Monday, September 10, 2012

Fixing Umpiring in MLB

I was going to lead with the picture of Tex sliding into 1B, but you've seen it enough already.

There was a time when I was against pretty much all forms of instant replay. I was a certified umpire in New York for a couple of years, and I'm currently a certified basketball referee in Ohio. So when it came to the instant replay discussions the phrase "slippery slope" would always enter my mind, meaning I was afraid that people would keep demanding more until human umpires were no longer used in baseball. After all, officiating is something that I love, and it would kill me if somebody told me that my services were no longer needed. 

Before instant replay, in any form, came to MLB I said the first thing that needs to be done is that the best umpires need to be on the field. There are currently 94 men listed on the umpire roster at MLB.com, and out of the 68 that have information on them, 17 of the umps have 20+ years in the league (after this season a handful more could be included, as they had 19 years coming into the 2012 season). Do you know hold old the average rookie MLB umpire is? Well, according to Sabernomics.com, in 2009, the average starting age for a MLB umpire was 32. That means that a little under 20% of MLB umpires right now (and that's assuming the ones without any information at MLB.com have under 20 years experience) are over the age of 50. How many men over 40 do you know that have 20/20 eyesight? I'm 34 and have been wearing eyeglasses for around 3 years. I'm not saying a person needs to have 20/20 eyesight to be a good official, as I happen to think I'm a very good basketball official, but you can't help but question the guys that get umpiring jobs in MLB.

Of course, I only get paid $55 for refereeing a varsity basketball game. Last year I brought in a little over $2,000 officiating. According to an article at ESPN.com, which was published in March of 2011, some senior umpires make upwards of $400,000. So comparing where I'm at in basketball, to where MLB umpires are at, is just a tad ridiculous.

It's even more ridiculous than the fact all of you know the name of this troll.

Now, I don't like to insult my readers, as I'm incredibly appreciative of every single one of you, but I have to be straight with you... if you think Jerry Meals is among the top 94 umpires in the entire game of baseball, you're an idiot. 

It's easy to say that anybody getting paid that much money should be good at their job, and be held responsible for the things they do (be it good or bad). But let's face it, we're in a country in which CEOs of failing companies are making millions of dollars a year. So let's just toss the word "fair" right out the window. So as much as a beg and plead for MLB to start employing the best of the best umps, I have no choice but to be realistic and accept the fact Bob Davidson is allowed to umpire MLB games. So the question becomes... where do we go from here?

The Bahamas would be a good place to go. Oh, you meant where do we go with this topic.

Since I'm not going to totally give up on my dream of MLB putting the best umpires on the field, and I'm not going to give in and agree with the idea of robots and cameras making the calls, this is what I propose...
  1. There will be an extra umpire or umpires somewhere in the stadium, that will be in charge of making decisions on instant replay. Having umpires leave the confines of the field to check replay takes too long. Seeing as how MLB pays some umps $400,000 a year, I think they can afford another umpire per game. 
  2. At anytime during a game a manager can appeal a boundary call, whether it be a home run or not. There aren't that many close boundary calls a game, so I don't see this causing the average time of a game to go up by that much. 
  3. Major League Baseball has to clarify what a swing is. Currently the MLB rule book does not define what a swing is, so umpires are left to interpret what a swing is on their own. Everybody thinks it's when the barrel of the bat crosses the plane of the front of home plate, but the rule book says no such thing. That needs to be clarified first. Then, I would allow managers to appeal calls on check swings anytime.
  4. Managers will not be allowed to appeal ball/strike calls. It's not because I don't think a ball/strike call can change a game, but it's because there are just too many pitches during a game. In yesterday's Yankees/Orioles game there were 332 pitches. That's just too much.
  5. Managers are allowed to appeal two safe/out calls per game. In yesterday's Yankees/Orioles game there were 61 balls batted into play, meaning there were 61 out/safe calls. Allowing much more than four appeals on out/safe calls a game, and reading between the lines I'm not opposed to managers being given say three appeals a game, would take too long. 
  6. And finally, umpires who repeatedly make judgement errors will be fined and/or suspended. Mistakes are going to happen every once in a while, but to make a mistake over and over again means something needs to be done. There are too many great umpires rotting in the minors for MLB to keep allowing poor umpires to keep MLB positions.
Burch can tell you that what I just proposed shows that I've come a long way in my opinions regarding instant replay. I've had many heated discussions on this topic, in which I didn't want any part of "IR". But I can no longer ignore the fact that not only has replay been used in football and basketball for years, and neither college or pros are close to doing away with human officials. So we may as well give them more tools in order for them to do a better job. But if only we could get the best officials on the field/court first. 




2 comments:

  1. I like the idea of having one guy that all he does is watch the replay. We have enough guys sitting around the game doing nothing that they can watch a screen and say fair or foul.

    I see the "clarifying what a swing is" problem is not really a problem worth solving. I am all for being proactive rather then reactive but this never seems to come up and be a huge problem.

    Balls and strikes will never be replayable. Ever.. Live 100 years and they still wont.

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  2. I really don't like that umpires leave the field to check replay. And it makes no sense when the main issue MLB has with replay revolves around the time it takes.

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