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Friday, May 17, 2013

Who's Umping the Umps?

Wild on Sports
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Who's Umping the Umps?
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman


Last week baseball teams were dealt a double dose of stupid from umpiring crews, two rare feats of incompetence which ended up having significant impacts on the games, effectively making the umpires participants through their human error.

In the first screw-up last Wednesday, Angel Hernandez made the wrong call on a Home Run off the bat of Adam Rosales during a game between the Athletics and Indians. The game would have tied the score at 4-4 but his Home Run was ruled a double. Replay showed that it was clearly over the fence but the umpiring crew made the outrageous decision to hold Rosales at second, maintaining that their mistake was the right call.

In the second incident, an umpire crew covering an Angels-Astros game failed to enforce a rule, and the Angels played the game under protest. Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued correctly that Astros pitcher Wesley Wright had to face at least one batter before being pulled, but instead the umpires allowed the Astros to replace him with Hector Ambriz.

For the second error, baseball did suspend Fieldin Culbreth for several days and fined the entire crew. However, no action has been taken against the first offenders, save for a meaningless apology from major league baseball.

Why are these incidents so horrendous? For one thing, the Umpires lack of knowledge and/or integrity had an impact on the field. Even more importantly, they showed some real ugly hubris on part of the umpires, who apparently think they are more important than the game itself.

One article has already made the accusation that umpire Hernandez (who has refused to be interviewed directly) purposely kept the double call to protest against the Instant Replay on Home Runs:

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/botched-home-run-review-helps-indians-steal-victory-040922445.html

I’m not sure if it is that sinister. However I do think that the umpires were well aware, after seeing the replay, of the right call, and instead chose to double down on their mistake because to change the call would have wounded their pride or exposed their human error. Many umpires feel that fans and players don’t properly appreciate the skill and expertise required to be an umpire, and no doubt the implantation of instant replay is a reminder of the encroaching threat against their livelihood by more objective high-tech means.

That said, if the umpires are afraid of being replaced, they could not have picked a better way to prove the anachronism of their jobs by ‘creatively’ bungling a home run call and demonstrating a lack of knowledge of baseball rules.

Umpires make many mistakes, some of which are glaring even when they don’t necessarily affect the outcome of a game. Recall Armando Galarraga’s perfect game that wasn’t, when the first base umpire Jim Joyce called a player safe at first base. But in that situation, Joyce was apologetic when shown the replay video. Here, none of the umpires have apologized or even acknowledged that they impacted the games.

So what should baseball do? If they are serious about the integrity of the game, a serious fine and/or suspension should be levelled against all involved. Hernandez’ crew in particular needs to be taught a lesson since apparently they think the umpires ‘pride’ is more important than making the right calls.

Otherwise, not only will we continue to see the occasional “activist umpire” display, but the integrity of the game will be undermined as more and more voices call for mechanized game calling, which will more accurate, but also less fun.

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