Angels fans are bananas over the strange call by umpire Doug Eddings that gave the White Sox an extra out to win last night's game. If you missed it, the Angels believed they struck out the final batter in the ninth inning when the batter swung at strike three and missed. The umpire raised his fist in the classic strikeout call, the catcher tossed away the ball, the Angels ran off the field happy, and the batter hung his head and slogged toward the dugout. But wait -- the batter then changed course and ran to first, and Eddings informed the Angels that in this case his raised fist did not indicate an out. He ruled that the pitch had hit the ground, requiring a tag or a throw to first base to complete the strikeout. It'll be argued forever, but radio sports guy and blogger Brooks Melchior has a more personal take and isn't surprised that Eddings is at the center of a storm:
When you're a minor league baseball announcer, as I was for eight seasons, the umpires are golden for one reason: They have transportation on the road and you don't. So while I was beating the bushes, I befriended many an umpire, and Eddings was among them. In fact, he was probably my best friend among the umps.
We spent plenty of postgames chasing skirts and throwing back Jim Beam shots in places like Providence, Toledo, and Syracuse. Doug was a lot of fun to hang out with, which helped make him a very popular guy in the baseball/umpiring community - and was one of the reasons why he was destined to make the major leagues - unlike most of his minor league peers.
But being promoted to the major leagues as an umpire shouldn't be a popularity contest. And with that in mind, Eddings is an example of what is wrong with the umpire business. He was given an opportunity based more on his connections and personality than ability.
Doug was always far from perfect on the field, even in the minor leagues. Witnessing major protestation over one of his calls is nothing new, and most of the time, the senior members of his crew have to be the ones to step in and mitigate the damage - which is what we saw last night in Chicago.