Red Sox defeat Angels, thanks in part to blown call

Major League Baseball umpire cap
Fool's cap?

The Boston Red Sox defeated the Los Angeles Angels tonight to advance to the American League championship series against the Tampa Bay Rays. One of the key moments of the game came in the top of the 9th inning, when Erick Aybar missed a squeeze bunt and stranded Reggie Willits between third base and home.

Boston catcher Jason Varitek ran up the line after Willits. He lunged at Willits to apply the tag and tumbled toward the ground. As umpire Tim Welke was calling Willits out, Varitek landed and the ball popped out of his mitt.

The play was shown repeatedly on the TBS broadcast, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued for a bit before returning to the dugout.

So was the call right? I called a friend who’s an umpire on the NCAA circuit in northern California, and he had no doubt the umpire blew it. To record an out, the fielder must have control of the ball, tag the runner AND make a voluntary release of the ball.

No way did Varitek release that ball voluntarily.

Did the call affect the outcome of the game? Certainly. Did it deprive the Angels of a victory? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know if Willits, given second life, would have scored. The Angels will have a long, bitter winter to contemplate what might have been.

4 thoughts on “Red Sox defeat Angels, thanks in part to blown call

  1. Hey…I just did a google search on voluntary release varitek, and your and my blog posts were 2 of the 3 relevant results in the top 10. There was also a discussion board thread about this.

    I went to professional baseball umpire school 14 years ago, and I recall that the voluntary release applies to a tag as well as a catch. But, the rule book doesn’t confirm this. It only uses the wording voluntary release with respect to the catch. At umpire school, I was given a separate manual of rule interpretations and I’m sure this is in there, but haven’t looked yet. However, maybe the way they’re interpreting this rule has changed over the years.

    If you hear anymore on this, I’d be interested to hear about it. I’ll be checking back here.

  2. THANKS for the info. I tried finding the MLB rule book online last night; It’s on the MLB site, sorta, chopped up into a bunch of PDFs.

    I’ll be scouring the wires for the definitive word on this matter. “Defininitive” may be overstating it. This call likely will be debated for some time to come.

  3. Dave Campbell was just on “Mike and Mike in the Morning” on ESPN radio, and he feels that the call was wrong. He referred to the existence of the “case book”, which is the manual I was talking about. Hopefully this will result in ESPN researching this further and maybe there will be a “definitive” statement.

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