Should the Orioles embrace bad calls as opposed to arguing?


Sometime during the third or fourth inning of last night’s 13-1 loss to Anaheim I decided not to write the daily formal game recap that I normally do. There’s really not much to say about a 13-1 loss other than the fact that I firmly believe that blowouts are never indicative of how good or bad either side is. Anaheim was better than the O’s last night for sure, however let’s also keep in mind that in order for a game to go like that one team literally has to get all of the bounces. I’m not suggesting that the Orioles would have won had some of those bounces gone the other way, but it wouldn’t have been 13-1.

That aside, I did notice something about Oriole pitchers as opposed to Anaheim’s starter Jered Weaver. The O’s came across as a surly bunch very early in the game with regard to the strike zone of home plate umpire Kerwin Danley. MASN’s Jim Palmer was justifiably decrying the strike zone as well while using MASN’s pitch track technology (which showed that several called strikes were WELL outside). The point of this column is not necessarily to call out Kerwin Danley, although at some point I think that MLB needs to sit down with all of their umpires and review the definition of balls and strikes. (Across the league we’ve seen huge discrepancies from umpire to umpire, and teams are getting more and more frustrated.) However I want to play devil’s advocate for a moment and look at it from the opposite perspective; do smart teams compensate for the strike zone? 

Anaheim catcher Bobby Wilson seemed to have no problem setting up on the outside corner of the plate last night. Jered Weaver, being as pin-point accurate as he is, was hitting the glove every time. More often than not (early in the game) that sequence would be followed by Kerwin Danley raising his right hand, which in turn would be followed by a long cold stare from the Oriole hitter. On several occasions MASN cameras caught Buck Showalter barking at Danley from the dugout. It’s almost as if Anaheim knew “the fix was in,” and they went with the flow. Jason Hammel instead seemed to want to force the ball into what justifiably should have been the strike zone. What would end up happening would be that at best the Anaheim hitter would walk. At worst he’d  hit a home run (or a base hit-RBI of some sort).

Again, I’m not trying to use my bully pulpit to call out Danley (although with this tweet I did have a little fun with Oriole fans during the game at Danley’s expense). I feel that Anaheim was able to recognize early on that there was something weird going on with the strike zone, and they grabbed the bull by the horns and went with it. Instead the Orioles almost seemed to feel they could impose their version strike zone on Danely, and then complain about it. Read my profile on this site folks; I have a jaded past when it comes to game officials myself! However I suppose what I’m getting at is that whereas I might be the type to bark at refs or umps during the game, the other side of the coin is to embrace their bad calls.

The point here is not to call out Jason Hammel either. The Orioles are a team that feels they never get the benefit of the doubt on a close call for the most part. In many cases they don’t; however is that because the opposition is playing to the umpire as opposed to trying to get the umpire to play to them? Before tonight’s Oriole game against Cleveland I’ll be paying close attention to gli azzurri, also known as the Italian national soccer team, as they play Germany in the semi-finals of Euro 2012. I’m not a huge soccer anymore, but I do follow Italy (and of course the USA) as a loyal Italian-American. If you’re playing soccer and the official is calling a foul each time a minimal amount of contact is made, would you not be foolish to not “make things look a little worse than they are” on contested balls? (And folks let me just say that NOBODY plays the bel actore like the Italians!)

In no way am I saying that umpires should be able to have any old strike zone that they want. Again, I think that there needs to be some sort of “meeting” whereby the league details a strike and a ball to these guys again. (And who’s to say that isn’t happening now?) In no way did Kerwin Danley’s strike zone affect the outcome of last night’s 13-1 blowout. However in a closer game the team that allows itself to embrace whatever the umpire’s definition of a strike is might have a bit of an advantage over the team that’s consistently trying to offer their definition of a strike. After all, there is such a thing as throwing too many strikes, especially against a team like the Anaheim Angels. The Birds will try to rebound tonight as they open up a four-game set with the Cleveland Indians at the yard. Cleveland is struggling as well, having lost five straight. They’re expected to call Zach McAllister up from triple-A to make the start. McAllister hasn’t pitched in the bigs since May; the Orioles will counter with Wei-Yin Chen, who didn’t make it out of the sixth inning in Saturday’s loss to Washington.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala