triple slashes (BA, OBP, SLG) with wOBA (weighted on-base average) and ISO (isolated power = measure of extra bases per at-bat), to show each hitter’s resurgence:
Ben Zobrist (April 16 through May 1) .327/.356.800/.463.473
Matt Joyce (April 10 through May 1) .379/.419/.603/.438/.224
Johnny Damon (April 11 through May 1) .339/.369/.548/.381/.210
John Jaso (April 8 through May 1) .289/.341/.579/.387/.289
Casey Kotchman .341/.396/.455/.378/.144
Zobrist has already received some due from the national media after his recent outpouring of offense. Damon has garnered his fair share of attention with the walk-offs. Slipping under the nose of the national media, and possibly some Rays fans’ noses, are the efforts of Joyce, Jaso (he’s a frickin’ catcher) and Kotchman (another feather in Friedman’s cap), who are quietly putting together fine seasons and helping the club win.
I’d like to take this time to also point out that both Kotchman and Joyce were born and bred in the bay area. It’s great to have some hometown kids to root for, especially when they are flat out raking.
With the cold we have two types of players: those that were killing it and those that have yet to kill it. Here’s the former:
Sam Fuld (Up until his 1st AB April 28) .354/.395/.532/.409/.177
Felipe Lopez (Stopping on April 18) .316/.350/.553/.384/.237
Before I get death threats from the legions of Fuld fans, let’s get one thing straight: I’m not saying that the man is through. I’m just pointing out that Sammy is in a little bit of a slump. He earned that break. Small sizes mean squat, so relax. I’m also encouraged by the fact that while he has been slumping, he still managed to work five walks in the same “drought”. Not to mention that his defense never takes a day off.
Teamed up with Fuld in the cold (sorry, couldn’t help myself) is Felipe Lopez. Playing this year’s switch-hitting, utility infielder (think Willy Aybar) through April was Lopez. Before being sent down to Durham, he was in a 3-for-31 rut, featuring no extra base hits, a single walk, and an intentional pass issued on April 30 in order to get to Kelly Shoppach. Lopez has since been relieved of his role with the return of Longoria, but he served valiantly during his short stint and for this I am thankful.
Other member’s of “The Cold” are the guys that have yet to get it going. I’m not really interested in ripping Dan Johnson. He’s already been benched, but Rays’ brass seems to be enthralled with his flare for the dramatic. It’s not likely he’ll be optioned to Durham anytime soon. Likewise, I have no interest in making a scene at the lack of production from our three young middle infielders; Elliot Johnson’s days are already numbered, Sean Rodriguez was nursing a dislocated pinky finger; and Reid Brignac is at least “hustling”.
This leaves only Kelly Shoppach.
Shop has had it rough. Advanced sabermetrics aren’t required to breakdown his stats. Through the end of April, he’s 7-for-47, with one extra base hit and one walk, giving him a regrettable .149/.180/.213 triple-slash line. His primary problem appears to be his strikeouts. After posting a K% of 44.9 last season, he’s continued his free-swinging ways in 2011, posting a strikeout rate of 42.6%. He hasn’t made any considerable contributions with the bat since 2008, when he was still in Cleveland. Despite the fact that Kelly has thrown out 50% of would-be base stealers, it may be time to kick the tires on Durham backstop Jose Lobaton, who shredded Triple-A in April with a .391/.473/.630 line.
Melvin Emmanuel Upton still continues to dumbfound the ever-patient fans in St. Pete. B.J. kicked in the door to the 2011 season by batting .314/.400/.543 through his first 10 games. Then he slumped; wandering off on a 3-for-31 stretch. Now he’s apparently found his stroke again. Through the end of April, B.J. went 8-for-27 with four walks, a double and a homer. For roughly the last week in April, B.J. compiled a reasonable .296/.387/.444 line. This just heightens the enigma that is B.J. Upton. One constant this season has been his walk rate, which ended the month sitting at a healthy 13%.
As with any stats collected during just a month of games, these numbers cannot be used as a predictor of future successes or failures. They’re just an interesting insight as to how the Rays were able to go from 1-8 to 15-12. With Longoria’s return to the lineup, it’s nearly impossible for any Rays fan not to get excited as they set out to attack the final five months of the season.
Keeping Up With The Minor Details
A Profile of OF Brandon Guyer
By Tomas Lowell
In baseball – especially the Rays farm system, players have to be able to take opportunities and run with them because there’s a plethora of talent looking to capitalize on another player’s missed opportunity. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business. Well, in his Rays’ debut, outfielder Brandon Guyer made sure that he capitalized on an opportunity at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles. Making a strong case for his future with Tampa Bay, Guyer went yard in his first big-league at-bat on May 6, taking a 3-1 pitch from Zach Britton to left field in the second inning. Guyer underscored his debut and described Friday night’s events as an “awesome experience”. “I kept things simple and didn’t try to do too much, which I think I did earlier in my career. I just went out there and had fun — kept things simple. I would say ‘KISS’ before every at-bat: keep it simple, stupid. That’s my motto, and I tried to do that and it worked out great.”
In preparation for his MLB debut, the 26-year old has had a solid 2011 debut in Triple A. Through 28 games with Durham, the native of West Chester, Pennsylvania is hitting .356 (OBP 4.12, SLG .606, OPS 1.018) with 18 RBI’s, six home runs, 37 hits, and 21 runs scored. Acquired in the same trade that sent Matt Garza to the Cubs and brought OF Sam Fuld, C Robinson Chirinos, RHP Chris Archer, and INF Hak-Ju Lee to the Rays, Guyer has not failed to disappoint. On May 3 – in game two of a doubleheader – he had a big night for the Bulls, going 2-for-4 and driving in five RBI’s against the Indianapolis Indians. Durham went on to win that contest 8-5.
While attending Herndon High School in Virginia, Guyer was a four-letter third baseman as well as a four-letter running back/linebacker. On the football field, he made the all-state team as a junior and again as a senior. In his final year of high school, he hit eight home runs and 23 RBI’s while posting a monstrous .483 batting average as the team’s most valuable player and the top athlete in his class. In 2003, he made Baseball America’s Top 400 as the 172nd prospect in the country and won a gold medal competing in the Virginia Commonwealth Games.
Prior to making the jump to minor league ball, Guyer played two seasons for the University of Virginia. In 2005, he made 55 starts – splitting his time between left field, designated hitter, and the infield. In a premonition of things to come, he made his first start with the Cavaliers on February 18, 2005 and his first hit was an RBI home run that propelled Virginia to a 7-2 victory over Bucknell. With 13 multi-hit games and six multi-RBI games, Guyer finished fifth on the team in hitting with four home runs, 15 doubles, 57 runs scored, 30 RBI’s, 10 stolen bases and a .282 batting average. 2006 saw Guyer selected to the VaSID (Virginia College Sports Information Directors) All-State Second Team while racking up 80 hits, 128 total bases, 57 RBI’s (tied for team lead), seven homers (team-high), 19 doubles, 53 runs scored, 30 extra-base hits, and 17 stolen bases as an outfielder and designated hitter. In two seasons at Virginia, Guyer finished with a .311 batting average, 27 stolen bases, 95 runs, 137 hits, 87 RBI’s, 11 home runs, and 216 total bases.
Debuting in 2007, Guyer played 36 games combined for the Cubs’ rookie-ball Arizona League affiliate (17) and the Class A Boise Hawks of the Northwest League (19). He hit .245 with 11 stolen bases, 35 hits, 19 RBI’s, 19 runs scored, and one home run. In 2008 he played 88 games for the Class A Peoria Chiefs – hitting .269 while driving in 38 runs/ 14 homers (career-high) and swiping 22 bags. Splitting time between Single A and Double A in 2009, Guyer saw his overall batting average jump to .282 after hitting .347 during a 73-game stint with the Daytona Cubs.
In his final season with the Cubs organization, Guyer was named Player of the Year in September 2010. He appeared in 102 games for the Double A Tennessee Smokies, driving in 58 runs, tallying 13 long-balls and stealing 30 bases. Selected to the Southern League’s Postseason All-Star Team, he led the Southern League with a .588 slugging percentage, finished second with a .344 batting average (OBP .398, SLG .588, OPS .986), and finished in the top 10 for several other categories – including doubles, extra-base hits, OBP, and at-bats per home run.
Born: January 28, 1986 in West Chester, Pennsylvania
Attended: Herndon High School in Herndon, VA and University of Virginia
Weight: 210 lbs.
