Awful umpiring continues to be the story of the postseason

Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor

Rounding Third Logo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Not since referee Danny Davis cost the British Bulldogs the WWF Tag Team Championship have I seen as bad an officiating job as has been witnessed in this American League Championship Series.

If I did not know any better, I might have thought third base umpire Tim McClelland had been hanging with disgraced ex-NBA official Tim Donaghy. The only problem with that line of thinking is that McClelland's awful performance hurt both teams on Tuesday.

The first controversial play actually came on a call by Dale Scott in the fourth inning, when the Yankees' Nick Swisher was clearly picked off at second base. In Scott's defense, that is a bang-bang play that we have the luxury of watching on replay, and he has to make a split-second decision. Fine he gets a pass, although, Swisher was out by a good foot.

Now here is where McClelland comes into play.

Tim McClelland's awful performance hurt both
teams on Tuesday.
With Swisher at third in the same inning, Johnny Damon lofts a fly ball to Angels center fielder Torii Hunter. Swisher tags up and easily scores. However, Anaheim protests, saying Swisher left early. McClelland agrees, Swisher is out, and the inning is over.

However, replays clearly show he never left early. In fact, on the replay it appears as if McClelland is not even looking at Swisher, but watching Hunter catch the ball.

"In my heart I thought he left too soon," McClelland said after the game.

If that gem was not enough, how about this?

"After looking at replays, I'm not sure I believe the replay of the first one."

Huh? You don't believe the replay? So not only do you call plays based on how you feel in your heart, but you don't believe photographic evidence either?

You can go two ways here. Either you think it was a make-up call for the earlier Swisher blunder, or McClelland just botched it. Given what came later, I tend to go with the latter. Plus, how could he have even seen what went on at second?

In the fifth inning the Yankees had Jorge Posada on third and Robinson Cano on second with one out. Swisher grounded back to reliever Darren Oliver, who threw home. Posada got caught in a rundown and headed back to third. Cano, though, had already moved toward third as well, but for some reason never touched the bag, while Posada ran through third as if it was first base.

With neither runner occupying a bag, Angels catcher Mike Napoli tagged both.

Easy double-play right? Wrong. McClelland called Cano, who touched third after being tagged, safe and Posada out.

"When he tagged Cano, I thought Cano was on the base," McClelland said. "[The replay] showed that Cano was off the bag when he was tagged. I did not see that, for whatever reason. So, obviously, there were two missed calls."

As bad as McClelland was in Game 4, he has not been alone in these playoffs. From Phil Cuzzi's foul-ball call on Joe Mauer's clear ground-rule double in Game 2 of the ALDS to last night's abysmal performance, the umpiring as a whole has just been horrendous in these playoffs.

Last week, long-time baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby reported that injuries are preventing several veteran umpires from calling games in the playoffs. In fact eight of the 19 umpires with at least twenty years of big-league experience are sidelined.

Even if that is the case, there have to be more reliable umpires than the ones out there.

I have always been an instant replay guy and what has happened in these playoffs has further cemented that. In this day and age, if there is a way to get a call right, how do you not take advantage of it?

Of course, the big knock on replay, aside from the purity aspect of it all, is that some feel that games, which already take forever, will last even longer. A quick look at an instant replay, though, will take considerably less time than the argument that occurs when one of these calls is blown in the first place.

Why not just have an umpire up in the booth watching? How much time would it take to make a quick call downstairs?

It seems silly to just use replay for home runs and plays down the line. I still think that was the first step towards bringing replay in on a more expanded basis - close calls at the plate, on the basepaths, whatever. These playoffs will probably be the straw that breaks the camels back.

Get the call right. At the end of the day, isn't that the most important thing?

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