Kill the Ump!


The Growing Problem of Lousy Umpiring in MLB

I recently wrote about being an old guy among baseball bloggers. And though 50-somethings like me are not completely rare, certainly most writers on this network are younger. I’d rather be age 25 with 30 years of experience, but one advantage I have over the young bucks is the ability to remember actually seeing teams and players of the past.

I’m also able to remember the umpiring of the past. Though the players of today are bigger, stronger, and faster, the umpires of today are totally horrible by comparison to their ancestors of the past. Several decades ago, when a close play would be shown on TV in slow motion, it was completely rare that the umpires missed a call. It was very impressive. Over and over, you would think in real time that they blew the call, but sure enough when looked at closely, the umps were correct again!

Today, we have no such admiration for the guys in blue. Over and over they miss calls. All season, the strike zone has been moving left and right and up and down. The players are frustrated, the managers are angry, the fans are confused … and the umps are self-righteous.

Two major calls went against the Orioles Friday night against the Tigers. In the first inning, Nick Markakis was called out at the plate, whereas the replay would show he was safe. This cost the Birds a critical run at the top of the game. In the bottom of the fifth, a long throw from Manny Machado pulled Mark Reynolds off the bag. Originally called as an out, Tigers Manager Jim Leland protested the call, a meeting of umps ensued, and the call was overturned. Though this situation would not cost the Orioles a run, Reynolds and Showalter would both be tossed from the game. The umps did not distinguish themselves whatsoever.

The entire issue of lousy umpiring was a topic of discussion on the pre-game show on MASN tonight. The problem is becoming a regular item of conversation around baseball. Everyone understands that the human element will never make for a perfect and infallible situation, but the quality of service is currently insufficient. There is an increasing call for the game to go to some sort of football like replay scenario with an ump in a video booth. I am not certain of my own view on this; I am just right now noting the existence of a problem beyond anything historically experienced in Major League Baseball.

Every discussion of this issue involves the commentary that there exists practically no accountability system. It is a rather universal truism of life that excellence slides in unaccountable circumstances. We see the erosions of such in realms of government and education and business for example.

Something has to change; something will change. It is approaching a breaking point.

Twitter: @OSayOrioles / email –