Drafted: Round 5, Pick 3 by the Chicago Cubs – June 2007 MLB Amateur Draft
Picking Up The Slack
Johnny Damon Leads Rays Back From The Brink
By Brent Wahl
It appears that the Rays have finally found an impromptu designated hitter. They’ve found that veteran slugger who commands attention and respect from opposing pitchers. He gets on base. He comes through in the clutch. He takes some of the leadership strain off of the young shoulders of Evan Longoria. He has something that most of the other guys on this team do not – experience. With seven postseasons and two World Series titles under his belt, Johnny Damon knows what this young squad craves. He knows why they want to get back to the ALCS – back to the World Series. Damon told MLB Network’s Lisa Kerney during spring training, “It seems like these guys want to get better. They’re not content on how they finished last year. They don’t just want to be a fly-by-night team. This team wants to have some longevity. This team not only wants to win, this team expects to win.”
In the wake of Manny’s dissipation, Damon has been a steady presence in the lineup and unlike Ramirez, Johnny has kept up his end of the bargain. Manny’s sudden exit has been a blessing in disguise, if you will. Since number 24’s “retirement”, we’ve seen the emergence of Sam Fuld in left field as well as the quintessential opportunity for Casey Kotchman to commandeer the bulk of playing time at first base. With Ramirez in the lineup, none of this would have happened – at least not this fast. More importantly, Johnny Damon would not be settling into the DH spot. But here we are in May and Johnny’s playing like he’s 10 years younger. He’s singling. He’s doubling. He’s going yard. He’s running the base paths with a tenacity we use to despise. The long hair coupled with a Boston uniform is gone. The pinstripes are gone. The unbecoming Tiger uniform is gone. Now, he’s wearing the shirt he claims he wanted to wear all along and he’s swinging the bat in his own backyard. He’s back home in the Sunshine State and Tampa Bay has taken him in without a second thought.
Damon has been adopted by his new team and it appears that he has done likewise. He’s cutting up with B.J. Upton, Longoria, David Price and others like he’s never played for any other team. It’s like he hasn’t played for two division rivals. It’s like he’s always been a Ray. He doesn’t appear to be slowing down either. Through 30 games, he’s batting .256 (OBP .285, SLG .432, OPS .717) with 32 hits, five doubles, one triple, 24 RBIs, five home runs, and four stolen bases – not to mention his five game-winning RBIs in a row and two walk-offs in three games (single and a homer). Those hits put Damon in a league of his own – no pun intended. He became the first player in MLB history to have walk-off hits for five different teams (Rays, Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers, Royals) and two with both Tampa Bay and Detroit respectively.
Johnny’s numbers were down last year. He hit .271 as a Detroit Tiger and clubbed just nine home runs – his lowest total for homers since hitting eight with Kansas City in 1997. His 2010 numbers were a drop-off from 2009 when he tied a career-high for homeruns with 24 and batted .282 on the way to a World Series Championship with New York.
He isn’t getting any younger – hence his $5.25 million dollar contract. But he doesn’t act like an aging slugger on the field or at the plate. He’s proving to be a steal for the Rays – a bargain-basement find. If his body continues to hold up and he keeps hitting the way he is, those 2009 numbers will be shredded and we could see Damon-numbers of old. In order for the Rays to successfully defend their division title and vie for a playoff spot, they need those Damon-numbers of old.
His stats aren’t the only invaluable factor for the Rays this year. As we’ve seen, through Longoria’s extended hiatus on the DL, Damon has led the team in the clubhouse and on the field. After dropping their sixth straight game to open the season, a 5-1 loss to the White Sox, he called for a players-only meeting in which he stressed the team stay positive and resilient through the slump.
“This is not what we envisioned where we were going to be at this point. We can either sulk about it or embrace it and say, we have to get better. We have to forget about all this that happened. 0-6, it stinks, we hate to be in this position, but it’s not the end of the world. We know we have to go out and start winning games and we feel like once we do and once we get that and try not to put so much pressure on ourselves we can start to roll. And we keep saying hopefully sooner than later.”
“We’re in this together. There’s not going to be any separation of why aren’t the hitters hitting. No, we’re together in this. We’re 0-6 together. And now it’s time for us to win some games together.” Well that’s exactly what the team did. And without a complaint or gripe, Damon battled through minor injuries in April and helped a team that started out 1-8 to rebound and tie the Yankees for first place in the month of May.
