Saturday, October 17, 2009

In the Neighborhood

It seemed everytime I looked up Vladimir Guerrero was striking out.

That was how long Game 2 of the ALCS (American League Championship Series) went tonight in the rain and howling cold of the new Yankee Stadium between said Yankees and the Los Angeles, nee Anaheim, Angels. Frankly, as much as I love playoff baseball (I comment to many that it is the most dramatic of ALL sports) I was getting quite bored with the playoffs so far. The previous series bored me to tear (Phillies/Rockies) - and I am fairly a purist - but I couldn't take it.

But during the 5th inning of this Angels/Yankees game it started getting good - and while making tacos and brownies and margaritas, the night was becoming grand. Then in the 9th inning, I think, something strange happened.

On what looked like a routine double play, 4-to-6-to-3, the play at second base was ruled safe. At first I was outraged (because I am rooting for the Angels) but replays clearly showed that the Angel shortstop, Eric Aybar, didn't touch second base as he threw towards first. In fact, he didn't even step toward the bag! He had both feet behind it like he was the friggin' catcher.

Well, God bless 'em, Angels skipper Mike Scossia came out and argued vehmently and then so did the FOX announcers Joe Buck and former major leaguer Tim McCarver. They reacted in a way I thought was somewhat unimagineable. While it was clear that the Angel shortstop Aybar did not touch the bag they claimed that everyone knows about the "being in the neighborhood" play - which means - that in most double plays the shortstop or whoever may graze the base as they fire to first base but the play may not always be synichronous with the ball in the mitt and the foot on the base. Meaning when he catches it from the second basemen the shortstop may be past the bag. That's "in the neighborhood".

And I understand that - but I never liked it. As long as I have watched professional baseball, I have always hated this slight of hand at second base. I can't tell you how many plays I thought have been wrong. But usually the instant replay shows that no matter how smooth, or bang-bang the play is - the umps usually get it right.

But on this play, the Angels player Aybar just stood behind the bag, took the flip from 2nd and then threw to first - without ever trying to TOUCH the BASE!!! But according to Buck and McCarver this is just normal stuff and "thank god the game wasn't determined on that play".

This comes after the news announced yesterday that the offical NBA rules have been amended to say that a player in transition can take TWO STEPS towards the basket. Of course that has been recognized for years now in the NBA but to acknowledge it in the rule book is another thing. Now LeBron can take five steps in order to be called for travelling I guess.

And a rule change I guess Buck and McCarver would applaud. I couldn't believe how they harped on this for every inning afterward as the game went into extra innings. Baseball men. Hardly.

Rules are rules. Play by them.

No comments: