Monday, October 17, 2005

Far From Great One

Jeff Blair wrote in today’s Globe & Mail that Phil Cuzzi is “Known as one of the more erratic umpires in the game and possessed of a hair-trigger temper." Cross-town rivals at the Star went a step further, dubbing him notoriously trigger-happy.” The Sun’s Bob Elliot put meat on the meme, reminiscing about Cuzzi’s 2003 ejection of Roy Halladay. And Bernie Miklasz of the Card’s hometown paper dubbed Cuzzi “comically incompetent,” while laying ultimate blame for St. Louis’s collapse at the feet of their silent sluggers. Kevin Davidoff is one of many to complain that rent-a-cops barred reporters from questioning the on-field officials after the game.

So if writers feel the record on Cuzzi’s performance is so clear-cut, why is he officiating a playoff game – or any game? And wasn’t the QuesTec system supposed to both remediate poor officiating, and screen-out inconsistent officials before the post-season? Even Joe Morgan agreed these were legitimate uses.

As with all matters to do with baseball, I suspect a union is behind the league’s inability to make headway on an important issue. Wouldn’t it be great if fans and players alike had access to the QuesTec results? Then it wouldn’t just be a matter of grading officials by their accuracy, but of understanding their biases (you would suspect that some umps register as consistently generous or stingy on certain pitches). Besides, you suspect guys like Cuzzi are using the CDR's they get after-game as AOL coasters.

This season marked the Cuzzi’s rookie performance in a League Championship Series, although he has officiated for six years in the big leagues. One hopes he won’t make a return appearance until some anger-management training is completed. Strangely, he is identified as umpire number 99, although he is unlikely to join the other six league umpires to have their numbers retired. Past jersey retirements have meant little, however, as only Jackie Robinson’s 42 is officially off-limits.


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