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Don’t make Will Middlebrooks the goat for last night’s game

Oct 27, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT

World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three Getty Images

Ken Davidoff of the New York Post ponders whether or not Will Middlebrooks will become a goat after last night’s obstruction play. The headline — which I’m certain Davidoff did not write:


Davidoff himself does not believe that Middlebrooks should not be a goat, saying “Middlebrooks “faces a future in which he might known be known best as the obstruction guy,” but notes that “it would represent a cruel fate.”

I couldn’t agree more. Middlebrooks has nothing to be ashamed of.

It would’ve been close to impossible for Middlebrooks to not have obstructed Craig. It was a totally s**t-happens situation. Maybe he could’ve knocked the throw down, keeping it from getting by him and causing Craig to stay at third, but that’s not what those who would make him a goat are likely to be on about. They’re going to talk about the obstruction itself. And as far as that goes, the rule has no intent element to it for a reason. Middlebrooks can not be said to have screwed up that part of it because he could not have possibly gotten out of the way.  And thus Middlebrooks should not be said to have messed up in any legacy-defining way.

If there is blame here, it can go to Farrell for not having his best defensive catcher in the game there. Or it can go to Saltilamacchia for throwing a ball he’d be better served putting in his back pocket. That kind of blame happens a lot, though. It’s run of the mill, “oof, bad move” stuff we see hundreds of times a year. It’s not Bill Buckner stuff.

But if people are looking for Buckner stuff — if they decide that Will Middlebrooks is some epic level goat here — it says way more about those people and human nature’s almost pathological need to assign blame than it says about Middlebrooks’ actions. In that case it should be between those people and their therapists, not Middlebrooks and the judgment of history.

  1. hojo20 - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Francesa just said Napoli has been taking ground balls & might play 3B tonight?

  2. yahmule - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    Get real. Anybody who knows Red Sox fans, knows this guy will be excoriated in that town for the rest of his career.

    • 18thstreet - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      1990 opening day. Buckner gets a huge standing ovation from the Fenway Faithful.

      You have no idea what you’re talking about. None.

      • yahmule - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:16 AM

        And you insecure asshole still ran him off to Idaho.

      • yahmule - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:18 AM

        I guess the few thousand people who applauded him that day made up for all the abuse his wife and kids endured until they just couldn’t take it anymore. Nice that guys like you exist to enable those kind of people.

      • apkyletexas - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:19 PM

        You gotta love how Boston fan tries to erase the 2+ decades of abuse they’ve launched at the Buckner family by saying “but we gave him a nice clap at the game one time”.

      • indaburg - Oct 27, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        This 2011 interview tells a different Buckner story from the man himself:

        I always felt for Buckner. It’s probably not as bad as excoriation but what Buckner describes doesn’t sound like it was all roses, kittens, and holding hands. There were bitter feelings on his part. Even his 4 year old son had to deal with comments from ignorant people at daycare. His little boy. The article you linked to has one large caveat: “it’s probably worth yet another reminder that Red Sox fans — intelligent ones, anyway — never held his error in Game 6 against him.” Intelligent ones. That’s the key phrase. We all like to think our collective fan bases are intelligent ones, but we know that is not always the case.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 27, 2013 at 5:40 PM

        Before watching the video (but guessing at the contents), I think both stories are true. I mean, during the prior rounds of the playoffs, there were stories about fans getting on the families of opposing players’ families. If that’s you (getting the abuse), it must feel awful even if it’s just two people yelling that garbage. If you’re Bill Buckner and — oh — 20 people over 5 years say something, it probably feels like a million. But — speaking for myself — I never blame Buckner. Everyone knows (or should know) that Dave Stapleton was supposed to be in the game at that point. The Sox lost for a lot of reasons; Buckner is somewhere on that list, but nowhere near the top.

