Mr. Selig, Remove Tim McClelland
This time of year, your job should be pretty easy. You can sit around and enjoy the fruits of a long regular season as four teams from three of baseball's biggest markets (New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia) battle it out in the LCS. You even have a marquee World Series to look forward to (at this point it's looking like Yanks-Phillies, but hey, who knows?).
The last thing you want to be doing this week is making controversial decisions. So I apologize in advance for making this request on behalf of all of baseball.
Relieve ALCS crew chief Tim McClelland from his umpiring duties for the rest of the playoffs. Today. Right now. Without a second thought.
See the link I put up there on McClelland's name. That's to the 28-year veteran umpire's Wikipedia page. As you can see, the page has been locked -- meaning no changes can be made by anyone except registered users -- because of vandalism. Now why do you suppose that is?
Well, it might have something to do with his historic spate of bad calls in the Bombers' 10-1 win over the Halos in Game 4. Mr. Selig, allow me to break this one down point by point.
1. With one out in the top of the fourth inning, the Yanks had Nick Swisher on third. Johnny Damon lifted a high fly to center field, more than deep enough for Swisher to tag and score, which he did easily. Immediately, the Angels dugout began clamoring Swisher had left third early and should be called out. So Halos' hurler Scott Kazmir threw over to third to appeal, a play that happens occasionally but works once in a blue moon.
This time, it worked. McClelland, the "third base umpire" for the day, called Swisher out, even though replays showed that not only did Swisher stay on the base until the catch was made, but McClelland wasn't even looking at Swisher as he tagged up. It's hard to rule a player left early when, you know, you didn't see him leave early.
2. An inning later, the Yanks were threatening again and had Jorge Posada on third and Robinson Cano on second with one out. Swisher chopped a ground ball to pitcher Darren Oliver, who caught the slow-footed Posada in a rundown between third and home. As the rundown continued, Cano crept toward third base but inexplicably stopped two feet short of the bag, as if he didn't want to cut off Posada's escape route.
Angels' catcher Mike Napoli alertly went after both runners, tagging Posada as he scampered toward third, then slapping the tag on Cano as he continued to stand just off the base.
We could discuss the baserunning stupidity of Posada and Cano getting caught in an inning-ending double play -- if it had been called a double play. Instead, McClelland called Cano safe, even though replays showed him a full step away from third base when he was tagged.
3. After the game, McClelland had a chance to go in front of the press and admit he was very, very wrong on both calls. And he did -- sort of. But he added some unbelievable commentary. Here's a snippet of his thoughts on the two calls:
First call: "The first one, with Swisher leaving too soon, in my heart I thought he left too soon... After looking at replays, I’m not sure I believe the replay of the first one."
Second call: "On the play with Cano and Posada, I was waiting for two players to be on the base. When he tagged Cano, I thought Cano was on the base."
Both explanations don't hold water, but as a baseball fan I'm much more concerned the first one, the one where McClelland thought "in his heart" Swisher left soon and "is not sure he believes the replay."
Are you kidding? ARE YOU KIDDING??? THIS ISN'T AN AFTER-SCHOOL SPECIAL, IT'S A BASEBALL GAME!!! IF YOU DON'T SEE SOMETHING, YOU DON'T CROSS YOUR FINGERS AND GO WITH YOUR HEART, YOU DON'T CALL IT!!!!! AND A REPLAY ISN'T SOMETHING YOU CAN 'NOT BELIEVE', IT'S A VIDEO RECORDING!!!!!! IT CAN'T LIE!!!!!!!!!
Whew... sorry about that, Commissioner. I'm just moved beyond sanity by those comments, which indicate either a man with no clue what he's doing or someone who's entered the advanced stages of dementia.
Either way, it's textbook gross incompetence. Even at best, it means McClelland knew he got the Swisher call wrong for the Yanks and called Cano safe in an attempt to "make up" the earlier gaffe. Still beyond unacceptable for a spring training game, much less the ALCS.
Luckily for baseball, neither call directly affected the outcome of the game, which featured 10 Yankee runs scored on non-controversial plays. But what if either McClelland blunder had changed the result of the game? How bad would that look for baseball?
How bad would that look for you?
So please, Mr. Selig, do whatever you have do as leader of Major League Baseball. Cite his incompetence. Bring in a new crew chief. Bring in a whole new umpiring crew (second base ump Dale Scott wasn't far behind McClelland in idiocy on Wednesday). Hell, you can kidnap him in the middle of night and hold him in Borneo until the postseason is over. Just get him off the field.
There will be fallout. The umpires union will have an aneurysm, and some will accuse you of being too heavy-handed. There will be so much red tape to go through in the next 24 hours that you may literally drown in paperwork.
But the Yankees and the Angels will thank you. The fans will thank you. And baseball itself will be better for it.
So please, Bud. Do it for the good of the game.
A Concerned Lover of Baseball