I have a general belief when it comes to my professional sports-watching experience: If you’re an official, I don’t think we should know your name. If you’re known for something whimsical or interesting, sure, let’s give you some shine. For example, NHL official Wes McCauley has made listening to a penalty announcement worth your time, which is honestly just plain incredible, and I welcome that in my life.
But if I know your name strictly because of how generally awful or insufferably self-centered you are at your job, that’s a problem. And I don’t want to hear your name and ‘postseason game’ in the same breath. Keep Chris Rooney and Kelly Sutherland away from anything resembling an important game for the Bruins, keep any Hochuli away from a working microphone, and don’t even let Angel Hernandez in the building unless he has a ticket and paid at least three times face value.
Laz Diaz is not a name I want to know. But it’s one I do. And did even before he jobbed Nathan Eovaldi out of an obvious strike three call that did not go Boston’s way and cleared the path for a seven-run ninth-inning that allowed the Astros to tie up the 2021 American League Championship Series with the Red Sox at 2-2.
Now, if we went off the data available even before Diaz boned the Sox, it was obvious that he shouldn’t have been given this assignment. This isn’t May 19 between the Red Sox and Pirates. This is the second-biggest stage in baseball. And the MLB was letting someone with this track record make calls for a full four hours?
Laz Diaz will call balls and strikes in game 4 of the ALCS. He was one of the worst home plate umpires in MLB this year. Bottom 6% in accuracy, bottom 12% in consistency. Buckle up. https://t.co/hBwxMlsZ5w pic.twitter.com/ws7SOzufEB— The Astros Locker (@TheAstrosLocker) October 15, 2021
That tweet, by the way, was fired off four days before Game 4. It was essentially an admission that we were going to be treated to the Full Diaz Show and it was going to be awful. And it truly was. Both teams were boned at various points throughout the night. And contrary to popular belief, bringing this up doesn’t strengthen a potential counterargument, but rather completes the argument that, yes, Laz Diaz is really bad at this.
But in the case of Game 4, Diaz going Full Diaz came back to hurt the Red Sox more than the Astros on sheer magnitude alone.
For 50 straight outs, the non-call on the would-be strike three to Jason Castro was a strike. It was. I mean, the amount of batter-look-backs at Diaz after an outside strike throughout the night bordered on absurd. But suddenly, with the Red Sox about to tightrope their way out of a jam, the strike zone was squeezed down to nothing.
Yuck. Gross. Hated it.
Of course, the Red Sox didn’t help themselves. They failed with runners in scoring position, their one-through-three hitters went cold, and they failed to turn freebies into runs. All of that basically goes without saying.
But Laz was playin’ the hits in this one. The Eovaldi non-call was his 21st (21st!) missed strike of the night. He ended with 23. That, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, is the most among any umpire this entire postseason.
Home-plate umpire Laz Diaz has missed 21 ball-strike calls tonight, according to @ESPNStatsInfo. That is the most of any umpire this postseason. The green dot in the upper RH corner is the Eovaldi curveball that would've ended top of the ninth with the score 2-2.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 20, 2021
It is now 9-2. pic.twitter.com/VzdyL4lth3
“A lot of people thought it was a strike,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
Including the man who was practically walking back to the dugout when Diaz called it a ball.
“I thought it was a strike, but, again, I’m in the moment. I’m trying to make my pitches. I’m attacking the zone,” Eovaldi said. “I had two strikeouts, and then facing Castro, I felt like I was in control of the at-bat. I felt like I made a good pitch on the outside corner, and it didn’t go my way.
“There’s going to be those at-bats where I felt like our batters were being very selective up there. They were having quality at-bats, and a 1-0 count that turns into a 1-1 or a 2-0 count, it changes the at-bat a lot.”
The hilarious (infuriating) part is that this wasn’t even the team’s first run-in with Diaz in this game.
When Diaz rang J.D. Martinez up on a pitch that was closer to a 508 area code than a 617, Cora came flying out of the dugout and had to held back by a player and a coach while flirting with a potential playoff ejection.
Missed calls happen but this being a called strike 3 in Game 4 of the ALCS is unacceptable. My goodness. pic.twitter.com/fhPA2wllvT— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) October 20, 2021
“I didn’t agree with the J.D. call,” Cora said after the game. “I didn’t. The way the catcher reacted to the whole thing, I think we thought it was a ball; he thought it was a strike. We didn’t agree with that one. The last one I’m not going to get thrown out. I learned my lesson in Game 1 of the last time we played them and I told him I’m not going to get thrown out of this game, but we thought that pitch was a strike, and he disagreed with us.”
Nick Pivetta opted to take the high road after the game, offering a simple ‘no comment’ when asked about Diaz. Perhaps we should’ve expected that kind of kindness from a good ol’ Canadian boy like Nick Pivetta, but he is indeed a bigger man than I and most of Boston this morning.
Because Laz Diaz absolutely stinks.
And in the middle of what was looking like an all-timer between these rivals, Diaz, predictably, stunk his way right into being part of the story.
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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.