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.
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?