The Toronto Star’s Bob Elliot asks us to consider umpire Phil Cuzzi’s role in determining who finished 4th in the AL East two years ago.
The Blue Jays no longer hold top spot in the Phil Cuzzi admiration society.
That would be the ever-growing club for teams — and players — who wish Cuzzi had taken a FedEx job, worked at Home Depot or pumped gas for a living, rather than becoming an umpire.
In a span of seven hitters, the St. Louis Cardinals lost their composure, their manager and their No. 2 hitter on their way to losing a 2-1 decision to the Houston Astros yesterday.
For much of the day Cuzzi’s strike zone looked like one of those shots of tropical storms on the weather network … constantly moving. And on one checked swing after another Cuzzi made the call, almost as emphatically as Leslie Neilson, rather than checking with the base ump.
With two out in the eighth and the tying run on base, Cuzzi called a high pitch a strike to Jim Edmonds. Edmonds started to first, then retreated and confronted Cuzzi. Gonzo.
“I wasn’t trying to show him up, I wasn’t loud, I was trying to be professional,” Edmonds said later in the clubhouse. “All I asked was, ‘Where was that pitch? Did you call that pitch a strike?’
“Then Cuzzi said, ‘Don’t you (expletive) come back here and question me.’ ”
Obviously Cuzzi, of Nutley, N.J., didn’t see the Atlanta Braves-Astros 18-inning game a week ago when Julio Franco tossed his bat and acted like a petulant three-year-old rather than a 47-year-old. Plate ump Gary Cedarstrom didn’t eject Franco.
The Jays found their dislike for Cuzzi on September 22, 2003, when he ejected Roy Halladay in a late September start against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for throwing a pitch high and inside. Now they have company.
Phil Cuzzi was absolutely wrong. Unless you’re nursing a gunshot wound, you can’t eject a player in that situation. It’s putting yourself into the game in a way that a umpire never should do. Jim Edmonds didn’t lay hands on Cuzzi, he didn’t bump him, he didn’t delay the game in an untoward fashion. He was profane for 10 seconds, and that was all. Cuzzi has to appreciate the situation and show restraint.
This doesn’t even consider the merits of the matter. Cuzzi’s strike call on the 3-1 pitch to Edmonds was obscene, just the most blatant in a long series of bad ball/strike calls he made during his day. He’d been hearing about his zone all day from both teams, and had even ejected Tony La Russa an inning before. At some point, if everyone thinks you’re wrong, don’t you have to consider the possibility that you are?
Phil Cuzzi embarrassed the game yesterday, and we’re all the worse for it.
Cuzzi’s strike zone–someone want to check for me if “Cuzzi” is Italian for “Gregg”?–played a big part in the 2-1 game, helping the two fourth starters work from ahead in the count and putting hitters on the defensive all day.