With She-Fan Awards already handed out to Dr. Marc Phillipon (Best Surgeon), Brad Lidge (Best Postseason Enemy) and Junichi Tazawa (Best Regular Season Walk-off Enemy), it’s time to spotlight another deserving individual who, by virtue of being unlucky, unfocused or just-plain unskilled, aided and abetted the Yankees in their quest for Championship #27.
And so we turn our attention to the umpires who made a difference in the 2009 postseason. There were several whose calls were controversial and/or downright terrible. Some of the calls went against the Yankees, but it’s the ones that helped our cause that will be singled out for the solid gold fan tonight, along with the men responsible for them.
Now, without further ado, here are the nominees for the 2009 She-Fan Award for Best Postseason Umpire. We thank them all for being in the service of the Yankees.
- Phil Cuzzi, Left Field Umpire, Game 2 ALDS Versus Twins -
In the top of the 11th inning, with the Yanks and Twins tied and Marte on the mound, Mauer sliced one down the left field line and watched it bounce into the seats. Cuzzi called the ball foul, but replays showed it should have been a ground rule double. Mauer ended up singling but never scored, despite the two hits that followed. Had he doubled, he surely would have scored. (Great inning by Robertson to get out of the bases-loaded no-outs jam.) The Yankees went on to win the game 4-3.
- Jerry Layne, Second Base Umpire, Game 2 ALCS Versus Angels -
It was in the bottom of the 10th inning of what was to be the longest ALCS game in history that Layne showed us his stuff. Jorge grounded into a routine double play, but Layne ruled that Aybar, who had received the throw at second from Izturis, never touched the bag before sending the relay on to first. Consequently, Melky was safe at second and the so-called “Neighborhood Play,” which we’ve seen called a million times, was suddenly a figment of our imagination. The Yanks won the game 4-3 and went up by two games to none in the series.
- Dale Scott, Second Base Umpire, Game 3 ALCS Versus Angels -
With Kazmir on the mound in the top of the fourth and Jeter at the plate, Swisher led off second and got picked off – or did he? Kazmir’s throw to second and Aybar’s tag appear to nail Swishalicious according to the replays, but Scott called the runner safe. The Yankees blew the Angels away that night by the score of 10-1, and I was in Anaheim fending off the thunderstix. A great time was had by me.
- Tim McClelland, Third Base Umpire, Game 3 ALCS Versus Angels -
In the fifth inning of the above game, with the Yankees already up 5-0 and Posada on third and Cano on second, Swisher hit a Darren Oliver pitch on the ground for a fielder’s choice. Posada broke for home and got caught in a rundown. Napoli chased him back to third base, but – oopsie! – Cano was already there! Napoli tagged both Cano and Posada, but McClelland, who was standing right on top of the play, called Cano safe. The Yankees didn’t score, but it was a bad night for McClelland, who had mistakenly (“in his heart”) called Swisher out in the previous inning for tagging up too early.
- Fieldin Culbreth, Home Plate Umpire, Game 5 ALCS Versus Angels -
Fieldin should win the award just for his name alone. But here goes. The Yankees were down 4-0 in the seventh with one on and one out. Posada had a great at bat against Lackey, working the count full. Lackey’s next pitch was low and inside, and Posada trotted to first base with a walk, thanks to Culbreth’s tight strike zone. Big John was incensed at the ump, and Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher had to come out to the mound for a mental health chat. It didn’t work; Lackey walked Jeter, and Darren Oliver allowed the next three runners to score. The Yanks lost the game anyway 7-6, but Culbreth gave us his best shot.
- Brian Gorman, First Base Umpire, Game 2 World Series Versus Phillies -
Mo was pitching in the eighth (since he was his own set-up man by this time), and the Phillies had a rally going – until Gorman said Utley didn’t beat Jeter’s relay to first on a ground ball. Replays were inconclusive, but Charlie Manuel thought his player was robbed. “I’m not saying nothing about the umpiring,” he told the media after the game. “I’m just saying that he was safe.” If Gorman hadn’t ruled in our favor, the Phillies would have had runners at the corners with two outs. The Yankees won the game 3-1.
- Brian Gorman, Home Plate Umpire, Game 3 World Series Versus Phillies -
Yes, it’s Gorman
again. But this time he was minding his own business at home plate when A-Rod launched one to right field that hit the TV camera positioned there. Gorman signaled “double,” but Girardi protested and the umpires huddled together in some back room to watch the replay. When they returned to the field, Gorman waved A-Rod home. The call wasn’t just historic (the first use of instant replay in a World Series); it sparked the Yankees’ comeback off Hamels and we went on to win 8-5. The irony of the whole thing was that the ball hit one of the TV cameras whose purpose was to make the call.
Those are your nominees. And now, the envelope please.
The winner of the 2009 She-Fan Award for Best Postseason Umpire is…
***** Phil Cuzzi *****
Yes, Tim McClelland’s bonehead move calling Cano safe deemed him a worthy runner-up for the award, but the Yankees had that game well in hand and the call didn’t affect the outcome. All it did was make everybody look like bit players in an Abbott and Costello routine.
Cuzzi’s call, on the other hand, was a game changer. The Twins very likely would have taken the lead and evened the series. Still not convinced? Here’s the evidence.
Congratulations, Mr. Cuzzi!
Oh, wait. Apparently, Mr. Cuzzi is vacationing in Tampa at the Steinbrenner compound. Accepting the award on his behalf is his optometrist.
Enjoy your award, Mr. Cuzzi.