Last night, home plate umpire John Tumpane whiffed on a big one (thanks to Jason Collette from DRays Bay who caught this picture of the play seconds after it happened, computers are amazing). Not only did the play cost the Rays a run in a 1-0 game, but it ultimately led to extra innings and Detroit’s walkoff win. Tumpane, who was on loan from the Pacific Coast League, is apparently 10 years old, and looks just like Gabe from The Office, cost the Rays the game. Or did he?.
When you are hired as a coach at any level, you are issued a standard coaching pack. It includes:
- One whistle, even though you don’t actually need a whistle to coach stuff;
- One pair of these Bike Coaching Shorts ; and
- A list of cliches to memorize.
Generally, all three items are useless (has anyone ever figured out what makes those shorts particularly useful for coaching stuff?). Last night was the exception. One of the cliches on the list says “never give the officials a chance to steal a game with a bad call. If it’s not close, they can’t affect the outcome.” Justin Ruggiano would have done well to heed that advice.
There is simply no reason for Justin Ruggiano – a 5th outfielder who knows he is only in the Majors until the Super-2 clock expires on Desmond Jennings and Brandon Guyer – to avoid contact in a one-run game. It’s 1-0, your teammates are exhausted, and you have a chance to score. There is no excuse for that avoidance slide (when the catcher clearly had the path to the back corner blocked) and second-chance karate kick at the plate. In some ways, if I am Tumpane, I might just call him out for being soft.
Ruggiano would be well-served to follow Sam Fuld’s lead. When Fuld got his legendary heel in the door during the Rays early-season struggles, he threw the rest of his body threw the crack with reckless abandon. Sure he came back to earth offensively but, when he had the chance, Fuld earned a reputation as a fearless defender willing to sacrifice anything for the good of the club. Ruggiano still looks like a pretty boy that wants to win, so long as he doesn’t get hurt (which, incidentally, is a reputation he has been building in my mind during his 32 minor league seasons).
There is no way Ruggiano thinks he is with the club for good. The collective shadows of Jennings and Guyer have to follow his every step. But he’s here now. He got past all the producers and is up there in front of Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson. He has to choose his best song. Right? He doesn’t have enough talent to save it for the finale.
In fact, after the game, Ruggiano apparently admitted that he regrets not running over the catcher. Therein lies the fundamental problem. It didn’t occur to Ruggiano to run-through a catcher blocking the plate without the ball until he had taken a shower and got dressed.