Observations from a night as a civilian in the not-so-cheap seats at Wrigley Field:
— I didn’t know who Vic Carapazza was until Thursday night, but now I do. This can’t be emphasized enough: I didn’t come to the Cubs-Nationals game to get to know Vic Carapazza. I came to see Dexter Fowler, among other players in a star-studded game. But Carapazza, the home-plate umpire, ejected the .340-hitting Fowler in the third inning for the heinous crime of questioning balls and strikes.
The key word is “questioning.’’ Fowler didn’t argue vociferously. If he could have been accused of anything, it was loitering. He later said he had asked Carapazza to explain his strike zone after a called third strike, presumably so Fowler would have a better idea of it when he came to the plate the next time. He said he never got an answer, just the thumb.
Major-league baseball is called “The Show’’ because of the athletes, not the guys policing the game. Thin-skinned umpires shouldn’t be allowed to deprive fans of watching name players. It’s very, very bad business.
— Speaking of bad business … replay. If you’re looking for your buzz to be murdered, watch a couple of umpires put on headphones and wait for an official in New York to look at five different camera angles before deciding that the original call should stand. That happened twice Thursday.
In the fourth inning, Nationals right-fielder Bryce Harper threw out Anthony Rizzo on a close play at third. The umpire was so perfectly positioned to make the call, he could have been a cartoon cat waiting for a mouse to come out of its hole. Cubs manager Joe Maddon challenged, and after a three-minute, 46-second delay, the call was upheld.
In the eighth inning, another long delay set in as the New York review center studied a tag at first on Cub Tommy La Stella following a botched Nationals rundown. The crowd booed as the review dragged on. The original call finally was upheld, and La Stella remained at first. The wait gave several spectators enough time to decide life wasn’t worth living anymore.
If a play is close, it shouldn’t take more than a minute to decide that it’s inconclusive. The whole point of the review process should be to correct egregious mistakes, not to stare at replays of a bang-bang play as if it were the Zapruder film. Baseball is slow enough that the tortoise doesn’t need another mile added to the race.
There’s something wrong about a sport that allows a close play at third base to be looked at from every angle but that frowns upon a player arguing balls and strikes — which can’t be reviewed.
— I don’t know how people trying to make ends meet can take in a game at Wrigley and not head straight to bankruptcy court afterward.
Let’s say you’re a family of four sitting where I sat Thursday night, in a field-box seat about 35 rows behind home plate. Four tickets cost a total of $280. Mom and Dad have two craft beers each, totaling $36. Four hot dogs cost a combined $23. But who eats just one hot dog (certainly not Telander, whose press-box record is 12)? Let’s double it to $46. Soft drinks for the two kids come to $9. Buy them some ice cream for not spilling the drinks on the bro and his girlfriend sitting in front of you. That’s another $10. Parking sets you back at least $25.
That adds up to $406. Hey, there’s no law that says those two young kids have to go to college.
The prices at Wrigley are ridiculous but not so ridiculous that Thursday’s announced crowd of 37,564 decided to stay home. In other words, I can shake my head at how much it costs to go to a game and ask what it means for the future of the republic, but the fact is that people keep spending.
There are either a lot of folks with money or a lot of folks with a lot of credit-card debt.
— Every guy who enters a men’s room at Wrigley should know about trough etiquette. You stand shoulder to shoulder with other relievers, pee into the long metal urinals, stare at the wall in front of you and, under no circumstances, allow your eyes to wander.
That’s fine as long as you use one of the troughs along the wall. But there are also two troughs in the middle of the men’s room, separated only by a five-foot wall. If you use one of those troughs, you can find yourself staring awkwardly at the face of a man doing his business mere feet across from you. There is nowhere to go, eye-wise. You don’t want to look at him, but you also don’t want to look down and make your trough neighbors think you’re a peeing Tom.
Don’t like it? The answer is in a phrase often used in conversation: Don’t go there.