Yesterday I wrote about the dream of being in the National League Championship Series; what I should have said was that it was more of a nightmare. The most troubling part was that the nightmare was not so much about the Diamondbacks losing 5-1 but rather the events that took place in the seventh inning of the game. The bottom half of the seventh inning of this game may just turn out to be the defining moment of this series and could become the “Big Bang” origin of true baseball fans in Arizona. In the ten years of being an Arizona Diamondbacks fan I have never seen events like I saw during that half inning. It all started innocently enough.
Chris Snyder began the inning with a double down the left field line. The fans who had been quieted down after the Rockies had taken the lead got to their feet and cheered for the home team. Perhaps this was the inning where the Diamondbacks would come back. The next batter was right fielder Justin Upton who was hit by a pitch. Upton obviously was not thrilled to be the recipient of a Jeff Francis “inside pitch”. From the stands there seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary with Upton going to first base. Colorado Rockies rookie shortstop (the key word here is “rookie”) saw it differently.
When he got hit in that situation, that’s obviously the last thing Jeff is trying to do. I didn’t appreciate him staring down Jeff. In that situation, you should be happy you got hit by a pitch and you should just be quiet and go to first base.
We as humble Arizona Diamondbacks fans apologize to the great Troy Tulowitzki. Given his vast experience and knowledge of baseball, we come to grovel at his feet and beg for his forgiveness. I had no idea that the appropriate protocol after being drilled by a pitch was to show joy and happiness and skip to first base and thank the baseball gods for allowing you to reach base successfully. Perhaps what is needed is an object lesson so that the great Troy Tulowitzki can demonstrate how you should best handle a situation such as this. I propose that in game 2 the Diamondbacks bring in reliever Tony Pena and allow him to put a 97 mile per hour fastball directly in the center of the back of the great Troy Tulowitzki’s number 2 jersey. Then we can all observe as he quietly walks to first base thanking Pena for the opportunity to be on base. The alternative of course is for the great Troy Tulowitzki to shut his mouth and play baseball like the rookie that he is. No one wants to hear his attitude or his opinion on the proper way to conduct yourself after being hit by a pitch. Last time I looked he was 0-3 at that juncture of the game with a strike-out, he hit into a double play, and left 5 guys on base. Yeah those are great numbers for a “role model”. The great Troy Tulowitzki just made my list of guys to boo mercilessly and to heckle until he goes back into the dugout crying. He seriously needs to shut up and play.
With Snyder still on second and now Upton on first with no outs the fans were beginning to get loud cheering for the home team. Second baseman Augie Ojeda came to the plate and did the one thing everyone in attendance was praying he would not do. He hit a ground ball to the third baseman. Justin Upton came into second base hoping he could break up the double play keeping the rally going. He slid and he definitely reached the bag. As he came up his elbow came out and caught Rockies second baseman Kaz Matsui. Second base umpire Larry Vanover (another name that will be permanently removed from my Christmas card list) made a very poor subjective call claiming Upton interfered with the play calling not only Upton out but also Augie Ojeda and requiring Chris Snyder to return to second base. The call was ridiculous. Upton came into the base no differently than any other runner during that game or at any time in the post season. Vanover decided in his infinite wisdom that he needed to be involved in the outcome of the game placing his own subjective viewpoints into this critical game juncture. Upton attempted to state his case to the umpire while the great Troy Tulowitzki felt this somehow vindicated his team because of the unsportsmanlike staring that had gone on after Upton was hit by a pitch. Again, the great Troy Tulowitzki needs to just shut up. Larry â€˜the lizard” Vanover did not want to listen to Justin Upton and immediately dismissed the outfielder turning his back signaling that the conversation was over. Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin came out of the dugout to argue on behalf of his player but he likewise was dismissed. Vanover’s body language was arrogant and unapologetic. He never asked for assistance from his fellow umpires nor did he consult with crew chief Tim McClelland. Instead he stood by his erroneous subjective decision. It is at this point that I am most shocked and proud of what happened. The fans at Chase Field, all 48,142 of them were on their feet. Those that were cheering for the Diamondbacks which made up probably 80 percent were booing at the top of their lungs. I have never heard such a concerted effort in my life. These fans were passionate and wanted the world to know how badly their team just got screwed. The volume was incredible and the duration was amazing. Of course when that many fans are so passionate about their team’s misfortunes there will be some that take it a step further. From the stands flew empty water bottles, empty plastic beer bottles, and just about anything else that was not tied down. The problem was that none of these fans had the arm strength necessary for any of this debris to fall at the feet of Larry “the lizard” Vanover.
I am not condoning fans throwing things onto the field. Quite the contrary, I think it is normally a bad idea for fans to throw anything onto the field (with the possible exception that I would be very appreciative if someone were to throw Rally Sally onto the field preferably from the upper deck). But in this case if an umpire is going to make a garbage call I can totally see where some fans might believe it is appropriate that the umpire have other garbage at his feet to put the call into its proper perspective.
The debris and the booing continued for quite some time. It was obvious that the fans were just not going to let this go. Rockies Manager Clint Hurdle started to get frustrated. I think he was more frustrated with the fact that his pitcher was losing control and now the sound was deafening to the point that it would be impossible for him to get his composure but he couldn’t very well say that so he approached reincarnation of Satan umpire crew and asked for their assistance. The umpires who at this point were probably beginning to wonder whether there was enough security personnel in the state of Arizona to protect them if 48,142 people decided to take matters into their own hands did the only thing they could collectively think of, they pulled the players off the field for “safety reasons”. This action of course only made things worse since the fans now felt that they could have an impact upon the game. The booing intensified the whole time the players were off the field. The Diamondbacks public address announcer was doing his best to try and articulate the gravity of the situation and ask for fans not to throw objects onto the playing field (unless it is Rally Sally – ok I made that last part up). The problem was that the fans were drowning out the Chase Field sound system. This emotional outcry went on for 8 minutes which I think is a record in Arizona. Finally players returned to the field amid even more booing and play resumed. For the remainder of the night the natives were definitely restless and everyone fully expected another outburst if another questionable call was made.
I think Major League Baseball took for granted that the fans in Arizona were docile and unable to express any emotion. They just figured that it didn’t matter what they did the fans would just roll over and accept it. They couldn’t do that in Philadelphia, New York, or Boston but in Arizona they thought they could get away with it. This event might just be the catalyst for creating a society of diehard baseball fans who don’t let the teams or the umpires get away with anything. In that sense I am very proud of what the Diamondbacks fans accomplished tonight. Now if we can just plunk that bonehead “the great Troy Tulowitzki” then I would be a happy camper.