It’s tough to speculate how this young squad would have coped if the same scenario were to unfold minus Damon, but chances are they would have been searching for that leadership quality that has been hard to come by – especially with the departure of de-facto leader Carlos Pena. No Damon, no Longoria – do the Rays rebound like they have? It’s hard to say, but I think we can agree that Damon’s presence has been a lift in their sails.
After picking up his second walk-off hit in three games during the month of April, Damon was frank. “I know these guys look up to me. They look up to me as a champion. They look at me as a veteran ballplayer who really cares about the game. That’s why I approach the game the way I do. And the day I don’t is the day I’ll walk away.”
Where’s The Justice?
It’s Time To Hold MLB Umpires Accountable
By William Benjamin
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines an umpire as being “an official in a sport who rules on plays”. Another definition refers to an umpire as “a person chosen to render a decision in a dispute; a judge; an arbiter” and “an official who administers the rules in certain team sports, as baseball or cricket”. If you look closely at these definitions, you will notice that in none of them is an umpire described as someone who actually takes part in the game. Obviously, that should be left to the players – or so you would think.
In the latest of umpiring transgressions, B.J. Upton, Joe Maddon, and Jays manager John Farrell were tossed on May 4 following heated arguments with MLB umpires Joe West, Chad Fairchild, and Angel Hernandez. In the seventh inning, left fielder Sam Fuld appeared to reach on a fielder’s choice, but the call was overturned on the field by West and ruled a double play. West had originally ruled Fuld safe but changed the call after conferring with the rest of the crew, including Hernandez at second base. The umpiring indecision forced Maddon out of the dugout to argue with West who then proceeded to toss the Rays’ skipper. In the same inning Farrell was tossed after questioning balls and strikes with Fairchild. What started as routine questioning turned into a heated exchange and Farrell made the first forced exit of his managerial career.
After the 3-2 loss, Maddon voiced his frustration on the overturned call at first base by Hernandez. “I don’t know how you can make that call from that distance. I don’t believe you can see it properly. That was my argument… If you’re going to start changing calls from that distance (and) include instant replay, then I wouldn’t say a word… I think Joe West got it right. Again, if you’re looking for instances why you should use instant replay in the future – there’s a perfect example. Because I don’t believe that that call should be overturned.” West later admitted that there was a “miscommunication” between the umpires and the call was in fact botched at first. It should have never been overturned. If Fuld had been ruled safe, the Rays would have had men at first and third with two outs – trailing by two runs. If not for the overturned call, things could have gone in a very different direction with Ben Zobrist due up.
With the Rays still trailing 3-1 in the ninth, things continued to get interesting when B.J. Upton was wrung up and then ejected (fourth time in his career) after wigging out on home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. Upton was 0-for-4 on the night with four strikeouts – one swinging and the rest looking. Concerning the ejection of his center fielder, Maddon was quick to defend Upton, “Well, I actually had the privilege of watching that on television at that point and those are pretty egregious calls. So I can understand why he was so upset. I really believe that that particular at-bat should be reviewed by the umpiring higher-ups.” Upton represented the first out collected by Toronto in the ninth and the Rays would end up pulling within a run before Zobrist grounded out to end the game. Oh by the way, when Ben was ruled out at first – Sean Rodriguez represented the tying run at third. Could the Rays have come back to tie and possibly win the game? We’ll never know because of Fairchild’s called strikeout to begin the bottom of the frame.
Fairchild later admitted that me made the wrong call and B.J. had every right to be upset. So like West, Fairchild had no problem admitting an error after the fact, but the only problem is that wins and losses can’t be altered after the fact. The Rays lost and a valid argument could be made that bad officiating cost them an important game against a division opponent.
The most frustrating thing is that umpires like West, Fairchild, and Hernandez can make these horrible calls on the field and determine the direction of a game, but they rarely have to answer for it later. They can eject players and managers in the heat of battle but then come back afterwards and admit their own wrongdoing. Not to defend outbursts by players and coaches, but if they can be disciplined with suspensions and fines at the drop of a hat – then why not umpires?
For years officials have become more and more “involved” in games with wins and losses hinging on the scrutiny of a lone wolf or a conclave of umpires at times. If it’s not questionable calls on balls and strikes, it’s a called out at first base, an overturned steal of second, or the questionable ejection of a combatant. Shouldn’t umpiring be a removed act from what takes place on the field? Umpires should not be, in any case, dictating an outcome. Baseball players are there to play the game and determine the final score. That’s what they get paid to do. Maybe umpires should stick to doing what earns them their paycheck.