      • indaburg - Oct 27, 2013 at 6:09 PM

        Yeah, it wasn’t Buckner fault. He didn’t allow Carter, Mitchell, and Knight on base. He didn’t allow the tying run to score–that had happened. He didn’t put himself out there at first base. He also didn’t lose Game 7, which the Red Sox led by 3 runs. I’m sure most Red Sox fans are reasonable people who recognized that, but the few that didn’t may have made life pretty miserable for him.

      • rje49 - Oct 27, 2013 at 5:47 PM

        Don’t forget, Stanley had already “blown it” when he came in and wild pitched the tying run in. In my mind, I’ve always shared the blame equally between Stanley and Buckner.

      • 18thstreet - Oct 27, 2013 at 6:00 PM

        (1) McNamara, for making Buckner look bad
        (2) McNamara again, for absurdly thinking Schiraldi could pitch for three innings under those circumstances
        (3) McNamara, for not benching Buckner throughout the World Series (go ahead, look at his batting stats — he was a useless player. If I want to be generous, I’ll blame the injuries. But he had an OPS of 400 in 32 World Series at bats)
        (4) Lou Gorman, for assembling that POS bullpen
        (5) Lou Gorman again, for signing Bill Buckner in the first place (go ahead, look at his hitting stats)
        (6) Lou Gorman, for not trading for a better first baseman once it was clear that Buckner was a lousy and crippled player
        (7) Schiraldi
        (8) Gedman
        (9) Stanley, who wouldn’t have beaten Mookie Wilson to the bag EVEN IF Buckner fields it cleanly
        (10) Clemens, because I hate him, and I wish he had gone eight
        (11) Buckner

    • matt14gg - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      Actually you don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. No one’s even talking about Middlebrooks this morning (other than the fact that he can’t hit). I’m always amused by people who talk about “Boston fans” who have never actually been here and have no clue what they’re talking about.

      • rje49 - Oct 27, 2013 at 5:51 PM

        No, I’m not blaming Middleton for the obstruction call. That’s two games in a row blown because of bad throws from home to third base.
        However, I will not cease repeating that I cringe when the ball heads toward Middleton. He should have had that grounder that went for a double. And yes, he’s one of many who’s not hitting lately.

    • Jack Marshall - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      Wrong. And you are an idiot.

  3. unclemosesgreen - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    Farrell alone wears the goat horns. Stephen Drew can’t hold a bat but Brandon Workman can? Ridiculous.

    • proudlycanadian - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      Do you remember that pre season story which said that an anonymous Blue Jay told a friend on the Red Sox that Farrell panics under pressure?

      • unclemosesgreen - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:37 AM

        Nope. Sounds like a good scouting report though.

      • proudlycanadian - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:52 AM

        Craig wrote about this on June 3. I suspect that many Blue Jays shared the impression. Either Encarnacion or Bautista could have been the source of the story as they know Ortiz. Rasmus was commonly said to be the source of the quote as he had said something similar; however, I doubt that Rasmus has any friends on the Red Sox.

  4. Stiller43 - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    If anyones the goat, it should be salty for 1) the decision to throw and 2) the quality (or lackthereof) of said thow

    • moogro - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:45 PM

      And missing the throw home the night before. You’d think that they discussed not wasting a rushed throw to third before the game. Now twice in a row. But praise is in order to Cardinal runners, they should continue to pause between second and third before running to tempt more reckless throws. Go for three games in a row.

      • txnative61 - Oct 28, 2013 at 1:39 AM

        More the attempt to keep his foot on the plate that caused him to muff the catch. My in house Little Leaguer correctly identified the play as no force out, and a tag being required for an out. That kind of ignorance is unforgivable in a World Series, and he rightfully deserves two goats for both games they lost.

  5. cubanxsenators - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Misspelled Saltalamacchia in there, Craig.

    And here’s some reportin’ I want to see: What constitutes “a play being made on the obstructed runner”?

    • raysfan1 - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:11 AM

      Bill, not Craig.

      • cubanxsenators - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:27 PM

        Sure says Craig in the byline I got.

        You’d think Craig would recognize an “all-vowels-but-one-are-“a” mnemonic.

