An Umpiring Atrocity Decides Game 3 Of The World Series

TheSportsNotebook’s World Series coverage will come back early this afternoon with a more detailed look at the events of Game 3, a magnificent baseball game where the 5-4 win by the St. Louis Cardinals was marred by a monstrously awful call at the end.

Third-base umpire Jim Joyce–the same umpire who blew a call at first base three years ago that cost then-Detroit Tigers pitcher Jair Jurrjens Armando Galaraga a perfect game–ruled interference on Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks against baserunner Allen Craig. The result was that Craig, in spite of being thrown out at the plate to end the ninth inning, was awarded the winning run.

Right now I don’t have time to go into the details, but let’s just say this–by the letter of the rulebook this was correct. But this was also extremely ticky-tack and to enforce the interference rule in this fashion to decide a World Series game almost defies belief.

You can call this bitter ranting of a Red Sox fan, and you’re right about the bitter part. But before it’s dismissed it as ranting, consider the following calls that were *not* made in recent championship events…

*By the letter of the rulebook, San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree was interfered with in the end zone on the fourth-down play that essentially decided the Super Bowl. Officials held the flag and the Baltimore Ravens won.

*By the letter of the rulebook, MIami Heat guard Ray Allen traveled on his three-point shot that tied Game 6 of the NBA Finals in the closing seconds and prevented the San Antonio Spurs from taking the title.

In both cases, the rationale cited was that the game situation was too big to make a call. Now every call is different, and I think the officials erred in the Super Bowl, while being correct in the NBA Finals. I would argue that this play at third base was much more akin to Allen’s travel–way too minor to be called, as opposed to the contact engendered by Baltimore cornerback Jimmy Smith, which essentially decided the game.

I’ll be back in a bit with more commentary on a game that those without a dog in the fight can appreciate as a truly great World Series contest. Right now, I have to go to church and pretend I live in a world where a merciful God could allow this to happen. Actually, I’m just kidding on that point. I haven’t lost perspective to that extreme. But I’m still mad.


I’ve had a few hours to get some different perspectives on this topic, and I can’t say I’ve changed my mind one iota. Those that are falling back on strict interpretation of the rule have not offered me any reason why this play should have been treated any differently than countless other plays over the years, including the specific recent examples cited above, where umpires/officials are much more judicious with their calls. Consider this–the only way for the umpires to decide Game 3 was to make a call. A no-call would have just meant extra innings.

One thing I do need to soften is my comments on Jim Joyce. In noting his past, with the blown call on the Jurrjens Galaraga perfect game, I should also note that he was a stand-up guy who faced the media and admitted his error. Even last night, while I disagree with him stridently, he still stepped out and faced the media afterward, explaining his decision. All too often, umpires and referees hide behind a cloak of silence. Joyce doesn’t, and he deserves more respect on a personal level than what I gave him. That was a blown call on my part.

Did this game–and by proxy, this call–decide the 2013 World Series? We’ll have to see. If the Red Sox can’t win at least one game in St. Louis, that excuse can’t be made. If they do get the Series back to Fenway, it’s on the table. I know there’s no guarantee what would have happened in Game 3 if it goes extras, but keep in mind that Boston was going to have both Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz coming up, and St. Louis having to turn to John Axford.

The promised, more complete analysis of Game 3–including the numerous areas where the Red Sox have no one to blame but themselves–is now up online here.