July 17, 2004

Hot Head. Last night's game featured perhaps the worst home plate umpiring I have ever seen. Matt Hollowell blew 30-40 pitches -- easily. I was noting a lot of them on my scorecard with a "?!" or "missed" or "blown" but it was happening so often, I got tired of doing it. He was inconsistent throughout the entire game, but he seemed to squeeze Pedro particularly tight. The box score shows that Jeff DaVanon walked on four pitches in the 2nd inning, but balls 1, 2 and 4 were obvious strikes.

Batters on both sides were annoyed, but it was Boston and David Ortiz who blew a gasket. Ortiz was called out on a pitch that was under his armpits -- it hadn't been called a strike for anyone all night -- and after being ejected, he went nuts.

Terry Francona (and Dale Sveum, Ron Jackson and Bill Haselman) did a damn good job of keeping Ortiz from charging Holloway. I think he would have slugged Hollowell if he had gotten loose. When he was back in the dugout, Ortiz threw two bats toward the plate. They came awfully close to hitting 3B umpire Mark Carlson and 1B umpire Bill Hohn. "I did something wrong," Ortiz said afterwards. "I apologize to the fans, the umpires and the manager."

Looking back over my scorecard at Ortiz's at-bat in the 3rd inning:

Ball 1
Ball 2 - My note says the ump blew this call; it was a strike.
Called strike 1 - This pitch was worse that the previous one but it was called a strike.

Ortiz just stood in the box looking completely befuddled, like he had no idea what the zone was. It was a complete guessing game. His next time up -- in the 5th -- he singled to right center on the first pitch so the ump didn't make any calls. Then came his AB in the 7th (where the first pitch, called a ball, should have been a strike).

Will Hollowell bear any blame for what happened? I doubt it. I can't recall seeing this guy call a game before -- I'm sure I have though (if you Google his name, you'll find he has been involved in several ejections in the last year) -- but he is in no way, shape or form, up to the standards [sic] of a major league umpire. There are roughly 250+ pitches thrown in every game and the plate ump will miss some of them, but when he misses several dozen, something is very wrong.

Pedro had his best velocity of the season, hitting anywhere from 94-96 in the first two innings. After Erstad doubled in the 4th, the next Anaheim batter to hit a fair ball was Erstad again, in the 6th. In between was: K, K, BB, K, K, K, K, BB. The first strikeout in that sequence was to DaVanon. Martinez threw five straight changeups before getting him looking with a fastball on the inside corner. Just cruel. ... Because he pitched the second game of the Angels series, Martinez will not face the Yankees next weekend in Boston. ... Tim Wakefield will pitch one of the games in Thursday's doubleheader against the Orioles. For the second game, Frank Castillo may be recalled from Pawtucket or Portland's Abe Alvarez could make his big league debut.

Two teams:
          AVG  R/G   OBP  WIN%

Team A .303 6.2 .376 .667 [108-54]
Team B .258 4.9 .344 .439 [ 71-91]
A is the Red Sox at Fenway; B is the club on the road. Art Martone has more.

Trade Talk: Jeff Horrigan writes: "According to multiple industry sources, the Red Sox have expressed tepid interest in acquiring Randy Johnson ... their chances of landing the Big Unit are being assessed at only 1-10 percent." But while rumors of a trade have slowed to a trickle, the Diamondbacks will be scouting the Sox's AAA and AA teams. ... Peter Gammons says Johnson will approve a trade to only the Yankees or Cardinals, although the AP says the Red Sox, Cubs and White Sox are on that list as well. ... Gordon Edes says the Cubs remain hopeful of trading for Nomar, but since that would be contingent on Boston getting Johnson, they feel their chances are "50-50." ... And the Yankees may make a bigger push for Johnson now that Mike Mussina is on the DL and Kevin Brown was hit hard in a AA rehab assignment.

Trot Nixon thinks MLB's new crackdown on excessive pine tar on batting helmets is a joke. "That's the biggest laughingstock [sic] I've ever heard of in my life. ... What next? When I slide headfirst and get dirt on the 'Boston' on my jersey, are they going to make me change my jersey? ... It would be a different story if John Henry or Larry Lucchino or Theo, the team ownership had come to me. And if the fans had say they didn't like it, that it was ugly, I'd pay attention to that. ... It's almost as if Bud Selig is saying, 'I'm bored, let's do something, let's stir up something.'"

Out Of Town: Chicago Tribune: "Nomar Talk Not Dead" ... Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle: "The Boston Red Sox were buried by the New England media after being swept at Yankee Stadium three weeks ago, and relations haven't improved much since then. ... Don't be fooled, A's fans. This is how it works in Boston. The Red Sox will win the wild-card race, comfortably, with a late-summer surge. That leaves only one option -- win the West outright -- for Oakland."

Wakefield/Colon at 10:05 pm.

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