In Comedy of Errors, Nats Aren't Laughing

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 4, 2006

NEW YORK, April 3 -- Have so many people from so many sides -- home, visitor, neutral -- ever made so many mistakes on the same play?

Where do you even begin? With the third base coach who green-lighted his runner into making the first out of the inning at home plate in a one-run game?

With the on-deck hitter who failed to clear the bat out of the base path, forcing his teammate to alter his slide three-quarters of the way down the third base line?

With the catcher who dropped the ball at the end of an otherwise textbook example of team defense?

No. We begin with the umpire, because that is where it ended. All that mattered in the end on Monday was that Tim Tschida called Alfonso Soriano out at home in the top of the eighth inning of the Washington Nationals' 3-2 loss to the New York Mets on a cold, crisp Opening Day.

Tschida's was the biggest mistake of all, because it determined how all the other mistakes would be viewed.

It was the biggest mistake, because Soriano was safe.

"It's unfortunate," said Rick Reed, chief of Monday's umpiring crew, speaking on Tschida's behalf after the game and accepting the blame. "We don't like missing anything."

The play, so full of blunders, began with a simple line drive into the left field corner, and twin merry-go-rounds were set whirling into motion.

One went counterclockwise, as Soriano, the runner on first base, motored around second base and toward third, while Ryan Zimmerman, the batter, rounded first and eased into second.

The second merry-go-round, almost imperceptible while all eyes watched the play unfold, went clockwise, as the umpires rotated -- with Reed, the home plate umpire, shifting to third base, and Tschida, the first base umpire, shifting to home for a potential play at the plate.

With no outs, Tony Beasley, the Nationals' third base coach, knew he should think about sending Soriano around third base only if he was sure Soriano would score. But after gauging Soriano's speed and the defensive abilities of Cliff Floyd, the Mets' lumbering left fielder, Beasley chose to ignore his head and obey his heart.

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