That's a move that should frighten not just Red Sox fans, not just Angels fans, but any fan of baseball.
Consider that an umpire's job behind the plate is to determine whether or not a ball, with a diameter of fewer than three inches and traveling at least 90 mph, crosses an imaginary box. Judging by the way Bucknor was seeing the game on Thursday, it's safe to assume Josh Beckett and Jered Weaver — as well as hitters from both sides — might take issue with some calls on Friday.
Whether Bucknor had playoff jitters, whether he wanted to uphold his status as baseball's worst umpire, whether he wanted to make up for the missed strike three call on Nick Green from September or whether he caught the stomach bug that Terry Francona was dealing with, the examples of his errors in judgment were seemingly endless.
First, in the bottom of the fourth, Alex Gonzalez made his standard impressive play at short, but his throw took Kevin Youkilis off the bag. No problem for Youk, though, as he made the tag on Howie Kendrick with plenty of room to spare (visual evidence to your right). No matter. Safe was the call from Bucknor.
An already-sick-to-his-stomach Francona came out to argue but ultimately headed back to the dugout.
In the bottom of the fifth, Bucknor ruled Chone Figgins to be out on a play that was hard to call even in slow motion. Was it right? Perhaps, but Bucknor wasn't done.
Kendrick grounded out again in the sixth, though this time it was Mike Lowell sending an off-target throw toward Youkilis. With plenty of time, Youkilis jumped, caught the ball, landed and reached his foot out to touch the bag while Kendrick shuffled his footsteps a few feet short of the base. The call was bad. Unequivocally bad (Youkilis' reaction to your right).
Francona came out of the dugout, this time really steaming, and Bucknor let him have his say, perhaps understanding what he had done.
By the end of the Angels' 5-0 win, Bucknor's influence was clearly not the overwhelming reason that the Red Sox lost. But the damage done to baseball was significant.
This is the playoffs, where every call matters. Friday night, Bucknor will be behind the plate. Strap on your seatbelt, hang on to your hat and do any other nerve-wracking cliche. This could be a very wild ride.
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