Major League Baseball President Robert DuPuy said the umpires in the playoffs are "the best umpires in the world," and that there aren't likely to be any substantive changes to the way umpires are evaluated despite high-profile, questionable decisions during these playoffs.
Speaking before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Monday night at Minute Maid Park, DuPuy addressed the ejections of St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa and center fielder Jim Edmonds by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi in Game 4. La Russa and Edmonds both questioned what they considered quick ejections, and La Russa said there was supposed to be more "latitude" in the playoffs.
"These are critical games, and everybody wants to see the games decided on the field and by the players and with all the best players in there," DuPuy said. "But by the same token, the rules are the rules. To bend the rules in favor of one team would be a disservice to the other team."
DuPuy said he told the umpiring crew that it did not have to discuss the ejections with the media because the calls didn't involve interpretation of the rules. Edmonds, though, said Cuzzi cursed at him, and that Edmonds did not curse back. "Umpires are supposed to be civil," DuPuy said.
"Not to make excuses for them," La Russa said, "but a lot of the emotion they fire back at players is because of the scrutiny they get, and they are just human, too. There's replays all over the place. But they are held accountable for everything."
DuPuy said he had not received written reports on the two incidents, but he said Cuzzi had warned La Russa, who was arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. La Russa said he would make the same decision to argue with Cuzzi, whose strike zone the Cardinals considered erratic, again.
"If you think that [players] are trying as hard as they can and they have got some legitimacy to their beefs, you make the decision that they are your guys, and that's the decision I made," La Russa said. "I would never do it any different."
The umpires used for the postseason are selected based on an elaborate merit-based system. DuPuy said the process, as well as the way umpires handle various situations, are constantly evaluated by MLB executives.
Ryan Still Intimidating
There is no more significant figure in Texas baseball than Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, but the all-time strikeout king can, from time to time, have difficulty fitting into his role as an assistant to Astros General Manager Tim Purpura.
Purpura said he initially saw Ryan interact with players, and the players shied away.
"The hard thing with Nolan, if you don't know him, it might take a while to get through," he said. "I watched the players, and they're intimidated because it's Nolan Ryan."
But Ryan, who helps Purpura with talent evaluation, is pulling hard for the franchise for which he pitched from 1980 to '88 to finally reach the World Series. He sat in Purpura's box in Game 4, a 2-1 Astros' win, and celebrated gleefully when the final out was recorded.