“Real Refs” Return; Baseball Winds Down, Heats Up
October 1, 2012

I had just finished publishing last week's fabulous Emmy column when I thought I'd check on the score of the football game. 12-7 Green Bay over Seattle with less than a minute to play. Other than having the Packers defense in my fantasy league (but I had already clinched a victory to go 3-0) and my dislike for Seahawks (and former USC) coach Pete Carroll, I really had no rooting interest, but I decided to watch the end of the game to see what would happen. By now, you all know the story—a “simultaneous catch” in the end zone that was ruled a touchdown, and Seattle won.

Not only did one official call the play a catch while the other (both standing right there) called it an interception, but there was offensive pass interference on the play that wasn't called at all. ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico repeatedly said that Green Bay got “jobbed” by the replacement referees, and it wasn't a coincidence that the NFL reached a contract agreement with the regular officials two days later, and had them in uniform Thursday night.

It's great that the regular referees are back, but I don't believe that call at the end of Monday's game is as heinous as everyone is making it out to be. Officials miss penalties all the time, and in the case of the simultaneous catch, the rule is that in a case like that, the offensive receiver gets credit, which means a touchdown. You could tell, however, not only in Monday night's game, but in all of the games over the past three weeks, that the replacement officials were not sure what they were doing, but you have to remember that the regular officials have done this for years. This week, with the 'real refs' back, they missed a couple of calls that went against the Packers, but Green Bay won their game, so all is forgiven. If the NFL was embarrassed by what happened last week, they should have been. Those replacement officials shouldn't have been out there in the first place.

The real issue here: Doesn't anyone else think that it's insane that after Green Bay got “jobbed” with the game-ending touchdown call Monday night, that the Packers then had to line up for a meaningless extra point? What's that about? The touchdown call gave Seattle a 13-12 lead with no time left, but by rule (as former official Gerry Austin who was part of the ESPN telecast pointed out), the point-after must still be attempted. This has to be the stupidest rule in all of sports. If a touchdown is scored in sudden-death overtime, there is no P-A-T, so why does there have to be one with zeros on the clock in regulation? I know that rule hardly ever comes into play, but it needs to be obliterated from the books immediately. Only gamblers betting on a point-spread would have anything to gain by this. I think if I were the Packers, I would have refused to come back out, but they are classier than I am. Seattle made the kick and won 14-12.

Baseball bits: I watched very little football Sunday, and missed the U.S collapse in golf's Ryder Cup this weekend, because I was more interested in baseball. Three teams clinched playoff spots when the Angels lost the second game of their doubleheader against the Texas Rangers last night. Seven of the ten teams are in, and the other three could all be clinched tonight, but despite that, not one playoff matchup has been determined with just three games remaining.

I haven't been reading the LA papers, but it's interesting that both the Dodgers and Angels are in the same position. Each team is still mathematically alive to make the playoffs going into their final series, but both need to win and have the team ahead of them lose. While I'm sure most of the focus is on the Dodgers, the Angels' season has to be the more disappointing.

While getting this column finished so I can watch the Dodgers and Giants tonight, I have to admit I've been bitten by the A's playoff bug. The A's can clinch a postseason berth tonight, and who would have thought that after general manager Billy Beane overhauled the team last winter? The A's have an all-rookie starting rotation, and only Cliff Pennington (who was moved from shortstop to second base) is in the current starting lineup who was also a regular last year.

Also on the A's front, it looks like Tommy Milone will get the start Friday if the A's are in the wild card game. Milone started Sunday, and Jarrod Parker is pitching tonight, meaning if he were to start Friday it would only be on three days rest. Manager Bob Melvin's other option is A.J. Griffin, who is scheduled to pitch Wednesday. Depending on how things go tonight and Tuesday, Griffin could be held out of Wednesday's finale to start the playoff game Friday.

I am a regular viewer of ESPN's Pardon The Interruption, but I may have to consider a one-week boycott. In this afternoon's episode, where hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon discuss the sports news of the day, baseball wasn't mentioned at all, until the last couple minutes of the show, and all they did then was wish Matt Cain a happy birthday, and a happy sixth anniversary to Joe Mauer's batting title. I know it's Monday and there was a lot of football to review, but there are some pretty good pennant races going on here. Disappointing.

The San Francisco Giants have announced that they will not bring suspended outfielder Melky Cabrera back if the team reaches the National League Championship Series. While the decision may have been the right one, it seems there is a little hypocrisy here. Cabrera, who was leading the league in batting with a .346 average, was suspended 50 games on August 15 for testing positive for a banned substance, and would be eligible to return after missing 6 playoff games. However, relief pitcher Guillermo Mota has been suspended twice in his career for positive drug tests, but he continues to pitch. I'm not sure what the real message here is, but upon learning of his suspension, Cabrera left the club without facing his teammates. Since the players vote for how playoff money is distributed, it would be interesting to know what kind of playoff share (if any) Cabrera will get.

For some reason there was no Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN this weekend. There doesn't seem to be a reason, other than bowing down to the NFL (New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles on NBC in the same time slot). ESPN aired a WNBA playoff game and ESPN2 showed drag racing.

If you are like me and don't get the MLB Network, you'll miss a playoff game Sunday, and it could be the Giants or the A's. There are four games scheduled on Sunday. TBS will air three of them, and MLB Network will carry the other one. The Giants will play game two of their series (against Washington or Cincinnati) Sunday, and the A's would open the League Division Series that day, if they get that far.

ESPN cut away from the Hawaii-BYU football game Friday night to show the final two outs of Homer Bailey's no-hitter at Pittsburgh. It's just the third time in the modern era (since 1900) that there have been seven no-hitters in a season (1990, '91). It was the first no-hitter ever at PNC Park (which opened in 2001), and the first for Cincinnati since Tom Browning threw a perfect game against the Dodgers in 1988.

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