When an umpire becomes the center of attention, especially at a critical point, it makes for bad baseball. Ignoring this axiom, Phil Cuzzi turned the ninth inning at AT&T Park into his own Sunday afternoon special.
You might remember Cuzzi from such follies as the 2009 American League playoffs. Well, the man in blue came back for more scene stealing — this time from the San Francisco Giants — and now another team must live with an umpire's mistake.
The Giants, who had rallied against closer Francisco Rodriguez to tie the score, put runners at second and third with one out. Freddy Sanchez(notes) hit a chopper to David Wright(notes) near third base and Travis Ishikawa(notes) broke for home.
After the game, Blanco said the Mets had gotten away with one.
"He was safe all the way," Blanco admitted. "Good for us."
Beyond honesty, it's not surprising Blanco would throw Cuzzi under the bus like that. He was still fuming over the ump's other perceived transgressions.
Earlier in the ninth, Rodriguez had stared down Cuzzi after a disputed pitch to Andres Torres(notes) that was called a ball. That, plus a verbal complaint from the Mets dugout, prompted Cuzzi to shout at, and gesture toward, Rodriguez.
That prompted Mets manager Jerry Manuel to charge from the dugout and defend Rodriguez.
"If anybody has to keep a cool head, it has to be the umpires that are judging and making decisions out there," Manuel said. "I thought he kind of lost it a little bit."
Cuzzi's histrionics definitely ratcheted-up the tension level.
"I hope somebody sees that and punishes him," Blanco said. "That's one thing that [should] never happen in a baseball game. It doesn't matter how mad you are, it should not happen."
Cuzzi defended himself to a pool reporter.
"I was just very exaggerated in saying the pitch was outside," Cuzzi said. "It's as simple as that."
Cuzzi's explanation of the call on Ishikawa made little sense.
Cuzzi called Ishikawa out, saying afterward that he thought he saw his leg fly up, preventing him from ever touching the plate. Video replays, however, clearly confirmed that Ishikawa was safe and the game should have ended right there.
"He made a decent attempt to put the tag on him," Cuzzi said of Blanco. "That's what it looked [like] to me, and that's why I called him out."
Well, as long as the attempt was "decent."
They can send certain major league players down to the minors if they're not performing well. They should be able to do the same for certain umpires.
* * *
Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave