Posted by: thescoundrel | June 11, 2007

Chicago Cubs Lose Sunday’s Game Via Appalling Umpiring and Self-Destruction

I have not been posting much on the Cubs as of late. Of course for a while they were stinking up the ballfield and always seeming to find a way to self-destruct and lose. They were and still are up near the top of the league in a lot of pitching and offensive categories, but they always seemed to find a way to lose games. And despite having an offensive juggernaut of a team and great pitching they continue to lose most of their games where the contest is determined by one or two run scores. Still as of late they have had a decent winning record and the fact that all the other teams in their division have been self-destructing also, has allowed them to get back into the pennant chase. Sunday night on a nationally televised game on ESPN they had one of those one run self-destruction moments. That brings me to the point of today’s subject.

I was not happy with the umpire crew working the Cubs-Braves games and on Sunday they made some appalling decisions!!! In Thursdays and Fridays games the Cubs Alfonso Soriano was on a hitting tear. At one point he had hit a homerun in three consecutive at bats. He also tried to stretch a single into a double. It was very evident that the Braves were very unhappy about his offensive outburst (according to some they were mad about the attempted stretching of the single into a double) as they plunked him on the shoulder near his head with the very first pitch of Saturday’s game. Okay that is part of baseball. When a team feels they are having their nose rubbed into dirt they retaliate. The umpires at that point warned both benches about any further brushback pitches in the game. That is the proper method of action according to current practices of umpiring baseball games. When the warning occurs any more balls that the umpire feels were specifically thrown to strike a batter gets the pitcher and the pitcher’s manager thrown out of the game. That is to limit the early era practice of retaliation where teams get in to “beanball” wars with all the pitchers throwing at opposing batters intentionally. It limits fights and injuries. Okay, I prefer that the second team deserves a chance to retaliate but I can live with the previous ruling, it is a semi-fair process. And later in the game when a Braves’ pitcher hit another batter the umpire decided it was not intentional and that pitcher stayed in the game despite the warning. I believe that was the right call. Still the warning makes the pitchers job a lot harder as they have to be extra careful when they are pitching to batters and need to throw a pitch on the inside of the plate near the batter. This does play into the Braves’ philosophy of pitching, which is to constantly work the outside corners of the plate. But it is part of the game and you have the responsibility as a team to adjust. The Cubs did not adjust well and lost in a slugfest.

Then comes Sunday’s night game. The Cubs were out on the field and Lily, the Cubs pitcher, struck out the first two guys he faced. It looked like a good night was in order for the Cubs pitcher. But then came a very questionable call by the homeplate Umpire. While facing the Braves Lily threw a pitch up an inside to the Braves hitter, Edgar Renteria. The pitch hit him on the wrist, which Renteria felt was an intentional action, and let his opinion be known. The Umpire stayed between Renteria and Lily to avoid him charging the mound while he escorted Renteria to first base. While escorting him to the base he also was warning both benches, as in Saturdays game, about throwing at opposing batters. Then, unlike in Saturdays game, he tossed out Cubs pitcher, Lily, after just facing the third Braves’ batter of the game. The call was way out of line and when the umpires words were played back (he was wearing a microphone for the TV, and the incident makes think all the umpires should always wear microphones during the games) by ESPN, it was evident that he was looking for a reason to throw the Cubs pitcher out of the game. His words were – I was looking for this- which infers he went into the game with a prejudged notion that the Cubs pitcher was going to get revenge for the Saturday beaning incident by the Braves. That I cannot except as fair. If that was his thoughts he had the option of giving the same warning he gave on Saturday to both team benches before the game. He did not give any previous warnings, according to the interviews by the ESPN announcers. Nor did the pitch by Lily look intentional, as the Braves pitch that hit Soriano did look intentional on Saturday. The ESPN crew replayed the incident several times and it was a close pitch but it was not so close that it looked intentional. In fact it looked to me that Renteria made very little effort to get out of the way of the pitch. In fact it looked more like he reached his hand up to block the pitch instead of attempting to move backwards away from the pitching zone. If he had not reached out his hand it appeared he might not have been hit by the pitch at all with what little movement he did make. This was an atrocious call by the Umpire in my opinion and I feel the Cubs should file a written complaint against the crew for the bad call with the commissioner’s office. (Not that I think Commissioner Selig will do anything, he has never impressed me as the commissioner of Baseball.) Then the Umpire crew made another very questionable call just moments later. Despite the umpiring crew thinking the situation was volatile enough that they should toss the Cubs’ pitcher, when Renteria (who was still angry about getting hit with the pitch) went sliding into second base he used his forearm, in what looked like an intentional action, to clip the Cubs rookie second-baseman, Fontenot, in the face and the Umpires did absolutely nothing. Yet it was clear that the action was an in-your-face attempt to intimidate the rookie and strike back over getting hit by the Lily pitch. This lack of action by the umpires was despite already having issued a warning about violence to both benches. More bad umpiring, in my opinion. And despite my understanding that Cubs’ new manager, Pinella, was supposed to be an emotional style leader, he never gave much of an argument in any of the incidents on either day. The umpiring was definitely one-sided Sunday, and against the Cubs. 😡

Despite the bad umpiring the Cubs should have won that Sunday game. They went into the eighth inning with a two run lead. And they had chances to make it a bigger lead. In fact the Cubs had the bases loaded with nobody out and could not score a run in the eighth inning. However their bullpen was decimated and overused the last two days from losing their starting pitchers early. They were running out of pitchers and brought in their closer, Dempster, early and he just did not have the stuff tonight. But there was no one actually left available to replace him. He gave up three runs and the lead to the Braves. The end of the game was reminiscent of a lot of early season losses. The 2007 Cubs seem to find a way to self-destruct in close ball games. They have got to find a fix for this problem.


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