The San Francisco Giants have been here before: facing the brutality of defeat due to extenuating circumstances that are totally out of their control. That’s not how the game of baseball was drawn up. America’s pastime wasn’t designed to be a sport where anonymous umpires glued to high-definition television screens halfway across the country and incompetent grounds crew members determine the outcome.
So it goes for the 2014 version of the orange and black.
The Giants’ 2-1 loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 6 was somewhat tolerable, given that replay did in fact indicate that Starling Marte was safe on a bang-bang play at the plate. In 2013, the initial call would have sent the game into extra innings, but 2014 is a much more vicious animal, one of which continues to ram its gnarly head into the gut of the playoff hopeful-Giants.
San Francisco’s bitter 4-3 road loss against the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this month was similarly frustrating. Rookie second baseman Joe Panik was initially ruled safe on a close play at first base on a slow infield grounder with two outs and a man on base in the top of the ninth inning. Replay clearly should have been deemed inconclusive, but the unnamed umpiring crew in New York overturned the original call, sending the Giants to the showers.
In a year where the National League is infinitely mediocre, decisions like these could severely alter the landscape of the MLB playoffs.
For the Giants, chalking losses due to the uncontrollable element has become a regular thing. It’s arguable that no team in either league has suffered a defeat this season as grisly and borderline unacceptable as the Giants’ 2-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
“TarpGate” is the kind of stuff that challenges the grittiness of individual ball players, especially in a pennant race. The Giants were essentially forbidden from having a chance to come back in the middle of a game against an inferior opponent because of an inept grounds crew, which miserably failed to effectively unroll a tarp onto the infield during a 20-minute downpour in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The catastrophic inefficiency of the Cubs’ grounds crew ultimately turned what should have been a 45-minute rain delay into a four hour and 34-minute debacle. To put that into perspective, the longest nine-inning game in MLB history lasted four hours and 45 minutes. The outrageous rain delay induced by the Cubs’ ground crew fell just 11 minutes short of that mark before crew chief Hunter Wendelstedt waved the game off.
The Giants have reportedly protested the game’s outcome, although Rule 4.12(a) leaves no doubt that Wendelstedt made the right call; it just wasn’t a logical decision.
San Francisco has been hard-pressed for wins ever since the middle of June. Their disgusting defeat against the Cubs on Tuesday night was certainly meaningful, but it could have been avoided if Buster Posey came through with a clutch two-out hit with Angel Pagan on second base in the top-half of the fifth inning when the downpour began.
Posey had a chance to knock in a run to narrow the deficit to 2-1, which would have likely resulted in the game being suspended. The rainstorm happened in a hurry. Even if Posey had coaxed a walk from Cubs’ starter Tsuyoshi Wada, Wendelstedt would have had no choice but to call a delay, which would have left the game in the balance. It would not have been “official.”
Posey has been average at best for the Giants all season. If the orange and black fail to make the playoffs, Posey will be more to blame than overturned replay calls on the 27th out and “TarpGate.” The Giants’ $160 million player has slashed a .278/.338/.422 batting line with 13 home runs and 58 RBIs in 464 plate appearances this season.
Posey’s .225 batting average with two outs and RISP is a ghastly inefficient figure for a player of his magnitude. He didn’t get the job done against the Cubs on Tuesday night, and it ultimately cost his team a chance at a win.