The Boston Red Sox closer also put Phil Cuzzi into a figurative headlock, hauling the home-plate umpire over the ropes as Boston's tragic number fell to one.
Here is just part of Papelbon's comments concerning Cuzzi (Read more at the Boston Globe):
"Really rough tonight, considering the fact that I'm not only pitching against the hitter, I'm pitching against the umpire," Papelbon said. "When you've got to do that against this lineup, you'll never be successful.'' [...]
Cuzzi’s strike zone forced Papelbon to give in to the hitter and throw pitches more on the plate than he was comfortable doing.
"When you've got to do that, you're in a lose-lose situation," Papelbon said. "Just call the game. There's 27 outs. Call the game. Don't let the crowd influence you, don't let the hitter influence you, don't call the pitch where the catcher catches it. Stay focused for 27 outs and call the game."
Papelbon has a point if you take a look at MLB.com's pitch data for the one-out at-bat by Alex Rodriguez, which went to a full count before resulting in a walk that loaded the bases for Cano.
You can't see Papelbon's third pitch, but it was also called a ball and is located right under the No. 6 circle. So he does have a right to be annoyed that some of his trademark bottomfeeding nibbles weren't all created equal in the eyes of Sunday night's umpire.
But Cuzzi was also nothing if not consistently constrictive. Check out the chart from Bill Hall's at-bat against Mariano Rivera in the top of the ninth inning, which also resulted in a RBI single that recorded a blown save for Papelbon's New York counterpart.
Though he was a little more outside than Papelbon's offerings, the greatest closer of all time wasn't getting any benefit of the doubt on borderline calls, either:
The Joy of Sox takes a much more detailed look at Cuzzi's calls over both sides of the ninth inning and concludes that baseball should install tennis-style robots to judge the strike zone.
It's not hard to see why Papelbon held a press conference with his brain set on blast. He's had a frustrating season (eight blown saves) and faces an uncertain offseason with his final year of arbitration approaching. The Red Sox were on the verge of sweeping the Yankees and it must have been tough to see their emotional comeback disappear into the New York night.
That said, Papelbon has faced spotty umpiring before and he'll face it again. Papelbon has always had a problem with acting like he's been there before and this is just the latest example. Cuzzi didn't have it out for either team or either pitcher, so Papelbon's decision to play the role of New England martyr didn't have much evidence to back it up.
- Phil Cuzzi