Friday, August 17, 2007

Is an undeserved win still a win?

Extra innings, a walk-off home run. The fat lady sings, it's really over; the home crowd goes home happy. That's how it should work, right?

But after Chris Lubanski lofted a homer against Iowa reliever Neal Cotts in the 11th last night, I did not feel the high that a fan should feel after such a win. Check out the 10th inning log from last night's game. The bases were loaded at the time, and there was one out. Iowa had a 1-run lead.
* Mike Aviles grounds into a force out, second baseman Carlos Rojas to shortstop Joseph Simokaitis. Fernando Cortez scores. Shane Costa to 3rd. Angel Berroa out at 2nd. Mike Aviles to 1st.
* On-field Delay.

That "on-field delay" was when the Iowa coaches and players argued -- correctly -- that Aviles was out at first, so that play should have been a DP to end the inning and the game.

As a Royals fan, I suppose I should be OK with iffy calls of "safe at 1st." But I felt really, really weird about dressing as a fat lady and singing about a Royals victory -- and not just because I was singing in front of thousands dressed as a portly Viking lady. Even in that moment, right after that Cotts pitch landed on the bleachers side of the outfield fence, when I should have felt as high on baseball as a fan could possibly feel....I didn't. Instead, I felt bad for the Iowa pitching staff who labored to hold Omaha to an admittedly small number of runs but still got pegged with a loss. And for the Cubbies fans, who saw a great game with a questionable ending brought by a mistake made by a very much human umpire. And for that umpire, who probably knew as soon as he bellowed "Safe!" that that was probably not the right call.

(Side note: I also felt terrified that I would be impaled by a chair, as a very angry Neal Cotts was venting his frustration about 13 feet from where I stood. The chair ended up halfway down the tunnel behind the dugout.)

What is the ethical way for a good fan to deal with an ill-gotten win? The Royals did provide a lot to celebrate: Luke Hochevar was fantastic (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 SO); Craig Brazell has found his home run stroke again; Lubanski finally hit that homer that he tries so hard for every swing; Neal Musser, though he did allow an earned run (only his 2nd allowed on the season, his ERA is now a lofty .36), pitched a terrific 2 innings and hit 100 on the stadium radar. Plus it was dollar beer night. But I still don't feel like we won it.

I understand that umpires are human; they make mistakes and the teams on the field are to play the game as though those mistakes were actually the right calls. That is a part of the game, and that humanity is a huge part of what makes baseball so appealing. The lack of instant replay in umpiring makes baseball umps more human than officials in any other sport. A bad call can be -- and often is -- the deciding factor in a deadlocked game. I know all this, and yet I feel almost squeamish about accepting Omaha's win yesterday.

(Side note, on which I'm actually going to end this blog: Some Iowa player -- I don't know who he was because he had a t-shirt on over his jersey -- was running his mouth to the first base umpire after the Aviles call. This player said, "There's a reason you're in Triple-A!" Yeah, guy. You clearly have room to talk there, as you're way too good for the Minor Lea--oh wait, you're in AAA too. Good job, guy.)

1 comment:

Mike from Omaha said...

You can't concern yourself with the mistakes of umpires. I know hearing "it's all part of the game" sounds cliche, but it is true. I'm sure the O Royals have had a call or two go against them, and while it may not have had such an obvious affect on the outcome of the game, every pitch counts.