Taylor Hawkins Sports EditorFor a few weeks now, I have wanted to write a story about MLB umpires and how they are unfairly criticized, but after reading an article about the end of the Yankees/Indians game on Tuesday night, I cannot do that.
Baseball plays are normally bang bang plays in which the umpire has very little time to make crucial calls, without the help of instant replay.
Sure they can review whether a ball went out of play or if it was a home run or not, but instant replay is not allowed to be used to overturn plays at the plate, which are typically the hardest calls to make.
ESPN had a segment on Sportscenter the other day showing some of the blown calls throughout this year’s season. They give slow motion replays and multiple camera angles that show that the calls were “obviously” blown.
MLB umpires don’t have the luxury of slow motion and multiple camera angles. They have to make game altering calls based upon how they see a split second play.
Fans, which is short for fanatics, hold MLB umpires to an almost unachievable level of perfection.
With that said, however. Some MLB umpires are trying to break out of their “anonymous official” role to become personally invested in the game. That is very bad for baseball. What started out as animated third strike calls has evolved to new heights.
The most recent example of this occurred in the aforementioned Yankees/Indians game.
With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning down 4-3, Cleveland SS Mike Aviles made what he thought was a checked swing. The ball hit off Yankees catcher Chris Stewart’s glove, but umpire Tony Randazzo called it a foul ball, a strike.
Aviles argued the call but soon resumed his at bat, which resulted in a fly out. Aviles had words with Randazzo on the way back to the bench and was, subsequently, ejected from the game.
Aviles was ejected from a game that had already ended.
Is there a bigger way for an umpire to shout, “Look at me!” then by ejecting a player from a game that had already ended?
Why, yes. Yes there is.
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On April 28, Tampa Bay pitcher David Price was not getting very consistent calls from MLB umpire Tom Hallion.
When the inning concluded, Price walked off the mound clearly upset with himself. As he walked to the dugout, Hallion allegedly told Price to “throw the ball over the [expletive] plate.”
When his alleged insult was thrown, the entire Rays dugout exploded in outrage.
Hallion not only denied that he said this, he called Price a liar.
Hallion’s version of the events stated that Price was displaying “body language to insinuate that he was pissed off” and that he only told Price to “throw the ball.”
Let me repeat that. He told Price, who was walking back to the dugout without a ball in his hand, to “throw the ball.”
Which story sounds more believable?
My question is why does it matter what type of body language Price displayed? Hallion’s job is to call balls, strikes and outs, not play therapist and interpret a player’s body language
Price, Hellickson and another Rays pitcher, Matt Moore, were fined $1,000, not because of what happened in the game, but because they publicly criticized the official via Twitter.
Hallion was fined $1,000 because the league deemed that he was the problem here.
What could possibly be worse than umpires trying to gain the spotlight?
How about umpires that don’t know the rules.
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In a close game between Houston and the Los Angeles Angels, Astros manager Bo Porter put in pitcher Wesley Wright. Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia reacted to this by brining in a pinch hitter.
Porter decided that he wanted to counter Scioscia’s sub by switching his pitcher again before he had ever thrown a pitch.
That confusing mess is an illegal switch that every umpire is paid to know.
MLB umpire Fieldin Culbreth allowed the switch to take place.
Scioscia argued the rule and brought up Official Baseball Rule 3.05(b), which discusses the rule, but Fieldin overruled him.
Though the Angels won 6-5, the rest of the game was played under protest.
This is not some little league game where a parent decides to be the umpire. This is the highest level of baseball officiating.
Culbreth was given a two game suspension because of his incompetence.
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The MLB umpires seem to want the spotlight so badly that they are willing to degrade themselves to get it.
I was an intramural ref in college, so I have a soft spot for the hard working officials.
It isn’t easy to be hated by everyone watching the game.
This is their job, however. It’s their burden to bear. Some of these umpires need to go back and find what little decency and professionalism that they have left.
Baseball needs a change, and they need it fast before all integrity is lost.