- Jim Caple, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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CHICAGO -- Hear ye, hear ye. The People's Court is now in session with the honorable Second Guesser presiding to hear testimony in the matter of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California, North America et al v. Doug Eddings.
The Angels shall call their first witness, Josh Paul, the Angels' 30-year-old third-string catcher who had taken the field when starter Jose Molina left the game in the eighth inning. Mr. Paul, in your words, could you kindly explain what happened on the play in question when an apparent inning-ending third strike resulted in the batter reaching first base and all hell breaking loose?
"I caught the ball. ... If you block a ball in the dirt for strike three, the umpire usually calls, 'No catch, no catch, no catch.' And he didn't say that. I caught it.''
Mr. A.J. Pierzynski, the batter on the scene and a veteran catcher himself, will now submit his expert opinion.
"Not every umpire does that. There's no protocol. The same thing happened to me in a game in San Francisco last year. I caught it, the umpire didn't say anything and I went out to the mound. Me and Jason Schmidt were talking and we look over and the guy was standing on first base. ...
"It was the same situation when Garret Anderson was up earlier in the game. I thought we caught him, I threw the ball around and the umpire said it hit the ground. It was a foul tip.''
Thank you, Mr. Pierzynski. The Angels will now submit a videotape of the defendant, Mr. Eddings, raising his fist in his role as home plate umpire. Mr. Mike Scioscia, the manager of the Angels and a former longtime catcher himself, will take us through the video.
"It was a swing, our catcher caught it, Doug Eddings called him out, and somewhere along the line because the guy ran to first base, he altered the call. He called him out, and that's what's disappointing. When an umpire calls a guy out and you're the catcher -- and I've caught my share of them -- he's out. He didn't call 'swing,' he rang him up with his fist and said, 'You're out.' "
Thank you, Mr. Scioscia. It appears that Mr. Kelvim Escobar, the Angels pitcher who had a direct view of the proceedings, would like to say something.
"I was right there, how many feet away. I didn't see if the ball hit the dirt, but I saw the umpire point and call him out. That's all I needed to see.''
Your rebuttal, Mr. Eddings?
"My interpretation is that was my 'strike three' mechanic, when it's a swinging strike. If you watch, that's what I do the whole entire game. ... I did not say, 'No catch.' If you watch the replay, you do watch me -- as I'm making the mechanic -- I'm watching Josh Paul, so I'm seeing what he's going to do. I'm looking directly at him while I'm watching Josh Paul. That's when Pierzynski ran to first base.''
Hmmmm. That was rather vague, Mr. Eddings. Perhaps your supervisor, Mr. Rich Reiker, could elaborate. Did Mr. Paul catch the pitch or did the ball hit the dirt?
"We've looked it at the video in the truck. We've blown it up. I'm sure some of you have that angle. We have some technology and [crew chief] Jerry Crawford saw it, also, the whole crew, and there was definitely a change of direction there. At this point I would say, at best, it's inconclusive. ...
"And since Doug did not say that the batter was out, play continues and that ball is alive.''
"He did say he was out. He did. That's the whole thing. He pointed to indicate the batter swung and then he raised his hand to call him out.''
Sit down, Mr. Scioscia! You're out of order. We must hear from some other witnesses first.
Mr. Bengie Molina -- the Chicago White Sox manager, Mr. Ozzie Guillen, referred to you before the game as the best catcher in baseball. How do you interpret the rule? If an umpire raises his fist, does that mean he's calling the batter out, or merely indicating that he swung at the pitch?
"I thought when he raises his hand like that, he was out. Now, I don't know what the rule is. I don't know what to think.''
Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Molina. Yes, Mr. Pierzynski? You would like to interject with a further opinion on how a catcher should handle that situation?
"Yeah, tag him.''
Mr. Molina? Is Mr. Pierzynski correct? Given the closeness of the pitch, should Mr. Paul have simply tagged Mr. Pierzysnki?
"No. You're not going to tag the batter or throw to first if you know you caught the ball. No catcher would do that.''
How about you, Mr. Guillen? We have yet to hear from you. What did you see happen?
"I didn't see. My head was down, I was writing on my lineup card. All of a sudden I see the play and ask a couple of guys, 'What happened?' "
What about the replay? Did you see the replay?
"I'm not concerned about that. That's not my job. I saw a couple kids in my office looking at the replay. I told them, 'Get out of my office.' I don't want to talk about baseball right now. I don't need the controversy thing.''
Thank you for your candor, Mr. Guillen. Before the court reaches a verdict, would anyone else like to speak? Yes, Mr. Pierzynski?
"The bottom line is that call didn't win the game for us. Joe Crede still had to get that hit.''
Thank you, Mr. Pierzynski. That's a good point. And now the court is ready to issue its ruling.
Mr. Eddings, the People's Court finds you guilty. The first rule of umpiring is to make your calls clear to everyone and the video plainly shows that you did not. You raised your fist as if you were calling him out, but you said nothing. Had you given the Angels any indication at all that the pitch had not been caught, they would have had plenty of time to throw out the runner. No game, particularly one with such importance, should ever end on such a play. You are hereby sentenced to umpire the next two games in the outfield, and we can only hope that you make the right call if Jeffrey Maier is in the bleachers.
However, the Court finds Mr. Paul equally responsible. Mr. Paul, you could have saved this court a lot of time and expense by simply tagging Mr. Pierzynski, who surely gives you ample time. (No offense to you, Mr. Pierzynski, but you are rather slow. Maybe not Molina slow, but so slow that it's still puzzling as to why you tried stealing a base in Game 1.) You are hereby again relegated to the third-string role, and may you hope the Angels do not sign Yadier Molina.
Good day, gentlemen. For better or worse, your series is now tied. And I'm happy to report, you will now be in the jurisdiction of the Orange County court system.
Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," was published by Plume. It can be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.