  6. tr5079 - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    Farrell should get the blame. Why did Jay even get pitched to? That’s the question that needs answered.

    • cohnjusack - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:31 AM

      The dangerous Pete Kozma is on deck. From June 1st until the end of the season, he had a higher OPS than all but 12 starting pitchers. Some dangerous shit right there.

    • rje49 - Oct 27, 2013 at 5:55 PM

      Excellent point. The ball hit to Pedroia could have been a 4-2-3 double play. Even if the out wasn’t made at first, the game would still be tied….

  7. markfrednubble - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    Well said, Craig. Salty’s panic throw and Farrell’s decision making top the list of goats for this game. Farrell’s gut has become bigger than his brain.

    As for the morons and dimwits who say Boston fans [fill in your favorite stereotype] or NY fans [ditto] or any fans bla bla bla, what a crock. All teams have passionate fans who have no trouble criticizing their own team, and all teams have passive fans who defend their own guys regardless of the truth. Or do you really think there are no knowledgable Cardinals fans who thought Matheny made a big mistake changing pitchers to let Nava hit lefthanded in a key situation, given that Nava’s OPS was about 250 points higher from the left side?

  8. johnthacker - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    The problem is, I do think that his failure to catch the ball was a problem. Salty shouldn’t have thrown, but without a force play at third, Middlebrooks should have been willing to come off the bag to make that play. Look at the replay, Middlebrooks goes to great lengths to keep his foot on the base, and also to try to make sure that he was in position to apply the tag immediately, even though there was no chance of making the tag (unless Craig slid past the base or something strange.)

    The entire reason why it’s obstruction is that he failed to make the catch and it got by him. The reason the ball got by him is because he gambled on making it a tougher play in order to try to be in position to get the runner out if he caught it. Like Salty, he made a bad decision in the heat of the moment. (Though neither is the head scratcher of Farrell letting Workman hit to pull him two batters later, a silly decision made with plenty of time to think about it, but maybe this is the rare case where an AL manager doesn’t understand the double switch, just like NL announcers like to talk about.)

    • forsch31 - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:19 PM

      And the reason why he fell down is because he was trying to make the catch and keep his foot on the bag. He doesn’t fall, he doesn’t get in the way.

  9. matt14gg - Oct 27, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    Silly story. No one is blaming Middlebrooks. He’s about fourth on the blame tree as far as this one goes. Farrell’s getting all the heat this morning, because he choked under pressure and failed to make basic, correct baseball decisions. Then Salty’s getting a little bit of the blame for a bad decision, a bad throw, and the fact that he can’t hit and should have been replaced earlier. Then there’s the umps for making a tough (albeit correct) call. Then comes Middlebrooks, but there’s really nothing he could have done, other than catch the ball.

  10. realitypolice - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:10 AM

    Let’s be completely clear about this: The Boston Red Sox lost game three because of a throwing error by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Everything that happens afterward is the result of a extremely poor throw that he never should have attempted in the first place. Just as pitchers are not charged with runs that score due to errors, no one involved in the play after that error is “responsible” for the outcome of the game. No bad throw, no score on the play. Period.

    By the way, BOTH Sox loses are directly attributed to ill-advised bad throws from home plate to third base. Maybe they should work on that.

  11. gameover78 - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Wow, this site has a lot of dumbass sports writers that show be writing about daytime soap operas not sports.

    • yahmule - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:20 AM

      Concentrate on completing one sentence correctly before you start unloading your criticism.

      • theskinsman - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:20 PM

        yahmule, glad to see at least one Yankee fan is still posting about the good teams still playing ball.

  12. fitzy187 - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    I’m from Boston everyone I talk to blames Salty.

    • gloccamorra - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      It’s a team game. Every position player makes bad throws, that’s why errors is an official stat. If it happened in the 3rd inning in May, there would be no blaming going on. Fans can blame, but the players just say ‘them’s the breaks’, or they’re not a team.

