Unless there’s a blatant problem, we don’t call out umpires for the most part here on Birds Watcher. However I’m going to make an exception this morning; “Cowboy” Joe West is one of the most controversial umps in baseball. He made another really poor call last night in allowing the Baltimore Orioles to continue playing against Anaheim in the middle of a monsoon. One might understand trying to rough your way to five innings (an official game), but if anything once we got to that threshold the rain intensified and then some. It finally took Nick Markakis sliding into second base and almost ending up in the third base dugout for West to finally call for the rain delay. There comes a point where player safety has to be priority; West botched this one big time.
Freddy Garcia won his seventh consecutive decision against Anaheim, pitching all the way up through the beginning of the rain delay. (Just to clarify, that’s seven consecutive wins in games against Anaheim where he’s factored into the decision.) Garcia’s line: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K. I’ll be very frank; Garcia and Anaheim starter Jered Weaver both probably get a pass on any mistakes they might have made in this game. With conditions being what they were, it’s tough to pass judgement on the job anyone did. Garcia gave up a solo home run to Mike Trout to put the O’s behind 1-0 in the third. However Nick Markakis drew a one-out walk off of Weaver in the fifth, followed by Adam Jones bludgeoning a ball into the left field grandstand to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
At the time, the rain was beginning to intensify and people figured that if Garcia could hold of Anaheim in the top of the fifth there was a good chance that the game might be over. However due to West and his apparent ill feelings towards calling for a rain delay, they played on after that (and on a field that was quickly deteriorating in terms of conditions). As conditions rapidly worsened, Josh Hamilton tied the game in the top of the sixth with a solo homer onto the flag court in right field. Again, it’s probably unfair to criticize Garcia for leaving a pitch up because I’m not sure he could see home plate through the rain drops.
Nate McLouth led off the last of the sixth with a bunt single to second, and promptly stole second base on the first pitch to Manny Machado. The Orioles suddenly appeared to be a team that knew there was no way the game could continue as it was, and desperately wanted to put one run on the board. Machado singled through the right side of the infield, and the ball slid under Josh Hamilton’s glove in right field which allowed McLouth to score. Again, there’s an example of the rain affecting a game it has no business affecting. Whether or not the ball slid through Hamilton’s glove due to the rain is unknown, however the rain definitely distracted him just a bit given it’s intensity. Following a Markakis single the Orioles covered the corners with nobody out, and Adam Jones sent a sac fly to right field which allowed Machado to score giving the O’s a 4-2 lead.
Joe West had seen enough of the rain with two outs in the last of the sixth, and the tarp was put on the field. Again, I really question West’s motives for not doing so earlier. Nobody likes rain delays, least of all me. However there comes a point where player safety has to come before trying to get through a complete game. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the night was that the game actually resumed…at 11 PM eastern time when the rain had all but stopped. Anaheim loaded the bases in the top of the seventh against Tommy Hunter, and Josh Hamilton’s infield single scored Anaheim’s third run. However Hunter induced an Albert Pujols strikeout, and a Mark Trumbo ground out to preserve the Orioles’ lead.
Jim Johnson came in to pitch the top of the ninth with the O’s leading 4-3, and Anaheim went quietly to give the Orioles game one of the series. However who knows how this game would have gone if not for the “theatrics” of Joe West, who seemed bitterly opposed to stopping the game. At a certain point it almost seemed like an act of defiance on his part. I don’t call him out in a taunting manner; however when you allow the game to go on in conditions like that as long as he did, you put players on both sides in danger. I do feel that sometimes umpires go to rain delays too conservatively, however that was a situation where it needed to happen much sooner than it did.
The series continues tonight at the yard, with Miguel Gonzalez on the mound for the Orioles. He’ll be opposed by Justin Vargas, who defeated the Orioles in his start against them last month in Anaheim. Game time is scheduled for 7 PM…weather permitting.