Are the Orioles getting more calls?

Someone sent me a video on you tube today and on the right hand panel they suggested that I view some other clips, one of which was this one. I vaguely recall this game two seasons ago Buck Showalter was ejected arguing an apparent strike three and a runner being out at second base. There are a few things that pop out at the viewer immediately in watching that. Before the issue of the check swing even comes into play, the second base umpire seems to wait to make his call as if he’s trying to see what the call at home plate is. Secondly (and much more subtly), Showalter is almost tossed out of the game as soon as he opens his mouth.

Addressing the second point first, any player or coach is supposed to be automatically ejected for simply arguing balls and strikes. That’s what Showalter did, so in that sense you can’t really argue the ejection. However we’ve all seen managers and players (especially catchers) having the chance to say s short piece; so with that said it appears that Showalter was tossed just for saying he disagreed with the call. Furthermore, not only was the base runner (Vladimir Guerrero) safe at second base, but the umpire waited to make the call. I have no doubt that there was no fix in against the Orioles (or any other team) at that time or now, however there’s also no doubt that particular play was very sloppily umpired.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Baltimore Orioles

Courtesy of USA Today

However it seems to me that some of that “sloppy umpiring” has gone by the wayside a bit from the Orioles’ standpoint. This is not to say that the Orioles aren’t as much victims of bad calls on occasion as anyone else. It happens, and while I feel the umpires do need to know (from players, coaches, and fans alike) when they make bad calls, that’s also part of the human element of any sport. However it is interesting to me that Buck Showalter doesn’t seem to have to argue calls as often as he did in 2010-11, or as often as his predecessors. Is there a correlation?

Quite honestly, I hope not. In no way is it fair in any sport to say that one team should or shouldn’t get calls going their way depending upon their record. Safe is safe, out is out, fair is fair, and a strike is a strike, all regardless of a team’s record. However again, I think that the human element definitely comes into play here. These umpires aren’t stupid; they know both teams that are competing, and they know both teams’ struggles or successes. All one has to do is watch Sportscenter to know that. So if you look at the Baltimore Orioles from 1998-2011, the fact is that they weren’t a very good team for the most part. So…all things being equal, is it not possible that calls are occasionally made against teams like that on reputation?

People hate it when this type of thing is brought up, mainly because we all want to assume that nobody would ever purposely go against a team. And I agree that for the most part that wouldn’t happen. However when you have a team in contention and one that’s out of contention, if there’s a bang-bang play or a close pitch I think it might well be human nature to rule in favor of the team that the umpire knows is going well. That doesn’t indicate any sort of bias one way or the other, however I think you can probably file it under the category of “to the victors go the spoils.”

I suppose my point is that in my view it seems that the O’s haven’t been the victims of these kinds of calls quite as much of late. I’m not including the timeless “revolving strike zone” in that, as every team has that issue on occasion. However I feel that either umpires aren’t making as many snap decisions (whereby they’re inadvertently thinking “well…it’s the Orioles”), or perhaps they’re continuing to make them but in the Orioles’ favor. Let me just say in closing that NOBODY should feel that they should get the benefit of the doubt from umpires in a sense. However we’re kidding ourselves if we think that some teams don’t get it more than do others. Are the Orioles now one of those teams?

Topics: Baltimore Orioles, Buck Showalter

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  • Dave Gruber

    Of all pro sports officials I believe being a major league umpire is without a doubt the most difficult job, especially being behind the plate. In no other sport does an official have anywhere near as much to do with the outcome of the game than a home plate umpire. Because their human they’ll make mistakes but I don’t think they play favorites. Maybe I’m naive but I just think they have too much integrity than to even have the appearance of favoring one team over another. All I know is that as easy as it is to complain about them I would never want to do that job.

    • Domenic Vadala

      I don’t think they play favorites either. My point is that on close plays someone has to get the call. Thanks for reading!

  • Double_Up

    As a man who’s refereed football, basketball, and soccer, and umpired in baseball, I have to say baseball is a walk in the park. So much going on with so many players in other sports, so much to watch for, so many blind spots, so much responsibility, so much contact and conflict. But in baseball, calling balls and strikes, safe and out, fair or foul, not much grey area, not very stressful. Umpires can shade calls so easily if they want in any sport but rarely do they ever get called out for it. When I umpired baseball I never heard a complaint, but in every other sport yes, all the time, everyone thought they saw something differently than I did. In MLB do umpires play favourites? Of course. Are the Orioles benefitting from calls they shouldn’t get? Yup, sure are, but so are like 12 other teams, and not all of them are winning teams. Such is pro sports nowadays.

    • Domenic Vadala

      Great insight; thanks for reading!