Sports

Mosher made right call — the gutsy call

If you listened to enough talk radio or local sports television last weekend, you’d think Terry Mosher had committed one of the most villainous acts in Seattle sports history.

Mosher, the Bremertonian who serves as the official scorer for the beloved Seattle Mariners, was the guy who judged that third baseman Jeff Cirillo made an error on a ball hit by Bill Haselman of the Texas Rangers.

The ruling ended Cirillo’s streak of errorless games at third base, leaving him one short of a major league-record 100 consecutive games at the hot corner without a miscue. Cirillo had tied John Wehner’s record of 99 games the night before.

The controversy started as soon as “E-5” flashed on the scoreboard.

During the ensuing debate, I heard it called “a debatable error,” “a questionable error,” “a tough call,” and a “downright bad call.”

Former M’s third baseman Mike Blowers blasted the decision on KJR’s post-game radio show. Baseball commentator Bill Krueger ripped the call on FOX Northwest’s nightly TV show. To be fair, commentators on ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight,” felt it was an “error all the way.”

“I haven't really looked at it yet,” Cirillo said after the game. "I know there’s a lot of pressure on (the official scorer) to get it right. It would have been nice to hold (the record) as my own.

"It was a long streak. It was bound to end sooner or later. It was a tough play.”

But not that tough. Haselman hit a two-bouncer to Cirillo’s right. Instead of moving to get in front of the ball, which he probably had time to do, he took a step back and tried to backhand the ball, which hit off his glove and continued into left field.

Mosher made the right call, and I don’t say that because he’s a former colleague and a friend of mine. I’ve been in the press box on nights when I didn’t agree with Mosh’s decision, but this time, he got it right.

I called Mosher on Monday, two days after the fateful night.

“Hello, this is Jeff Cirillo. I just wanted to know how well you slept Saturday night.”

My Cirillo imitation didn’t fool Mosher.

“I slept fine,” Mosher said. “Jeff, it was an error.”

He was as sure of it as he had been 36 hours earlier when he punched the information into his computer that would transmit the statistics of the game to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“It’s an error,” Mosher said. “You can’t give a guy a free pass to Cooperstown. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. I thought it was an error all the way.

“After the game he said, ‘I usually make that play.’ I agree. He usually makes that play.”

Mosher can understand where Blowers and Krueger were coming from.

“They’re going to stick up for the players,” he said.

The critics, and even manager Lou Piniella, intimated that this was a special situation that called for special judgement.

“What he’s been striving for for 99 games is pretty impressive, and that’s a tough error to make,” Piniella said. “I usually don’t say much about the official scoring, but I think you give a good fielder the benefit of the doubt, especially in a game like this.”

Sorry, Lou. An error’s an error, regardless of the situation.Give Mosher credit for not caving into the pressure, for making the gutsy call.

“It’s just another play,” Mosher said. “I can’t help it happened to be the one that broke the record. I’m not trying to be hard about it. That’s the way it is. I didn’t think it was that tough of a call. I thought it was an easy call.”

Tough calls, however, are part of being the official scorer. He’s been handling the position for five years, which is about when he left The Sun, where he covered the Mariners for more than 20 years. Silverdale’s Harland Beery, another former Sun writer, served as the M’s official scorer before Mosher.

Mosher said he looks at the game differently now than when he was covering the team as a writer.

“When you’re a writer, you’re looking for an angle to a story,” he said. “You’re not really paying attention to what everybody’s doing on the field. You’re worried about your lead for a story. Keeping score, you’re looking at every pitch, every play. You’ve got to anticipate plays. You consider how fast players are. There’s a lot that goes into some decisions.”

Mosher said he averages one tough call per game.

“Some games you don’t get any. Some games you get two or three,” he said. “Sometimes there’s no right answer.”

Mosher has instant replay available to him. He also has the option to reverse his call, if he does it within a 24-hour period.

“Sometimes I’ve mulled them over and changed calls,” he said.

It used to be common for players or managers to pick up a phone in the dugout or clubhouse and call the official scorer to complain about a decision, but baseball’s put a stop to that practice.

That doesn’t stop members of the PR staff or beat writers from questioning decisions. I was sitting next to Mosher during a day game a year ago when a member of the San Diego PR staff argued vehemently about an infield hit Mosher awarded to Ichiro Sukuzi. The PR man thought the Padres’ second baseman errored on the play. The guy raised such a stink that he was later reprimanded by baseball’s commissioner’s office.

“If they think I’m wrong, sometimes they’ll say look at it. I don’t have to change it,” he said. “I’m just trying to be fair. That’s all I care about. If I can live with myself, that’s all I care about it.”

As for the media criticism, Mosher shrugs it off.

“The radio/TV people have to do their thing to create controversy so they have something to talk about,” Mosher said. “They create controversy where there is none. It’s not a personal thing.”

Mosher did the right thing.

“Cirillo screwed it up,” he said. “Not me.”

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