  13. anxovies - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    I have looked at the play a dozen times and still can’t decide if Middlebrooks’ legs came as he was trying to get up from the ground or if he was trying to leg whip the runner. Either way, I don’t think DeMuth would have made the call if it hadn’t been for the legs.

    • deaninajijic - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      I agree. Though if Middlebrooks would of just stayed flat Craig probably would of just jumped over and scored anyway, since even with the obstruction the play at the plate was very close. I tried it and my legs just automatically came up when I pushed up with my hands to get up from lying on the ground, so it probably wasn’t intentional even though it looked that way at the time. .

    • anxovies - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      I should have said Joyce since he was the ump that made the obstruction call.

    • Francisco (FC) - Oct 27, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      It’s been suggested that Middlebrooks brought his legs up so he wouldn’t obstruct the white baseline path from 3rd to home assuming (incorrectly) that Craig would go around him.

      • borderline1988 - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:40 PM

        Francisco – You can’t be serious!?…those thumbs up most be from Boston fans only…

        Not that it matters b/c the obstruction call was correct either way, but Middlebrooks most likely did that on purpose. It was a knee-jerk reaction that was obviously ill-advised. A split-second decision. Everyone does stupid things like that.

      • Francisco (FC) - Oct 27, 2013 at 11:47 PM

        Are you assuming that I think the Obstruction call wasn’t correct? Of course it was correct. I think it was paperlions (A Cardinals Fan) who suggested that Middlebrooks didn’t necessarily raise his legs to trip Craig, he might have raised them thinking to get them out of the white baseline from third to home figuring that’s the route Craig would take. But Craig wasn’t obligated to do so and the rest is history.

  14. shadowshand - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    Middlebrooks would have gotten15 yards for tripping in football.

  15. mgflolox - Oct 27, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    This whole matter could have been immediately put to rest if Middlebrooks would just stand up and say,”Hell yeah, I put my feet up to slow him down. If I hadn’t he would have been able to walk home with the winning run.” As far as I’m concerned, it has nothing to do with sportsmanship or honesty, I think it was a heads up move. What else could he have done? If he gets away with it, they Sox are batting in the 10th inning, If he doesn’t, they lose anyway. Shit, what’s wrong with just admitting what really happened out there. I know that I sure would respect him a helluva lot more if he did that.

    • yahmule - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:06 PM

      True. Back in 1978, Reggie Jackson stuck his fat ass in the way of Steve Garvey’s relay throw to second base and the umps totally blew the call.

      • yahmule - Oct 27, 2013 at 2:07 PM

        Rundown throw, I meant to say. Not sure if Reggie ever copped to it, even after all these years.

  16. jdillydawg - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    I think the baseball rules will ultimately be the goat here. That call was absolutely stupid, but we’re so caught up in a world where everything must be exactly by the book and no one has the ability to make a judgment call.

    You could clearly see Middlebrook was just trying to get up. The “intent” part should be, I believe, crucial to that rule. That’s baseball. Sure the ball was passed. The runner did not have to run, but chose to. Without the trip up, maybe he makes it, maybe he doesn’t.

    Fact is, that was a sweet play all around and Middlebrook gets the shaft. But that’s why we have rules. Unbendable, un-moveable, un-changeable rues.

    Unless it’s the DH. Or switching the playoffs around. Those rules we can screw around with all we want.

  17. thebadguyswon - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Its stories like this when you know you live in an age with too much media.

  18. cktai - Oct 27, 2013 at 3:55 PM

    ‘It would’ve been close to impossible for Middlebrooks to not have obstructed Craig.”

    Actually it would’ve been dead easy for him not to obstuct Craig. Step off the base and catch the damn ball.

  19. unclemosesgreen - Oct 27, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    Dave Stapleton was a terrible 1st baseman. That always gets screwed up in the Buckner tale.

  20. drelms - Oct 27, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    hey calcatera, big difference between a hit between a guys legs and a pitcher throwing the ball away. If anyone is be lambasted its Salatalamachia first for making an out at home than following up with a crazy ass throw to give the game away

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