Last night, in Game 3 of the World Series, we all witnessed perhaps one of the most bizarre endings to any game ever. As Koji Uehara attempted a Jerry Blevins-esque Houdini act to escape a situation with runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, a spectacular play by Dustin Pedroia looked to keep the Red Sox hopes alive for another at bat. After cutting down the run at home, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia fired the ball towards third base, where Allen Craig was attempting to advance, the ball got by Will Middlebrooks and Craig headed for home. Craig would be thrown out at the plate for what looked to be the wildest double play imaginable, but it wasn’t to be. In attempting to score, Craig tripped over a sprawled out Middlebrooks, and third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately called obstruction. That brief moment of impeding Craig’s progress was enough for him to be thrown out at the plate, and thus he was awarded the base, the Cardinals the run, and therefore Game 3 and a 2-1 World Series lead.
This clearly has nothing to do with the Athletics. So why am I discussing this? It brings back one of the many horrible memories of recent playoff disappointments. You may already know where I’m going with this, Miguel Tejada and the obstruction call that never was.
During the top of the 6th inning of Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS, with the A’s trailing 1-0, the tying run scored and Tejada sought to do the same. But he collided with the third baseman for what could have been an obstruction call. The problem though was that Tejada stopped running, and pointed towards the sight of the collision before continuing his progress. He was tagged out at home. The A’s wouldn’t score again, and would lose the game, and of course the series ultimately.
The blunder doesn’t hold the same long lasting heartache as the Jeremy Giambi/Derek Jeter fiasco, but its impact was every bit as significant. It didn’t help that earlier in that same inning Eric Byrnes foolishly failed to touch home plate after a collision with Jason Varitek. Byrnes saw fit to shove Varitek while the ball was loose, and Varitek retrieved the ball and tagged him out. Had he simply touched the plate, he would have been safe. Every run counted, and the A’s let two get away, and it cost them dearly.
What Allen Craig did last night was absolutely perfect, he forced the umpires to make the obstruction call, rather than stop and beg for them to do it. Perhaps that kind of thinking is what goes into the “Cardinal Way” that we’ve been hearing about. There’s no doubt they have found a way to make themselves successful in October, and it has them two wins away from their 12th World Series title.