Jun 21, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) argues with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez (55) against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Orioles: Better Players, Umps Worse


As baseball bloggers go, I’m a grandfather. Heck, I am a grandfather outside of baseball too! All to say – I’m really old! I’ve seen a lot of baseball for a lot of years, and every so often I weigh in here on the Birds Watchers blog with a few long-term observations about the game.

Sometimes I’m shocked by how much I can remember. For example, whenever I look at Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson, it frankly strikes me how awfully old he looks. But then I remember how I can recall him as a rookie in 1965, where he was, well … not the best. The next year, manager Hank Bauer replaced a pretty solid 2nd baseman named Jerry Adair with Johnson, causing Adair to demand a trade. But I digress.

In the earlier half of my life (like three decades ago), when there were very close calls in a game and the TV coverage would show the slow-motion replay, practically NEVER would it prove the umpire to be in error. Over and over, when it would appear the guy in blue had missed it, rather, the replay would vindicate the ump.

Now, blown calls are a daily experience. I’m not saying the Orioles are unusually victimized by this, as the screw-ups go both ways. The point I am making is that umpire error is now totally common instead of exceptionally rare. Lousy umpiring is affecting the outcomes of games. Truly, this was not the way it used to be.

There is no doubt that overall the players are better from top to bottom on a team’s roster. The great players of the past would be great players in the modern era as well; but the guys now are bigger, stronger, and faster than ever before. The benefits of weight training and year-round fitness and workout routines have made for a league filled with great athletes.

So, the players are better, but the umps are worse. Why? I cannot explain it for sure. I’ve not researched this or read anyone else’s opinions on the subject. I merely report my observations. Perhaps it is simply that the better athletes make the game speed so much faster, resulting in more inevitable errors in judgment and observation?

All of this of course calls for many to state a need for video reviews. The purist in me wants to reject the notion. I just wish the umpires were better and did their job with less errors. But if they continue to mess up at the rate they have been of late, the outcry might someday find a hearing. Never have I heard so much talk about how there needs to be greater accountability for umpires.

I’m writing this as the Indians/Orioles game three of the series is happening. There have been missed calls on Manny Machado at first base, along with mistakes in both directions on hit batsmen and a dreadful 3rd strike on a ball far outside on Chris Davis. As I write this paragraph, Buck Showalter is screaming at the ump for the Indians’ delay of game in bringing in a reliever for the apparent (??) injury to Scott Kazmir.

None of us go to the games to see the umpires perform. We go to see Manny Machado hit doubles!

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  • joeblow

    Interesting observations. I can also remember a time when replay would almost always show the ump being right. Although your theory about fast players is plausible, I’m far from convinced. Been seeing far too many blown calls lately that have nothing to do with a bang bang play. Angel Hernandez for example, can’t get a homerun call right even with video replay. And the other night with the Chris Davis foul ball. Or last night with the silent “Safe” at second and Adam Jones trots off the field then gets called out for running out the basepath. Like you, I have not done any research on the subject as you just brought it to my attention. But I wonder if unions and the litigious world we now live in are partially to blame. Seems extremely difficult today to replace incompetence without getting sued. And how about a general lackadaisical approach to the job due to job security. Don’t know what it is but you certainly pose an interesting question.

  • Randy Buchman

    Joe – I don’t actually think the speed of the game is THE explanation – just thinking out loud there by stating that as a possible additional factor. Your suggestions sound very viable relative to what sure seems to be a lack of accountability. Thanks for affirming my observation – that its not just my imagination. It is almost becoming a nightly spectacle. And thanks for reading and writing.