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When a Grudge Goes Too Far

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For those of you who didn't catch any of the Rays-Angels games this series, and more specifically, today's Rays-Anaheim game, I will make it short and simple. The umpiring in this series was horrendous. Absolutely, this series could have very well been the poorest officiated series I have ever seen in baseball, and on a per game ratio, it probably ranks up there with any other professional sporting event I have watched.

Now I'm not a 'Kill the Umpire' type of guy. For the most part, I respect the umpires, and will give them the benefit of the doubt most all the time. Even when an ump makes a bad call, at least you get the sense it was an honest mistake and the ump knows he is wrong. Only once before have I ever seen an ump act in a way that has drawn my wrath, and that was when Laz Diaz was whipped by Curt Schilling into changing his call of a bang bang play in Fenway Park one year ago. The fact that he was the home plate umpire, it was not his call, and Schilling got him to overturn it was disgusting and forever put Laz Diaz on "the list".

However Marty Foster and the crew of hacks today surpassed Diaz with their complete lack of professionalism. Not only were they thoroughly incompetent the entire series, but they were blatantly biased. And this isn't a 'hand the hangers on the ceiling and cover yourself with aluminum foil'-type conspiracy theory, the actions taken on the field by this crew were obvious.

Blown calls, as there were on Friday and Saturday, warranted a talking to from league officials, however Sunday, the temperature hit 212 degrees and thing boiled over. Numerous calls, some as blatantly obvious as I've ever seen, were blown, and the umpires just didn't seem to care whether they were wrong or not. The play in the middle innings when Travis Lee fielded a high throw and tagged the runner out, clearly, no disputing it, the stolen base attempt that should have been a caught stealing, and Julio Lugo being called out on strikes on a fastball that was at his neck.

Clearly, this was more than incompetence. Either these umpires have the intelligence of a four year old and are unfit for the job, or they are biased, unprofessional hacks who don't belong in the game, and that's it. And it isn't the former. This is not some rookie umpiring. Bill Welke, Tim McClelland, and Foster have some of the most experience of any umpiring trio in baseball. McClelland is nearing his 30th year in pro ball. These aren't bad umpires, these are unprofessional umpires with an ax to grind, and that is not acceptable in the game of baseball.

Foster's refusal to call for an appeal on the blatantly awful call at first base, and subsequent ejections of Joe Maddon and Travis Lee was the most disgraceful act of sports officiating I have ever seen. Not only was he unwilling to admit he screwed up, but he was gonna look like a big man and toss anyone who challenged him. His ejection of Maddon was not acceptable at all. He bumped the Rays manager, and then threw him out. Travis Lee, who by all accounts is the most tranquil and sane person on the team, was ejected. Something is not right here, and that something is Marty Foster.

This after Maddon came out to argue another dumb call at second base earlier by McClelland, which Bill Evers would do later. And home plate umpire Tim Welke's ninth inning ring 'em up call of Julio Lugo was insane.

Numerous run-ins with players and the coaching staff in today's game are unacceptable. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me five friggin' times in one game, and you've got some serious problems. This wasn't just bad umpiring. This was spiteful, classless officiating, designed to force a team to lose a game.

Now I'm not ever going to blame the umps for a loss. I just never do. The Rays had plenty of opportunities to take control of the game, they started leaving runners in scoring position as early as the first inning, and awful pitcher selection late by Bill Evers all but handed Anaheim the game. However while the umps never lose the game for you, their classless actions can  not be tolerated. While the calls themselves didn't ruin the game, the Rays allowed this crap to go to their heads. The loss is their fault for that reason.

However if this crew is allowed to officiate one more series involving the Rays this season, then MLB has no integrity whatsoever, they have just as much as these clowns. With the exception of Fieldin Culbreth, this crew was horrible. Every one of them, Welke, McClelland, and Foster, deserve a serious fine and a strong reprimand, if not an out and out suspension. This wasn't just incompetence, it was classless, and that cannot be tolerated in the game of baseball. This travesty of a series should absolutely never, ever, repeat itself.