Calling all umpires

Moe Drabwosky

Moe Drabowsky is one of four players, all pitchers, who were Kansas City Royals and Kansas City Athletics. Dave Wickersham, who won 12 games for the A’s in 63 and 19 for the Tigers in ’64, Aurelio Monteagudo and Ken Sanders were the others. Drabowsky was born in Poland in 1935; his family immigrated to the U.S. before World War II. Drabowsky attended Trinity College in Connecticut and was signed by Lennie Merullo, 97, the last surviving member of the last Cubs World Series team in 1945. Drabowsky was renowned for his practical jokes — in Jim Bouton’s Ball Four he’s credited with using the bullpen phone to call in an order to a Chinese restaurant. In Hong Kong. Drawbosky won Game 1 of the ’66 Series for Baltimore, entering in the third inning with the bases loaded and a 4-1 lead. He walked in one run, but then fanned 11 in the next 6.2 innings of a 5-2 win. The two runs the Dodgers scored off starter Dave McNally were their only runs of the series, Drabowsky starting a streak of 33 scoreless innings. Drabowsky was with the A’s from ’62-65, going 14-32 with a 4.24 ERA, pitching 52 games in relief and 51 as a starter. Drabowsky was taken from Baltimore in the expansion draft by the Royals and won their first game, pitching a scoreless 12th inning on opening day 1969 against the Twins. In all with the Royals, he was 12-11 with a 3.03 ERA and 13 saves before being traded back to the Orioles to win a second World Series with them in 1970. Drabowsky pitched for eight teams in a 17-season career, giving up Stan Musial’s 3,000th hit while a Cub and losing the last game Early Wynn won, his 300th, while with the A’s. Drabowsky finished 88-105 with a 3.71 ERA and 55 saves. He died at age 70 in 2006.

Major League Baseball will reportedly add a seventh umpire for the seven-game playoffs series this fall, which is just what the postseason needs: one more chance for a blown call.

Umpires are apparently like wild cards to MLB’s postseason, in that you can’t have enough.

The extra ump will be used in the replay booth, which is a waste. Just watch the replays on the telecast and let the broadcasters make the call. Or do what it seems like they do on NFL telecasts: wait for an ex-umpire to be hired as the replay analyst and let him make the call.

You have to give video replay credit where it’s due: it’s bringing the country closer to full employment one ex-official on television at a time.

This is Bud Selig’s last postseason and he might be lucky to be remembered for presiding over the PED scandal and the tie All-Star Game instead of all the bad calls in October. Because bad playoff decisions have been a lot more common than Royals’ playoff appearances, from the infield pop fly against the Braves that wasn’t to Joe Mauer’s double that wasn’t to A.J. Pierzynski’s strikeout that wasn’t.

All these umpires, yet all these missed calls. It makes you wonder if we need less umpires rather than more.

On to the postseason.

  • Tuesday: Athletics at Royals: Is Kansas City better off with its current franchise or the one that left for Oakland after the 1967 season? The Royals went 29 years without making the playoffs; the Athletics seem as if they’ll go that long without winning a deciding game.
    Royals starter James Shields has a big-game reputation but a 4.98 postseason ERA; A’s starter Jon Lester has a 2.11 postseason ERA. But the A’s offense lost 71 points of OPS from before the All-Star Game (.729) to after (.658), in part because of the player dealt (outfielder Yoenis Cespedes) to get Lester, in part because John Jaso (.767) never made it back from a concussion, in part because Brandon Moss hit 21 of his 25 home runs before the break.
    The A’s were 66-40 on July 29, 22-34 in the final two months-plus. And they’re 1-13 this century in potential series-clinching games. Either they’re due or they just don’t.
  • Wednesday: Giants at Pirates: Maybe Barry Bonds can throw out the first ball, since these are the two teams he led to October frustration. At least he hit for the Giants in the postseason, even if it was artificially enhanced (13-for-66, 1 home run, .197 average for the Pirates; 24-for-83, 8 homers .289 for the Giants).
    Giants starter Madison Bumgarner hasn’t pitched in more than a week since they were eliminated four days before the Pirates, and has two World Series wins. His opponent, Edinson Volquez, has made one postseason start, for Cincinnati in 2010, and got just five outs.
    But Volquez is a lot like last year’s wild-card hero Francisco Liriano: a reclamation project made whole. The Pirates helped lower Liriano’s ERA from 5.34 in 2012 to 3.02 in 2013 and Volquez’s from 5.71 in 2013 to 3.04 in 2014.
    Whatever the Pirates told Volquez is working: in his last three starts, he allowed 11 hits and an earned run in 21 innings, fanning 21.
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