Those Damn Yankees: The Cuzzi Call
by, 06-16-2013 at 10:45 PM (482 Views)
Love 'em or hate 'em, the Yankees are headed to down in the beginning of July. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the first of three Twins postseason defeats at the hands of the Bronx Bombers, so we thought we'd take the opportunity to look back at what has been a lopsided -- but always entertaining and memorable -- rivalry between the two franchises. Over the next couple weeks leading up to the Yankees series at Target Field, various writers here at Twins Daily will look back at some of the Yankee moments that stick out in our minds.
It was a game filled with heartbreak.
You can point to many culprits in Minnesota's 4-3, 11-inning loss to the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the 2009 American League Division Series: Carlos Gomez slipping on the bases in the fourth and getting tagged for the third out, preventing a run from scoring; The Twins offense stranding a whopping 17 base runners; Joe Nathan blowing a two-run lead in the ninth by leaving one up for Alex Rodriguez…
Still, inevitably, it all comes back to Phil Cuzzi and The Call.
Even with all their missteps, the Twins had been able to play neck-and-neck with the Yanks, threatening to level the series at a game apiece heading back to the Metrodome. In a best-of-five first-round series, the difference between heading home tied 1-1 and down 2-0 is monumental, so this was a pivotal contest for the Twins, who had sneaked into the postseason with an absurd September run.
Joe Mauer, reigning MVP and key cog in Minnesota's miraculous late-season comeback, kicked off the top of the 11th by driving a pitch from Damaso Marte down the right field line.
The ball hit off the glove of left fielder Melky Cabrera, then landed in fair territory by about a foot and bounced over the wall. A lead-off ground-rule double… except not. Phil Cuzzi, umping down the down the left field line as part of a six-man postseason crew, was staring directly at the play from about 10 feet away, and yet somehow still managed to completely botch the call, declaring it a foul ball.
An incredulous Mauer returned to the batter's box and ended up hitting a single. The Twins followed with two more singles, which should have given them the lead but instead loaded the bases with no outs before reliever David Robertson wriggled out of the jam unscathed.
The popular response was to label Cuzzi a bum who's terrible at his job, and I had my own fun with my Halloween costume later that month (see the picture on the right), but the truth is that he's a major-league umpire and has been for 13 years running, so clearly that's not the case. Cuzzi isn't even generally ranked among the worst umps in MLB; that's Angel Hernandez and Joe West territory.
No, what happened was an otherwise competent umpire apparently suffering a moment of temporary blindness that completely screwed the Twins in a crucial moment at Yankee Stadium. It couldn't have fit the narrative more perfectly if it were conjured up by some hack sportswriter for the New York Post.
Over the past 10 years, the Twins have gone 23-61 against the Yankees. A record that horrible goes beyond what would be expected with even the most lopsided talent differentials. No, there's something else at play here, as if the universe were conspiring to keep the poor little Midwestern Twins under the thumb the Evil Empire.
Cuzzi's famously horrible call serves as a perfect example.