Umpires have been doing a terrific job in World Series
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis will be offering his analysis throughout the World Series. Ellis, 32, recently completed his second full season as a starter for the Dodgers by batting .333 in a National League division series against the Atlanta Braves and .316 in the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Ellis is familiar with the Boston Red Sox, a team the Dodgers faced during the regular season.
The group of men who are on your television screen and involved on every pitch of the most important series of the year, only have one goal — to not be noticed. The six umpires for the Fall Classic must have had the painful revelation that every bang-bang call they make, every borderline pitch they call a strike and every rule interpretation they provide will be replayed and slow-motioned from every possible angle on the clearest high-definition flat screens from sports bars to living rooms.
These men get one chance as the world’s greatest baseball players are playing at the highest maximum speed to get the call right and prepare for the next one. As someone who spends time behind the plate getting to professionally work and personally get to know these men, it’s no surprise to me the outstanding series they are having. Major league umpires have a generally thankless job where the success of their workday depends on how infrequently they were second-guessed and cursed at.
In my brief time as a starting catcher, I’ve gotten to know these men. We share stories about our travels, debatable calls we’ve seen in other games, even more personal notes on family and children. Like ballplayers, umpires can be having issues off the field or having a rough patch of games on the field. But like the best players in the league, most umpires put that aside and give the best effort they can give on that night. I always check the umpire rotations before a series and look forward especially to working with certain guys who keep the game light yet still call a good game.
The two most controversial and commented-on umpire calls of the season came in the first inning of Game 1 and on the final play of Game 3. In an unprecedented move, the five umpires not involved on the play converged to correct a call on a force play at second base. The crew decided to break tradition and make right a call they knew should be reversed. The obstruction call at the end of Game 3 was a perfect example of third base umpire, and one of my personal favorites, Jim Joyce showing instincts and knowledge of the rules simultaneously. The umpire who was overruled in Game 1, Dana DeMuth, instantly followed through on Joyce’s obstruction notification and correctly ruled the runner safe at the plate. The play was ruled correctly and just so happened to be on the final play of a World Series game.
Reviews of calls via instant replay will be expanded next year. Although technology will aid these judges in the calls they make, my hope is they still umpire with the courage and feel for the game they have shown.
Player(s) of the game
If the Boston Red Sox hold on to win the World Series, we may be looking at Series co-most valuable players in Jon Lester and David Ortiz. Lester was dominant again as he matched his Game 1 performance. He struck out seven and gave up only four hits. What was most impressive was his efficiency, as he cruised through the game looking stronger as it went on.
Ortiz looked as if he didn’t even leave the ballpark after Game 4’s three-hit game with another three-hit barrage. The first hit started the scoring with a first-pitch bullet for a run-scoring double down the first base line in the first inning.
Xander Bogaerts hit a one-out single up the middle against Adam Wainwright in the seventh inning. Stephen Drew, who has struggled all postseason but has played Gold Glove-caliber defense, had his best at-bat of the Series, working a tough walk to put runners on first base and second base. David Ross, who has taken over as Boston’s primary catcher, hooked a curveball into the left-field corner for a run-scoring double. After an out, Jacoby Ellsbury added a huge insurance run with a flare single to center field.
Manager John Farrell had a tough decision after Ross’ double in the seventh inning. With runners at second base and third base and one out, he let Lester hit. At that point with the lead, and Lester with a low pitch count, it was the right move. Lester made an out but was picked up by Ellsbury’s single.
Bogaerts is living up to his big-time prospect status. He is hitting .294 in the Series and his hits have been extremely timely as he has been in the middle of most of the Red Sox scoring action in St. Louis.
Wainwright threw seven strong innings, rebounding from his Game 1 start. He mixed his pitches and kept the Red Sox completely off balance. The Cardinals ace struck out 10 but will surely be kicking himself for the doubles he gave up to Dustin Pedroia and Ross on curveballs that stayed up in the zone.
What a luxury to have a closer who can get your team more than three outs. Koji Uehara picked up his second consecutive save in the Series and again showed why he was the American League’s most dominant closer the second half of the season.
Game 6 preview
The Cardinals will have to do their best Red Sox impression as the Series heads back to Boston. The Red Sox recovered from Game 3’s wild ending to outplay the Cardinals in Games 4 and 5. The Cardinals will take solace in having Michael Wacha on the mound in Game 6. Wacha won an elimination game in Pittsburgh in a National League division series, so Cardinals fans know he can handle the atmosphere. Hard-luck Game 2 loser and Game 4 set-up man John Lackey will take the ball for the Red Sox. Lackey has pitched in this moment before more than a decade ago as the Game 7 starter for the World Series-champion Angels. He will do all he can to close the Cardinals out in Game 6 to avoid an anything-can-happen scenario in a Game 7.
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