Toronto Blue Jays: Did Joe West’s Missed Call Sink Their Playoff Hopes?
By Charles Kime
Toronto Blue Jays fans find their team one game back of the Boston Red Sox and two back of the New York Yankees in the Wild Card standings, clinging to playoff hopes with six games remaining in the regular season. While exciting, this isn’t the dream scenario fans were probably hoping for.
Toronto starts a three-game series hosting the Yankees at the Rogers Centre on Tuesday night. If they sweep the series they’ll be one game ahead of the Yankees. If they go 2-1, they’ll still trail New York by one game going into the final weekend series at home versus Baltimore. We won’t discuss what a 1-2 or 0-3 series vs. New York would mean.
Sadly, a blown call by umpire Joe West on Sunday night may have affected the Blue Jays’ playoff hopes. Instead of being only a game behind New York in the standings, they now trail the Yankees by two games in the Wild Card chase with only three games head-to-head left, and no games left vs. Boston.
Did Joe West’s Missed Call Sink the Blue Jays Playoff Hopes?
With two Yankee runners in scoring position and Boston leading 3-2 with one out in the 8th inning at Fenway on Sunday night, it looked like Boston reliever Adam Ottavino got New York slugger Aaron Judge out on a swinging foul-tip third strike into the glove of catcher Christian Vázquez. However, Vázquez dropped the ball while trying to transfer it from his glove to his throwing hand. Umpire Joe West ruled the play a foul ball, allowing Judge to stay alive.
ESPN broadcast analyst Alex Rodriguez can be clearly heard saying, “that looks like a good catch,” which would have made the play a foul-tip strikeout. His broadcast partner, play-by-play announcer Matt Vasgersian, also says, “[Vázquez] catches it there, and it comes out of his glove on the transfer; it’s a strikeout.”
Or as FOX Sports MLB analyst Ben Verlander put it:
So what happened next? Of course, on the very next pitch Judge crushed a two-run double into the gap in left-center. So, instead of a strikeout and two outs in the eighth, with the Red Sox still up 3-2, they now trailed 4-3. Giancarlo Stanton hammered a two-run home run in the next at-bat for good measure, and the Yankees won the ballgame 6-3.
Was that a parting gift from Joe West to the Yankees before his retirement? And why wasn’t that call reviewed?
The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham noted yesterday that Joe West is retiring after this season. In May, West set an MLB record for most games umpired with his 5,376th game.
So why wasn’t the call reviewed? Red Sox catcher Vázquez immediately asked his dugout to challenge the call. But MLB rules state that, as a foul-tip, a “catch/no-catch in the infield” play is not reviewable via instant replay. “I think they should get together and get a better call there,” said Vázquez.
In fact, Judge should have been out twice that at-bat, first on a foul pop-up that 1B Bobby Dalbec didn’t try hard enough for in foul territory behind the Red Sox dugout, and then again on the missed third strike call by West.
“I thought I was going to be done on the first foul ball that dropped in foul territory then the one I foul-tipped and dropped behind the plate,” Judge said. “I felt like a cat. I felt like I had nine lives up there.”
Vázquez, who was catching his 568th career MLB game, said he’d never had a similar situation happen in a game.
According to a study by Boston University released in 2019, West produced one of the highest rates of bad calls in 2018, with 11.43% of his calls being incorrect. The data found that between 2008 and 2018, West averaged 2.3 incorrect calls per inning.
So how is this relevant to the Jays playoff chances you ask? Well, those odds are now only 29%. Surely not only Red Sox fans, but also Blue Jays fans were hoping for Boston to sweep the Yankees this past weekend, not get swept. A Boston sweep would have dropped the Yankees a game behind Toronto. Two Boston wins would have left New York tied with the Blue Jays, and a win on Sunday night would have left the Jays just one game back.
Given the Red Sox (.564 winning percentage, 7-3 in their past 10 games) have a fairly easy final six games now versus the Orioles (.321, 3-7) and Nationals (.410, 4-6), the Blue Jays (.558 winning percentage, 5-5 in their past 10) likely will have to win all three this week head-to-head vs. the Yankees (.571, 7-3 in their past 10 games, including six straight wins) at home and then probably sweep Baltimore on the final weekend of the season as well to pass the Yankees in the Wild Card standings.
So yes Blue Jays fans, Joe West’s missed call last night quite literally might have changed the direction of the AL East Wild Card race, as well as Toronto’s playoff hopes… and not in their favor.