No single baseball play has gotten more coverage this season than when Jacoby Ellsbury stole home against the Yankees in Fenway Park Sunday night -- and rightfully so, as stealing home is a really rare feat, especially these days. In the aftermath, it was particularly disgraceful to listen to Joe Morgan, on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, repeatedly try to blame the play on Jorge Posada, the Yankees' catcher, due to the fact that a left-handed hitter was at the plate.
As it turns out, Posada had actually warned Andy Pettitte, the Yankees' pitcher, that Ellsbury might try to swipe home.
"Be careful," Posada said. "Pay attention to him."
Apparently, Posada's urging fell on deaf ears, because a few pitches later home was stolen. Let's examine the logistics of the play to prove it was clearly Pettitte's fault.
1. It is almost imperative to steal home against a left-handed pitcher, because once he goes into his windup, his back is turned to the runner. Most pitchers don't look up at their target until just before releasing the pitch, either, so there's nothing the catcher can do once the runner takes off. Pettitte is both a lefty and one who doesn't look at his target until late in the windup.
2. Posada has to receive the ball. I'm sure he did see Ellsbury barreling down the line before the pitch. What did Morgan want him to do? Start jumping up and down screaming, in order to get Pettitte's attention and hope to get a pitch-out? He would then run the risk that Pettitte didn't see him until the last minute and risk a wild pitch, which would have caused more damage.
3. Ellsbury was far down the third base line and beginning to get a walking lead. Had Pettitte stepped off the rubber to take a look, he might have been able to pick Ellsbury off. You could say Posada should have called a throw-over, but the signal was already given by the time Ellsbury was in his walking lead. We're talking about a matter of seconds here. Plus, Posada had already told his pitcher to pay attention. He probably thought Pettitte was about to step off.
The play came down to two simple things. Ellsbury perfectly played his maneuver, and Pettitte blatantly ignored a speedster who was taking a huge lead from third base. I'm not going to accuse Morgan of being ignorant on the subject -- considering he stole a few bases in his Hall of Fame career -- but there's got to be some confusion or bias on his part to stake this claim. He's just a bad broadcaster, and casting any blame on Posada in the situation exposed that fact for the umpteenth time.