Ed Price at AOL Fanhouse reports this weekend that Phil Cuzzi, the umpire who botched the Joe Mauer fly ball call that may have cost the Twins a win in Game 2 of the ALDS, was previously fired from professional umpiring after he failed to impress supervisors during call-ups from the minor leagues.
(And you thought you had a good union!)
Cuzzi was “released” from his umpiring duties as a AAA umpire in ‘93, but while working as a bartender in a hotel in ‘96, he prevailed up former National League President Len Coleman to give him another chance at the job.
(If only he’d botched fateful martini at the Hackensack Hilton that badly)
Cuzzi was then assigned to the low minors that year, eventually working his way back to a permanent major league job in ‘99.
Since he locked down that gig, Cuzzi has emphatically proven why he should’ve never been given a second chance. Per Price:
In October 1999, the Mets protested to Major League Baseball that Cuzzi, working home plate for a Mets-Braves game, refused to ask for help from the first- and third-base umpires. A New York Post story suggested it was because the corner umpires were union veterans and he was one of the hired replacements.
Add in several more documented, on-field controversies and it appears we might just be seeing a pattern developing here.
I worked as a baseball announcer for a decade in the minor and major leagues, and I got to know many umpires during that time. A lot of fine gentlemen, but understand there’s no industry where a stronger old boy network exists. It’s like the mafia or a union with a vice-grip over a company: no one can touch you - no matter how incompetent you are.
Now Twins fans can only lament that Cuzzi didn’t botch Coleman’s martini at the Hacksensack Airport Ramada in ‘96 as badly as he did Friday’s call.