Tim McClelland, MLB Umpire
I must confess up front that I’m not a big fan of Major League Baseball (MLB) umpires. What I dislike most all is that MLB allows each umpire to define what he thinks the strike zone should be for any given game. I watch a lot of baseball and I’m so sick of seeing batters screwed out of an at-bat because of a strike being called on a pitch that never touched any part of the plate. It didn’t take catchers long to figure out that an umpire will give you a strike if you just move your glove a little to the side or up or down. Another thing that really bothers me is that a player is not allowed to show-up an umpire, which is fine; however, it is perfectly okay for an umpire to show-up a player. A perfect example is the excessive third strike call. Is that really necessary?
I understand umpires are a necessary evil and for the most part they do a good job calling plays in the field. Although with instant replay we are seeing how many times calls are made incorrectly, many times in game changing situations. In this post I want to focus on the “blown call king”; Tim McClelland.
If you do a Google search on the worse blown calls in baseball you will find several top ten lists. In each version, our featured umpire has earned three spots.
The Pine Tar Episode
George Brett, center, is restrained after his bat, held by umpire Tim McClelland, right, who ruled the bat illegal
McClelland’s first entry occurred on July 24, 1983; yes he has been doing this for a long time. This of course is the famous Pine Tar incident during a game the Royals were playing the Yankees. The short version is George Brett hit a game winning home run. Yankee manager, Billy Martin protested that the pine tar on Brett’s bat extended further than18 inches from the knob. After a short umpire conference, McClelland confirmed that the pine tar extended higher up the bat than allowed, finding 24 inches of pine tar on the bat. As a result of this judgment, and at the insistence of Billy Martin, McClelland nullified Brett’s home run and called him out. This concluded the game and resulted in a Yankee victory. One minor problem; the rules dictate that the only proper punishment for breaking this pine tar regulation is the removal of that particular bat from the game. In the aftermath of this controversial umpiring decision, the Royals lodged an official protest, which was subsequently upheld by American League President, Lee MacPhail. Pine tar which is used for gripping the bat has never been shown to alter a bat’s hitting characteristics. McClelland was officially deemed incorrect for ejecting Brett and canceling his home run. Finally, it was ordered that the game be re-played, beginning after the Brett home run. When the game resumed a month later, the Royals again won 5-4. Tim McClelland had demonstrated his utter ignorance of the rules.
A Call the Padres Will Never Forget
Let’s skip ahead to 2007 and Tim McClelland’s second entry on the top ten blown calls. We can only imagine how many
2007 Rockies vs Padres Play-in Game
more potential entries there were since the 1983 Pine Tar incident. In the 163rd game of the 2007 season, the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres played a one game tie-breaker to see who would be the Wild Card team representing the National League. In the bottom of the 13th inning, with the Rockies down 8-6 to the Padres, outfielder Matt Holliday hit a triple to tie the game at 8-8. With no outs and Holliday on third, the Padres intentionally walked Todd Helton to bring the more average Jamey Carroll to bat. Carroll hits a line drive to right field, which was caught by the Padres’ Brian Giles.
After the catch, Holliday tagged up at third and tried to beat Giles’ throw to home. The throw was on target and landed in front of Padres’ catcher Michael Barrett, who blocked the plate and applied the tag to the sliding Holliday. Then, everyone’s favorite umpire, Tim McClelland, made the delayed safe call, resulting in the 9-8 Rockies’ victory and their entrance into the postseason. Unfortunately for the Padres and their fans, replays show that Holliday clearly never touched the plate. This would have extended the game, and the Rockies may not have made it to the playoffs. The Rockies made it through the first round, beating the Phillies, and we will never know what may have happened if the call had been made correctly.
How Do You Miss This Call?
Moving onto the 2009 American League Championship Series. During the game between the New York Yankees and the
Horrible call 2009 ALCS
Los Angeles Angels, McClelland really demonstrated why he is the “king of blown calls”. To get warmed up our boy missed a call with Nick Swisher tagging up on third base. McClelland ruled Swisher out for leaving third base too soon after a fly out when it appeared otherwise. Not only did the replay show that Swisher didn’t leave early, it also showed that McClelland wasn’t even looking at Swisher when he left the bag. It was such a blatantly bad call that not even McClelland could say why he missed it
“I’m not sure I believe the replay, because in my heart I had him leaving too soon, but the replays showed that he didn’t,” McClelland said.
It gets better; McClelland blew an obvious call on what should have been a double play at third base in the fifth inning. In the top of the fifth innings of a game, Melky Cabrera hit a ball back to Angel’s pitcher Darren Oliver with runners on second and third. Oliver threw home to catch Jorge Posada in a run-down between third and home. During the play, Robinson Cano came from second to take third but was standing off of the bag (see photo) for some reason. Angel’s catcher Mike Napoli ran Posada down around third, and, seeing Cano off the bag, tagged him then Posada who was also off of the base. This should have led to a double play, but McClelland called Cano safe at third in a play that was ruled as the worst call in history at the time. After the game, McClelland said: “[The replay] showed that Cano was off the bag when he was tagged. I did not see that for whatever reason.” The reason; maybe the reason is that you are incompetent! When a veteran umpire like McClelland shows a complete ignorance of baseball’s rules, baseball fans everywhere should be horrified.
What actually triggered the writing of this post was McClelland’s blown calls during the Yankees/Red Sox game on 9/25. Boston’s Dustin Pedroia was ruled by first-base umpire and crew chief Tim McClelland to have beaten third
Girardi was ejected by McClelland
baseman Ramiro Pena’s throw with one out and nobody on in a game tied at 4. Replays showed that Pedroia was out. Nick Swisher, who was playing first base in the 10th inning — and Girardi weren’t happy with McClelland’s reaction toward Swisher after the play. Girardi was ejected by McClelland. Said Girardi: “Pedroia was clearly out, Swish was clearly safe on the double-play ball. I wasn’t happy about it.”
In the third inning, Swisher was called out by McClelland at first base on a double-play ball that replays showed was also an incorrect call. Maybe McClelland’s reaction to Swisher in the 10th innings was driven by quilt. On second thought, I don’t believe McClelland ever feels guilty about any of the many mistakes he has made.
If there is a poster boy for instant replay, this guy is definitely it. There should at least be a league official in a video booth who can quickly overrule an obvious mistake. For more on my thoughts regarding instant replay, check out all my posts regarding instant replay.
Thanks to MLB for having the insight to leave McClelland of the post season roster. He has embarrassed baseball enough over the past 28 years.