In Major League Baseball's quest to maximize profit margins, ad revenues, and ratings points in the postseason, they've added a Wild Card round in each league in what amounts to a play-in game, as if this were college basketball. Now, I know Commissioner Allan "Bud" Selig isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed (he's in the dull tray with President Bush II), but not even he had any idea of what kind of chaos could come out of this Pandora's Box.
The first Wild Card game had some controversy late, and it soiled the reputation of Atlanta Braves fans, who are normally some of the classiest in sports.
Here's the deal. Home 8th, Atlanta down, 6-3 to St. Louis. Runners on 1st & 2nd, one out. Rookie Andrelton Simmons lifts a fly ball to left. Another rookie, St. Louis shortstop Pete Kozma, ventures out to shallow left to make a play. Suddenly, he veers to his left, and the ball drops behind him. Everyone's safe, right?
Wrong. For all the wrong reasons.
Umpire Sam Holbrook, manning the left field line in this game (extra umps are deployed in the postseason), signalled that he was invoking the "infield fly" rule, which meant that Simmons was out. However, Holbrook's call was so late, the runners advanced to 2nd & 3rd. Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez came out to argue, and ultimately filed a protest. Meanwhile, irate Braves fans, obviously over-intoxicated by this point, began pelting the field with debris, forcing a delay of 18 minutes. Atlanta ultimately lost the game, an ignominious end to Chipper Jones' career after 19 seasons.
After the game, Major League Baseball denied the protest, claiming Holbrook made the correct call, and not only that, but the "infield fly" is a judgment call and cannot be protested. St. Louis now moves on to play NL East champ Washington in the Division Series.
Holbrook gets a Dunce Cap for making a poor judgment at precisely the wrong time. There will be conspiracy theorists, especially wearing Braves colors, who might think there was something screwy about the timing of the call. Dunce Caps also are being handed out to those anonymous, excessively soused Braves fans for exacerbating the situation with their show of immaturity and disrespect. They gave their team a black eye, but Holbrook gave MLB another for his brain fart. The rulebook clearly states that an "infield fly" must be called immediately. Holbrook didn't do that. There was at least a time lapse of a few seconds before Holbrook made his call. Fellow ump Jeff Kellogg, working home plate, was struck by a bottle while in a conference with Gonzalez and the other umpires during the delay.
Well, I said I could be wrong in my postseason predictions. How was I to know I'd be wrong right off the bat? Oy..........