Previously on What the umpire saw: Derek Jeter tries to steal third base with no outs in the first inning. While the throw beat him to the base, his hand touches third before the tag. Umpire Marty Foster calls him out. “I was told I was out because the ball beat me, and he didn’t have to tag me,” Jeter alleges, and crew chief John Hirschbeck, who called Jeter “the classiest person I’ve been around,” promises an investigation….
When last we saw Monday’s umpiring crew, things were looking bleak for Marty Foster. Hirschbeck had refused to make him available to the media, and Derek Jeter was adamant in his critique. I blamed Foster for the bad call at third, and Cliff Corcoran slammed the umps for four bad calls. The men in blue were on the wrong end of a lot of scorn.
On Tuesday, though, this story took a turn for the bizarre. With the same crew working the Mets-Dodgers game, New York reporters had their second crack at Hirschbeck and Foster. Again, Hirschbeck declined to make Foster available to the media. The beleaguered umpire refuses to face the fire. Meanwhile, Hirschbeck has apparently changed his story after speaking with Foster.
According to the 25-year veteran, Foster told him that Jeter was wrong. According to Hirschbeck, Foster said, “The ball beat you, and I had him tagging you.”
To reporters, Hirschbeck defended Foster without reneging on his praise of Jeter. “I don’t see a problem with that,” Hirschbeck said. “Sometimes when tempers flare, you don’t hear everything that’s said.”
Tempers, though, didn’t flare until after Foster allegedly told Jeter that he would be out as long as the ball beat him regardless of the tag. Meanwhile, prior to the game — and prior to Hirschbeck’s discussion with the media — Jim McKean, an MLB umpire supervisor who liaises between MLB and the umpires, spoke with the crew. Do I sense a conspiracy afoot?
Right now, this story is just plan weird. Two members of the Yankees — their widely respected captain and manager — claim the umpire said something outrageous while the crew chief, after having enough time to get his story straight, said the polar opposite. We still haven’t and probably won’t hear from Marty Foster.
The calls for instant replay aside, this is a prime example of a problem with the current system. The umpires have become the story. ESPN has rebroadcast Jeter’s slide hundreds of times by now. The entire nation knows that he was safe. Yet, Marty Foster called him out, and John Hirschbeck seems to be sweeping this story under the rug.
We don’t need a full investigation. We don’t need some Watergate-level special prosecutor to turn up. What we need is for Marty Foster to step forward and tell us the honest-to-God truth. If he really thinks that Scott Rolen placed a tag on Derek Jeter, then so be it. He missed the call, and bad calls are just a part of the game. If he actually said that Jeter was called out regardless of the tag because the throw beat him, he shouldn’t be umping Major League Baseball games.
Either way, this has devolved into a “he said, he said” battle. Right now, I believe Derek. This latest development from Hirschbeck is far too convenient for my tastes.
Added by Joe: Since this is probably the last we’ll hear of this, I figured I’d add this tidbit. Apparently Joe Girardi didn’t get tossed on Monday for arguing the Jeter play at third. Erik Boland says it was because of a call from Sunday. Marty Foster was at home plate on Sunday for the play where Raul Chavez tagged Mark Teixeira with his glove, but the ball was in his other hand. Personally, I find that call more egregious than the one at third.