59-72: Rangers find a twenty in their coat pocket

old man and the sea? no, friend, i've never read said work - Otto Greule Jr

The Texas Rangers defeated the Seattle Mariners 4-3 on Tuesday. I got a filling and it was better than the last ten minutes of this game.

So I had this whole idea for the recap.

See, I was going to write this Faulkneresque first-person narrative from C.B. Bucknor's perspective, where he wakes up in some ritzy Seattle hotel, whines to the front desk agent about not having an extra towel for his feet that he likes to set on the ground after taking a shower, stiffs the taxi driver on a tip during the drive to Safeco, complains to the catering staff about the temperature of their macaroni and cheese dinner, and finally (of course) blows the insane balk call on Danny Farquhar in the tenth inning that would eventually decide the game.

Then, I realized I would be like my good friend from high school, who will remain nameless. See, back then we would all play videogames--Halo was the new title at the time--and between two TV's and seventy nine cans of Mountain Dew, we would all enjoy multiplayer and watch my friend inevitably lose horribly to those of us in the group who maybe spent too much time mashing playstation buttons. I wasn't quite one of these expert gamers, but it didn't matter--I could've cared less if I was good or not. Not my friend. No, no no.

Oh crap he would say. It's not my fault. These goddamn buttons, always sticky he would whine. I need a new controller. One year we bought him a brand new controller for his birthday, as a joke--even though his were totally fine. But he would never admit that maybe he just wasn't quite as good as some other people were, and because he put so much stock into being the best, it ate him up inside like a cancer spreading from limb to limb.

To tell you the truth, this is what complaining about umpiring feels like to me sometimes, and why I ditched that whole C.B. Bucknor column even though I think it would've been pretty fun.

But look. It's true that C.B. Bucknor called a balk on Danny Farquhar in the tenth inning that ABSOLUTELY INDEFATIGABLY ASSUREDLY, DEFINITELY, ABSOLUTELY would NEVER have been called a balk in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, or depending on the score of the game, eighth innings of any other baseball game in the history of human civilization. And this is why people hate umpires like C.B. Bucknor.

ROOT Sports did their part breaking the call down and informing us why it was a balk (seriously, you guys?), but nowhere did anyone stop and say that maybe the .0045 centimeters that Danny Farquhar moved his shoulders shouldn't need to score a run, and that it was 10:25 at night in a tie game and perhaps someone just wanted to go home. This isn't the best angle, but watch this at least twenty times:

3952q

Seriously. This is such garbage. A balk is a balk. It should be the exact same call that would happen in every second of the game, from the first inning through the seventy-ninth inning. It's a balk, and even though the "human element" is much more prevalent than my innocent argument might suggest, it's still stupid. The reason there is a balk in the first place is to stop a pitcher from tricking runners by starting his motion to throw home (read: runner run) and then fake to throw to the base to get him out. Not because the pitcher INCHED his shoulder as he shook off a call for the love of god.

This is why people hate you, C.B. Bucknor. This is why I hate you. This is why you are the worst umpire in all of baseball. You don't get to decide to end games because they are going late with a bullshit call that you would NEVER make at 7pm, just because you have a new episode of Breaking Bad to watch in your hotel's OnDemand queue. Mr Bucknor, your job is literally to be a computer and arbitrate baseball games until they end--be it now, in an hour, or until the end of time. People have been doing your job for decades upon decades and not fucking deciding when it's time to go home because they feel like it.

And it gets worse. Here is why Bucknor called this incremental move from Farquhar a balk:

"He was looking in for his sign, and he started up, and stopped, and moved his left shoulder. Any movement associated with his set position – he doesn’t come and stop – is a balk." - C.B. Bucknor

Bullshit. Look at this Alex Torres pickoff attempt from Boston earlier this year: (h/t reddit.com/r/baseball)

Torrespickoff

Looks like a whole lot of "movement" here from Torres. And I don't even buy this "set position" thing--both of these gifs show a pitcher either taking a call or getting ready to get set to get prepared to look at a sign to start throwing a pitch in a position they would never actually throw a pitch from.

Farquhar was not in a set position. And obviously, neither was Torres: but this is the point: neither of these are balks. If Farquhar's "movement" was a balk by Bucknor's standards, Torres' movement was absolutely a balk as well, because he had quite a few more inches of "movement." This might be a rabbit hole but it should prove the overarching point, which is that C.B. Bucknor is making up entries into the rulebook to suit the calls he wants to make. That is bad. That is beyond, bad: it's maniacal and dangerous and stupid and just fffffffff I'm out of words. This was stupid.

It all takes me to my final point, which is what I was trying to get at in this entry's first few paragraphs: none of this would have mattered if Kinsler wasn't allowed to get to third. It's that simple, and that dumb. It's almost not even Bucknor's fault (but it really is). The Mariners were actually playing an alright game: They produced two runs in the first after Brad Miller and Kyle Seager both walked. Ryan had an incredible-but-predictable play early in the game. Franklin Gutierrez hit a home run in the second. Iwakuma matched--nay outperformed--Derek Holland and the teams were in limbo through the rest of the game. And then it fell apart.

Yoervis Medina got into a little trouble late, but managed to get Pierzynski to pop out before lucking into a double play in the eighth. And before you knew it it was the tenth inning, and Farquhar has given up a single to Ian Kinsler after an Elvis Andrus groundout. That's alright. But then our friend Adrian Beltre pulls a fourth-pitch single into left, sending Kinsler to second with one out. That's um...dangerous. Then--then...Kinsler steals third on an absolutely perfectly read pitch from Farquhar. This is not good at all. It didn't even seem anyone wanted to stop him.

There was a runner on third with one out, and even though Pierzynski would pop out, he was the runner that was balked in moments later. This wouldn't have happened had Farquhar managed his runners a little better, and while you have to give the guy a break having only been a "closer" for a few weeks, this wasn't good. This is how meltdowns happen. This is how command starts to disappear. This is how, oh hell, I don't know.

Look. Danny Farquhar is a really good pitcher, and he didn't exactly balk in a run today, but really he did and that's all the rulebook is going to say. What matters now is that he can walk back out to the mound and learn from it and put the frustration into his veins to add to his fastball velocity, since we all know Bud Selig isn't going to do anything about this umpire situation for another year (if this would even have been a reviewable call).

And ultimately, like all things, the wind blows with the tide and the Mariners lost a game of baseball in the most inexplicable yet familiar of ways. Sometimes I'm ready to toss my Felix jersey into the back of my closet for the season, but I know that in a few short months, I'll be watching Ken Burns' Baseball at 2 AM and counting down the days until spring training. So do your worst, boys. Just...let's leave the balks in Peoria next time.

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