TOWER GROVE • Unfortunately, there were no asterisks.
For the second time in two series this season against the New York Mets, the Cardinals had a game hinge on a call by an umpire. Back in June, Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran skipped what appeared to be a double down the left-field line against lefty Johan Santana. Umpire Adrian Johnson immediately called the ball foul, though replays later showed chalk poof where the ball hit. Johnson also confirmed later that the ball was fair on replay. A couple sharp editors/designers at The Post-Dispatch got creative with the sports front page and put an asterisk by the headline "No-Hitter" (see here) and this sparked a brief but tasty retort from The New York Daily News (see there) and some choice comments on my Twitter reply feed (not suitable for linking).
Fast forward to Monday afternoon at Busch Stadium, and in the ninth inning Mets outfielder Andres Torres hits what looks to be a leadoff double. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is watching Shane Robinson trying to handle the ball in right field and not Torres rounding the base. Beltran was in the batting cage and emerged to suggest that the Cardinals appeal to first base. Jason Motte does, and umpire David Rackley calls Torres out. The Cardinals went on to win, 5-4. And not one New York paper affixed an asterisk.
That did not, however, mean those big-city papers holstered their bite.
Andy Martino, the Mets' beat writer for The Daily News, focused on the wonderful contrast of Beltran, the former Met, being the one who caught the (alleged?) missed base:
ST. LOUIS — As Met intrigue goes, this one is just too delicious. You will not believe who, from the bowels of Busch Stadium, ruined this game for his former team.
Hint: It was the guy who looked at an Adam Wainwright curveball to end the 2006 National League Championship Series. The guy who battled with management, served as a quiet team leader, resented New York fans, gave the Mets more production than any free agent in team history, hit a shoulda-been double in June in Johan Santana’s “no hitter” that an umpire erroneously called foul.
The guy who called for the appeal on Andres Torres that helped decide Monday’s 5-4 loss to the Cardinals? Carlos Beltran !
Remember that unfair Twitter hashtag from a few years back, #BlameBeltran, that tried to scapegoat him for the team’s second-half fizzle? We have finally found the right situation for it. The Mets can blame Beltran for this loss, and he wasn’t even playing.
At Newsday, Mark Hermann led off with a comment from Daniel Murphy, who was yelling at Rackley as he left the field after the final out Monday. Murphy articulated his frustration:
ST. LOUIS -- Even after frame-by-frame scrutiny of the replay, there was a pretty wide disagreement, except on one point: Everybody was sure there was something missing.
The first-base umpire insisted Andres Torres missed first base. The Mets insisted that the umpire missed the call.
The facts were pretty misty, with the bottom line being that the Mets were upset about missing out on a chance to complete another comeback. What they had Monday, after a rare successful appeal erased Torres' leadoff double in the ninth inning, was an unappealing 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.
"I think our frustration mounted because it feels like in that situation, you just can't be wrong," said Daniel Murphy, who expressed his anger after he made the final out. "I know it's a result sort of thing. Like if you try to steal third base with nobody out, it's a result play. If you're out, it's a bad play; if you're safe, it's a good one. We felt that you can't make that call if you're wrong."
So was it an incorrect call by first-base umpire Dave Rackley?
"We had access to video. I'm sure you guys did, too," Murphy told reporters, "so we know the answer to that."
The New York Post focused more on the call itself and the contrasting view of the base, from Torres and from the umpire and from the paper itself. Mike Puma, a baseball writer at the Post, may also lead the press box this morning in top lede by word count:
ST. LOUIS — Upon further review, the Mets aren’t good at catching a break.
Though a freeze-frame replay appeared to show Andres Torres’ left foot touching first base as he rounded the bag in yesterday’s ninth inning at Busch Stadium, umpire Dave Rackley said he watched the same video and concluded his call, on an appeal by the Cardinals, was correct: Torres missed the bag.
“It looked exactly like what I saw on the field,” Rackley, a third-year major league umpire, said after the Mets’ 5-4 loss to the Cardinals. “Which was his foot went over the base. His toe hit the dirt and his heel never came down and it just kicked dirt up and he never touched that corner.”
Torres stroked what would have been a leadoff double in the ninth against Jason Motte, but was ruled out on the appeal play, all but cementing an end to the Mets’ three-game winning streak.
Afterward, Torres at one point said he “definitely” touched the base with his left heel, but he also wavered somewhat from that statement.
“To be honest with you, I thought I touched the base — you can see the replays, it looked like I put my foot there,” Torres said.
Clearly the umpire got it wrong?
“I think so,” Torres said.
Andy McCullough, the beat writer for The Star-Ledger, leads with the scene of the Mets yelling at Rackley from the dugout as the umpire left the field and then focuses on Collins' reaction -- and really some of Collins' confusion on the call:
The call was an unorthodox one, a play manager Terry Collins said he had never seen in the major leagues. Andres Torres opened the inning with what should have been a leadoff double. He said his left heel “definitely” touched first base. First-base umpire David Rackley disagreed. The televised replay proved inconclusive.
When Cardinals closer Jason Motte tossed the ball back to first, Torres was called out. The Mets bench erupted. Torres displayed confusion. Collins sprinted out for an explanation; he left unsatisfied.
The call left Collins smoldering, swearing about the heat inside his clubhouse office and lamenting the lack of replay review available for the umpires to get these decisions right.
“It’s the same thing we talked about when we talked about the technology today,” Collins said. “When I got back to the bench, I got 10 guys telling me he touched the bag.”
And, over at The New York Times, Andrew Keh name drops Marv Thornberry and sprinkles some historical context on Labor Day:
Collins was incredulous. “I have never seen a call — not in the big leagues — like that,” he said.
Torres said afterward that he felt the bag on his left heel. “He missed the call,” he said of Rackley. “What can I say? Nobody’s perfect.”
... Television replays were inconclusive. Whatever the case, the play called to mind the folkloric tales of Marv Throneberry, a member of the atrocious 1962 Mets who became a mascot of sorts for the team’s fans. As one story from the season goes, Throneberry had a triple overturned when he was ruled to have missed second base. When Manager Casey Stengel went out to argue, he was told Throneberry had missed first, too.
These Mets have not approached Throneberry-esque levels of ineptitude, but they are not likely to replicate the Cardinals’ late-season turnaround.
In this battle between archives and asterisks, call it a draw. (Aside: You can see the P-D's entry into this game story derby by clicking here. Full disclosure: I typed it.) The coincidence of it being Beltran that suggested the appeal was not lost on either side of the aisle. First, it adds to his fitful relationship with the organization and the fan base that he spent the majority of his career with and also made his most money from. Second, it balances the ledger for his season; his double was erased by a call in New York during Santana's no-hitter and now he had a double erased by a call for a win in St. Louis.
Beltran fielded a question about the appeal coming against his former team and against an outfielder who is a friend. He shrugged.
And then he talked about the emotion he'd show in that situation.
'Things happen," Beltran said. "I know Torres is trying to get to second base. If you touch the base right there and you get called out, myself, I would get thrown out of the game (arguing) if I touched that base. He didn’t really react to it. So, I guess he didn’t touch it."