ST. LOUIS — After pandemonium had broken out late Saturday night, Jake Peavy, angry, frustrated, lashed out at home plate umpire Dana DeMuth. The Red Sox starting pitcher in an unforgettable third game of the 2013 World Series wondered how DeMuth could possibly have a peaceful sleep after what he kept calling a joke of a call.
Well, it turned it out Peavy's manager, John Farrell, was the one left tossing and turning all night, ruminating over the obstruction call that already is Red Sox lore and second-guessing some of his own moves.
"Didn't sleep worth a damn," Farrell said Sunday.
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What followed was a crazy question in the news conference before Game 4. And then again it wasn't a crazy question.
"Over the last 10 years, this franchise has had a lot of success to erase a lot of years of bad memories. With the bizarre ending yesterday, one of the bizarre things that came out, that was the first time since 1986 that a World Series game has ended on an error. Do you worry about if your players follow that or you see that? And how it might affect their thoughts going into this game?"
"No, not at all," Farrell said. "I think the one thing that's been a strong characteristic of this team and the leadership within our club is the ability to put yesterday behind us, good, bad, indifferent."
It obviously was the correct answer by Farrell, evidenced by the fact that the Red Sox haven't lost more than three games in a row all season. Just as obviously, Farrell needs his team to believe it. After all, athletes, no matter how big or small the stage, crave normalcy. And nothing could be further from normalcy than talk about Bill Buckner and the Red Sox getting hosed on the Ed Armbrister-Carlton Fisk no-interference call from Game 3 of the 1975 World Series.
If all the crazy talk that the Red Sox had been ripped off by that obstruction call made by third base umpire Jim Joyce — not DeMuth —spilled into the clubhouse conversation beyond Saturday night, it would take the team's eye off the ultimate prize. That would be bad. And heaven forbid if the players linked the ruling to a ball going through Buckner's legs in 1986. That would be nuts.
Yet here's the thing. The science of baseball and the romance of the baseball are not necessarily one in the same, and sometimes their intersection takes on a life of its own. If an impassioned fan base and a gasoline-carrying media grab a hold of the narrative, history will be twisted and turned to fit the storyline. That's how talk of curses starts. That's why folks don't talk about the Red Sox blowing a three-run lead in Game 7 of 1986. They talk about Buckner in Game 6. They don't talk about how Reggie Jackson's home run in eighth inning actually provided the Yankees winning run in 1978. They talk about Bucky Bleeping Dent.
And when Red Sox fans have something as controversial as the first walk-off obstruction call in World Series history to lament, you've just got to wonder how powerful a distraction the narrative can become.
"The call was made correctly," Farrell said Sunday. "The issue personally that I have is with the type B obstruction. If there was the ability to have some measure in there in that portion of judgment, judgment on intent, because right now there is none. When Will Middlebrooks is lying on his stomach, it's hard to say that he was intending to impede that runner's progress.
"So the way the obstruction rule is set up right now, the baserunner can be the aggressor and beneficiary on both sides. They can seek out an infielder, run into him and benefit by advancing. So yesterday when there's no intent, given the heightened importance of the game at the time and where we are, you'd like to see possibly the type B portion of that rule addressed."
1. Farrell is right about the correct call being made. The umpires had all the answers after the game: Intent is not part of the rule. They pointed out that a baserunner establishes his own baseline [within three feet of either side of the line] and Allen Craig shouldn't have been called out for running outside it. They pointed out that a runner must continue to head to the next base, because if he just stands there and screams about obstruction or had been easily tagged out by 20 feet, the runner still can be ruled out. Clearly, it was a fairly close plate at the plate, although as Adam Wainwright pointed out when he saw DeMuth called Craig safe, he thought it was "the worst call in the history of the game."
2. It's terrible luck that Middlebrooks couldn't have done much of anything to prevent the call. Although it has nothing to do with the current rule, I will submit I'm not entirely convinced Middlebrooks didn't bring his feet up on purpose. Which leads us to …
3. There's probably no satisfactory solution for Farrell's argument. You start trying to assign intent on plays such as this, you're going to have nothing but subjective arguments. There would have been a riot over its determination Saturday night. It was a lousy way for the Red Sox to lose. It's not a perfect rule. But somebody has to have the right of way or else it isn't baseball. It's football.
Believe this much. When this series ends, there will be many who will point to the obstruction call as a determining factor in the outcome of the Series. And if this baby goes to Game 6 or 7, history will gravitate toward it more and more. Years down the road you'll even hear players talking about its impact. Like I said, the narrative can overtake the science.
You'll hear less and less about how Farrell failed to make a double switch when he brought in Brandon Workman to pitch in the eighth and left him hitting in the nine hole. David Ross should have been brought in to replace Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who had made the last out in the seventh hitting seventh. In one of the most pathetic things you'd ever see, Workman, in his first major league at-bat, was helpless against Trevor Rosenthal. More than that, Ross, a better catcher, might not have tried to force a throw to third base like Salty did. It was a throw Farrell refused to blame Salty on, however.
Although Farrell criticized himself immediately after the game about the lack of double switch, he was less contrite about it Sunday.
"We had Workman at the plate rather than David Ross against Rosenthal, who was throwing 100," Farrell said. "I wish someone could guarantee it different in the outcome, based on who's at the plate. I looked at that situation, between Workman and [Koji] Uehara, combining to give us three innings of work. I wasn't willing to let Koji go two full innings.
"How we got there, unfortunately, was with Workman at the plate. If we get through the inning, I think Rosenthal is obviously already out of the game. Knowing Koji is going out for one more inning on our side, I feel like we're in more of an advantageous spot. It didn't work out … I wasn't going to pinch hit for Workman with no guarantee that Mike Napoli drives one out of the ballpark."
Should Farrell have walked Jon Jay to load the bases after Craig's double in the ninth? He had walked Carlos Beltran in the eighth after Kolten Wong stole second base. Considering weak-hitting Pete Kozma was up next, wow, a strong argument could be made for it. There would have been an easy force out from a drawn-in infield at the plate with the chance of a double play at first.
"We walked Beltran in a situation where it didn't load the bases," Farrell said. "To walk the bases loaded and back Koji, a strikeout pitcher, into a corner, where he has no room to maneuver inside a given at-bat, I didn't want to do it."
So we were left with obstruction, pandemonium and history to be rewritten by the passions of the game.