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The sports world exploded with emotion Saturday night, Oct. 26, when the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series after a controversial obstruction call by third base umpire Jim Joyce. Seemingly everyone with a television and a basic knowledge of the sport of baseball soon took to social media to voice their opinions about what happened.
The Cardinals scratched out the win in the bottom of the ninth inning when Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throw to third base bounced into left field, giving Cardinals runner Allen Craig a chance to score. Only a few feet after leaving third base, Craig tripped over Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who had tried unsuccessfully to stop Saltalamacchia’s throw. Even though Craig was thrown out at the plate, the run counted because third base umpire Jim Joyce had called obstruction on Middlebrooks.
Despite furious arguments from Red Sox players and coaches, the call stood.
“… the baserunner has every right to go unobstructed to home plate, and, unfortunately for Middlebrooks, he was right there,” Joyce said in the postgame press conference, which can be found on mlb.com. “And there was contact, so he could not advance to home plate naturally.”
Red Sox fans will not quickly recover from the sting of that loss, but at the very least, I think that Major League Baseball (MLB) learned something very valuable after Game 3 — people still care.
According to Nielsen statistics listed in an article on Forbes.com, the 2013 World Series exceeded last year’s rating by 10 percent and viewership by 13 percent through the first two games. In other words, millions of people spent their time at the water cooler Monday morning not talking about football, but talking about baseball instead. In a world where fantasy-based versions of football are arguably more popular than reality-based versions of baseball, that is quite the accomplishment for the sport of baseball.
Another possible consequence of Joyce’s call is that it creates yet another opportunity for supporters of expanding the use of instant replay in baseball to plead their case.
The MLB has expanded its use of instant replay in recent years to a small degree, a move that I think is a step in the right direction. But ask a baseball fan to look back on the most memorable playoff series in recent memory, and many of them would involve controversial calls, such as the one made in this year’s World Series.
Many Baltimore Orioles fans can still remember watching Jeffrey Maier reach over the Yankee Stadium wall in 1996 and turn a harmless Derek Jeter fly ball into a home run, unseen by the umpire. I, for one, can still remember the anguish of watching my Chicago Cubs go down without a fight after Steve Bartman interfered with a player from his own team’s attempt to catch a fly ball in the 2003 National League Championship Series.
Joyce’s decision to call obstruction in this year’s World Series differed from those times. The call he made was correct.
All things considered, I would say Game 3 was a win-win result for the MLB. Not only did an umpire make the correct call with the game on the line, it showed just how much people still care about the game.