Let’s be honest here. We’re all friends, right? I went to the University of MIssouri, and I’m not sure if you knew this or not, but there haven’t been a ton of good things to come out of MU in a while. Aaron Crow is a perfect example of a kid that was a product of Mizzou, but… kind of isn’t the world beater that you’d come to expect. He’s “Missouri good.” And his four years in the majors proved that. As a reliever, Crow’s job when he entered the league in 2011 was to be the bridge to Joakim Soria. Occasionally, he’d pitch the 7th, or the 8th, or both, depending on how Yost wanted to use him. And it kind of worked. The 2011 Royals weren’t great, but you could see the inklings of what the team would eventually be. Youngsters named Moustakas and Hosmer and Perez and Butler and Gordon dotted the lineup. And the Bullpen had names including Duffy, and Soria, and Davies. But it also had names like Mazzaro and Giavotella and Francoeur and Ka’aihue. So it really had a ways to go to what we’d eventually see in 2014 and 15.
And Aaron Crow was kind of in the mix. The team was a .400 team for the first couple of months of the season, and, frankly, Crow was one of the few bright spots. Through the end of May, Crow appeared in 22 games and had only allowed four earned runs in 27 innings. An ERA of 1.33. The rest of the club was so lackluster, that Crow was even named the team’s lone All Star representative. (Yes, really.) A rookie with two months of service under his belt. Crow would notch four more holds in June and headed into July knowing that he was going to Phoenix to play in the All Star game.
And that brings us to moment #38. One of the most Mizzouiest moments on our countdown. July 4, 2011. The Royals had just lost a series in Colorado, and traveled to Chicago to open a three-gamer series against the White Sox. The Royals jumped out to an early lead thanks to a Jeff Francoeur homer. Heading into the eighth, the game stood at 3-2, and you could nearly hear Hawk Harrelson beginning to cry in his beer. After a scoreless seventh by someone named Greg Holland, Aaron Crow entered the game to get it to Soria. Crow pitched an inning of shutout baseball two days earlier in a loss to the Rockies and the newly minted All-Star topped the hill. Crow allowed a leadoff single to Brent Morel (who?) and then Adam Fucking Dunn whacked a dong to give the Sox the lead. A blown save for Crow. No big deal, right?
Dunn’s homer was significant. It passed Joe DiMaggio on the all time homer list with 362. Approximately 456 of which were against the Royals.
In the top of the ninth, Eric Hosmer (I think he plays for the Padres?) hit his seventh homer of the year to tie the game at four. With no need to bring in Soria because of stupid baseball rules, an already battered Aaron Crow headed back out for his second inning of work. This was our All-Star, folks. This is what Missouri Tigers do.
Well, here’s what this Missouri Tiger did. AJ Fucking Pierzynski started the ninth with a single, went to second on a sac bunt. Crow then throws a pitch to the screen allowing Fucking Pierzynski to head to third. One out, man on third. Tie ballgame.What happened there, was the topic of much debate. But the facts are that Fucking Pierzynski, a catcher, noticed Crow make a slight forward motion as he was stepping off the mound. Fucking Pierzynski began gesticulating wildly while yelling “that’s a balk!” “That’s a balk!” This prompted the White Sox bench to then yell and it got the attention of home plate umpire Ed Rapuano who Enrico Palazzo’s a balk signal, pointing Fucking Pierzynski home. Whether Rapuano would’ve called the balk on his own, or whether it was really truly a balk that rises to the criteria of ending a game, is certainly up for debate. The balk rule was made to stop pitchers from tricking runners into thinking they were pitching the ball home. It has since evolved to a micro-millimeter measurement of a forward motion. That’s all well and good. But it marked the end of a game on a walk off balk – or, as Royals Twitter called it, a “balk off.”
Jeff Francoeur met with reporters after the game and said, “It’s a shame because you’ve got an All-Star reliever up there, you’ve got Adam Dunn in the box, the crowd was going crazy. It’s a great atmosphere, and you’re going to call a balk to end the game. I just don’t see it. I’ve always respected Ed, he’s always done a great job, but to make that call in that situation, to me, that’s not right. …
“I understand if he drops the ball or blatantly moves, but he’s calling him for flinching when he’s stepping back off the mound. What the hell are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to step off? It’s a disappointing call.”
Per the Chicago Tribune, after the game, the umpires declined an interview request.
A Mizzou ending if ever there was one.
To be fair, Aaron Crow went to high school in Topeka, so don’t think that you Jayhawkers are off the hook here.