If you come to learn the name of a baseball umpire, it's usually not because the umpire made a really great call that left everyone impressed. It's usually because the umpire did something controversial, and Monday, if people weren't already familiar with Larry Vanover, they're now more familiar with Larry Vanover after he brought a controversial end to a game between the Rays and Red Sox. With two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth, Vanover called Cody Ross out on strikes even though he didn't appear to see a single strike in the at-bat, and the Red Sox lost 1-0.
Ross was steamed after Vanover made his call. Positively steamed, like vegetables. He calmed down only a little before the post-game interviews. From Mike Petraglia:
"It's tough," Ross said. "That's the crazy thing about this game. If I'm going up there and I'm striking out every at-bat, I'm going to get benched. But it's not that way with them. They can make bad calls all day and they're not going to be held accountable for it. It's such a tough situation, believe me. I've umpired before, it's tough, it's hard. But at this level, you have to bear down. "
Added Adrian Gonzalez, who I've just today learned actually has opinions:
"Those pitches that were called on Cody, that's just not right. They're in the left-handed hitter's box and the way I see it, we missed the playoffs by one game last year, and if he walks there how he should have, Sweeney gets a hit and we wind up winning, it could make a difference. Those three pitches to Cody, that shouldn't happen."
Some people will call the Red Sox sore losers, and note that Vanover isn't the reason the Red Sox got shut out. But then, the Red Sox lost 1-0, and the controversial at-bat came with the tying and winning runs on base. The Red Sox are being sore losers here, but only because a loss like that ought to leave them sore. They should be upset, because that conclusion was pretty bad.