Darwin Barney of the Chicago Cubs readies to throw to third base on a play that was first ruled an error on Barney, then changed by the official scorer, against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Cubs lost to the Brewers 3-1 Wednesday night, their third straight loss dropping them to a season-low 31 games under .500. Truth be told, it wasn't much different from Tuesday's defeat; the Cubs scored an early run and then got shut down. They had just one baserunner between the second and eighth inning and at one point saw 18 of 19 Cubs hitters retired.
That's the summation; what you probably really want to talk about is the play in the seventh inning on which the Brewers scored a run on two Cubs errors. Brewers shortstop Jean Segura, on first base having already driven in a run with a single, took off for second base. Welington Castillo's throw bounced in and couldn't be handled by Starlin Castro, giving Segura a stolen base and an error to Castillo as Segura headed toward third. Darwin Barney picked it up and threw to third to try to get Segura. Luis Valbuena couldn't handle the throw; it got away and Segura scored.
Stolen base, error to Castillo, error to Barney. But wait! Darwin Barney is on a consecutive-game errorless streak and this particular game is important, because if he gets through it without an error, he'd break the National League single-season record for such things; that record was set in 2010 by David Eckstein.
The official scorer, a retired sportswriter named Bob Rosenberg, ruled E-4; Barney's streak was over. Or was it?
It didn't take very long for Rosenberg to change his ruling to E-5, an error on Valbuena for missing Barney's throw. I have watched the replay of this play several times and the second call appears to have been correct; the throw might not have gotten Segura, but Valbuena should have caught the ball. (Thus, the asterisk in this post's headline.)
The real problem here is this phrase:
The official scorer, a retired sportswriter named Bob Rosenberg
This conjures up images of a smoke-filled press box in 1949, with a grizzled old sportswriter chomping on a five-cent cigar in between shots of whiskey, looking up every now and then to yell, "E-4!", whether there had been an error made or not.
All right, I'm being a little unfair here. Rosenberg has been scoring baseball games in Chicago on both sides of town for a long time. Presumably, he knows the rules pretty well and can do a decent job of making judgments on plays in the field. We have a BCB member (Zeke) who is an official scorer for the Lansing Lugnuts of the Midwest League. I don't want to impugn him either, first because he is a friend, second because I know he takes his responsibility very seriously.
But seriously, speaking of seriously, why isn't this position taken more seriously by Major League Baseball? Why shouldn't the official scorer be a league employee, perhaps, as I have written before, a fifth umpire who would also be responsible for replay review? This job is too important to leave to retired sportswriters, no matter how well-trained they are. In this case, an important statistic and streak could have been changed at the whim of one man.
It's something MLB should really address, and sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Barney's streak is intact at 114 games and counting. (He also drove in the only Cubs run of the game on an RBI groundout.)
There isn't much more to be said about Wednesday's game. Once again, a Cubs starter put together a very good outing; Jeff Samardzija gave up just seven hits, didn't walk anyone and struck out 10. Again, as it was on Tuesday, outings like this one will win you the game 85% of the time you go out there, presuming your team gets a few hits behind you. The Cubs didn't.
And so, we are reduced to trying to salvage one game of this four-game set, the final meeting between the Cubs and Brewers in 2012. The Cubs have defeated the Brewers just three times this season (with 13 losses), once in April, once in May, and once in June. August, with its 6-21 mark so far for the Cubs, is nearly gone. Is a win too much to ask? (Probably.) The game preview will post at 11:30 a.m. CDT.