Another Jeffrey Maier moment in the Bronx, but 17 runners on base?

Posted on October 10th, 2009 – 8:16 AM
By La Velle

I was in Yankee Stadium in 1996 when Derek Jeter sent a drive to right that Baltimore outfielder Tony Tarasco thought he had a chance to catch.

As he reached up at the wall, the glove of some kid named Jeffrey Maier reached down and caught the ball. Richie Garcia, the the umpire down the right field line that night, ruled  it a home run. I joked in the Kansas City Star the next day that Maier played a single into a homer (a slight exaggeration). 

Tarasco went nuts. But the call wasn’t changed. After the game, Garcia entered the media room and said, “Only I can get in trouble in right  field.”

Exactly 13 years later, Garcia isn’t alone. Another outfield ump has blown a call. I’ll give credit to Garcia for facing the music. But Phil Cuzzi was nowhere to be found last night to explain how he blundered the call on Joe Mauer’s liner down the left field line. Crew chief Tim Tschida, St. Paul’s own, appeared instead.

What’s the point in having six umps if they are going to make mistakes, especially on such an obvious call? And can instant replay be expanded?

But I’m done with that. Folks, the real culprits on Friday were the Twins, who had 17 runners on base but couldn’t score more than three runs. A.J. Burnett walked five and hit two batters himself and was set up for a big blow that never came.

And the 11th inning, in which the Twins loaded the bases with no outs, will go down as one of the worst moments in club history, Delmon Young lined one right at Mark Teixeira for the first out but the other two at-bats were awful. Where are the Midre Cummings or Jose Offermans to get a pinch hit when you need one? Food for thought as the Twins work on their 2010 roster.

What also can’t be overlooked is that Joe Nathan fell apart in the ninth. He opened with three sliders for balls to A-Rod, then when he had no choice but to come in with a fastball, he grooved one. That’s five earned runs in two appearances against the Yankees for Nathan, both of which ended in walk-offs.

The Twins said the right things after the game about playing in crucial games in September and knowing they can bounce back. That’s what they are embracing as they try not to get swept on Sunday.

But they don’t have the power, on the mound or the lineup, to compete with the Yankees. That means they can’t blow scoring chances and can’t fall behind 3-0 to A-Rod in the ninth inning.  

The Twins work out today at 10 am, followed by interview room sessions at around 11:30 that I’m pretty sure will be televised on the MLB Network. There should be updates on Matt Tolbert’s injury and Joe Mauer’s admission that he’s not feeling too good right now has to be a concern.

Carl Pavano will talk about facing the Yankees, the team he had four hugely unproductive years for.

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