According to the Worcester Telegram Derryl Cousins is out for the year with a bruised collarbone. Cousins, if you recall, was the umpire at the center of Tampa Bay's rotation juggle, many speculating that, despite Joe Maddon's and Kazmir's denials, and even the numbers to support the decision, Kazmir was bumped up as a game 5 starter in part due to his history with Cousins. (While most stories include quotes in which Kazmir is towing the line, there is one confirmation floating out there).
In a June game at Anaheim both Maddon and Kazmir were tossed by Cousins for arguing balls and strikes. Here's the oft-quoted Kazmir rant that followed:
"That was unbelievable, I'd never seen anything like that before,'' Kazmir said. "I never said anything like this about an umpire before but that was just a crucial part of the game and you just don't do that. Makeup calls or not makeup calls - call it when it's there, you know what I mean? You shouldn't change your strike zone because of the count. It doesn't make sense."Cousins' collarbone is not broken, only bruised. Would Cousins still be umpiring with the rest of his crew if it was the Red Sox that had reached the series?
It's not far-fetched that MLB would have him removed in order to avoid unwanted attention and to limit possible disruptions and distractions. A second controversy invovling Cousins and the Rays, this time in the World Series, would've generated nothing but negative attention. At the very least even if no other incident occured, MLB would be running the uneccesary risk of letting the original Cousins story persist. They couldn't simply yank him off the crew without appearing to kowtow to the Rays, but once he was injured in game six, the MLB brass had a plausible excuse to replace him.
The NFL seems to have a similar policy of keeping their referees from certain teams. In July Mike Sando uncovered a pattern of unofficial suspensions for NFL refs. Sando's study revealed that many referees have gone years without seeing a particular team, their absences seemingly a direct result of one or more highly disputed calls they made against that team.
Within that article, the NFL, and the head of refs, Mike Pereira, denied that they practice "blacklisting," but ESPN's circumstantial evidence is quite convincing. Walt Coleman, who reversed the Tuck Rule fumble hasn't seen the Raiders since. Ed Hochuli just finished serving a seven year suspension from refereeing the Broncos, only to, ahem..well, you know. It's safe to assume we won't see Hochuli doing a Charger game for a while.
Sando offers the two sides to the practice: “[It] shows how much care the league takes behind the scenes in putting its game officials in position to succeed. The practice also raises questions about whether teams can bully the league into blacklisting referees deemed unsympathetic.”
Count David Stern among those more concerned with the negative effects of a policy such as the NFL's. Back in May, Stern appeared on “Rome is Burning" to address the lingering Donaghy issue. When Rome asked whether or not Stern would consider a referee's previous history with a particular team when scheduling the referee crews, Stern responded, "When I have a referee that I can’t assign to a series then I don’t have a referee." He reiterated, "If a referee can’t referee a game then he can’t referee."
[Rome link found via West Coast Bias]