Baltimore Orioles: Fans don’t pay to see the umps


Fans love using #umpshow on twitter whenever an umpire appears to get out of control during a game. We saw it from the faithful of the Baltimore Orioles last night in the immediate aftermath of Ubaldo Jimenez’s ejection at the hands of umpire Jordan Baker. The goal of every umpire should be to remain unknown to fans. Baker seemingly ensured that didn’t happen last night.

I would submit that you know that an umpire has gone too far or is out of control when nobody seems to be stepping up to defend him – except his fellow umpires of course. Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reported that crew chief Jerry Meals said the following to a pool reporter after last night’s game: 

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"After they showed the replay on the board, Jordan saw the Orioles dugout, and it seemed they reacted to the slide. And then Pablo’s next at-bat, first pitch to him [is a] fastball in. It’s close to the head, it was a dangerous pitch, so it’s an automatic. You can give a warning if you prefer to, but he felt it’s an ejection."

Read between the lines of that comment – no umpire (least of all a crew chief) is going to throw another under the bus, nor would I expect them to do so. However Meals said that Baker felt that it was an ejection. He didn’t emphatically say that he agreed with the decision.

Another cause for concern in this is what Meals said at the beginning of the statement above. Fenway Park showed the replay on their Diamondvision of Sandoval’s takeout slide, and he then apparently observed the reaction in the Orioles’ dugout. So…umpires are now gauging team reactions and applying that to ejecting someone after a hit batsman without any warning or prior indication of trouble coming down the pike?

The side of me that has a minor in American Government says that sounds an awful lot like convicting someone on circumstantial evidence based on the fact that they showed no emotion in the courtroom. As I said above, I didn’t hear anyone coming out and saying that Baker made the right move by throwing Jimenez out of the game. Heck, Buck Showalter was pretty angry even after the game; he rarely calls out umpires in his postgame presser.

In fairness, Baker is a young umpire at 32 – two years younger than I. I don’t think that he was trying to influence the game, and I certainly am not going to suggest that there was any sort of conspiracy or “fix” in against the Orioles. I’m steadfast in my belief that most refs or umpires aren’t doing things like that for the wrong reason. I think that Baker just acted on impulse, and unfortunately he thus became “the story.”

But it can’t be overstated that this has implications beyond just that moment in last night’s game. It caused Kevin Gausman to get warmed up in a hurry. While he got out of that inning, he gave up a two-run homer in the fifth. Is it not possible that having to rush his warm-up might not have added to him missing his spot? Furthermore, the Orioles had to use their bullpen for much longer than anticipated yesterday – which obviously could impact today’s game and the next few.

Courtesy of Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

And yes, this is all because Jordan Baker over-reacted and ejected a pitcher for no apparent reason. Perhaps that’s forgivable in the context that Baker is a young umpire and at some point he’ll learn when to throw someone out and when not to. But his “youthful indiscretion” doesn’t help the Orioles, who are thinking that every game’s going to count big time in this year’s AL East.

Incidentally, I believe that all sports do the routine where pool reporters are sent into the umpires/referees’ locker room afterwards to take any statements the crew might have. To my knowledge, they aren’t required to say anything. However I agree with the legendary former Georgetown University basketball coach, John Thompson Jr. Granted he was talking about college basketball players, but it’s a very true thing to say that if 18-year old kids [insert professional baseball players] are required to speak to the media, it’s not unreasonable for the refs/umps to have to do the same.

It’s also telling to me that Jerry Meals, a decent umpire and a veteran at that, spoke on behalf of the crew. Granted he’s the crew chief, but it appeared that he wanted to be the voice of the group as oppposed to allowing Baker to speak for himself.

As I said, the goal of any umpire is to be unseen throughout the game. And I would submit that while bad calls are rampant in all sports, for the most part they do a very good job of this. However Jordan Baker failed at that last night, and he failed miserably. He should take a few cues from Jim Joyce, who famously cost a Detroit pitcher a perfect game with a bad call in the ninth inning a few years ago. Afterwards after seeing the replay, Joyce tearfully admitted that he blew the call and “cost that kid a perfect game.” It was a very public apology, and it was well-received by fans.

I suspect that after he gets some mileage under him, Baker will look back on this and know he made a mistake. But that doesn’t help the Orioles right now, for as they’re trying to do anything they can to win, they fell victim to an #umpshow last night.