There is just one answer to this question: Do you think Major League umpires need help? Of course they do. Just look at some recent examples:
In 2007 umpire Brian Runge stirred up trouble with Padres outfielder Milton Bradley and fellow umpire Mike Winters. Bradley was furious and went after Winters, resulting in Bradley tearing his ACL. A year later, Twins’ Brendan Harris asked for time at the plate but Runge didn’t award it. Gardenhire argued and got tossed out of the game. Nine days later, after Carlos Beltran argued, Runge went to dust off the plate and escalated the situation with words to Beltran. When Mets Manager Jerry Manuel came out, Runge bumped Manuel on the chest before kicking them both out, resulting in Runge getting a one-game suspension. In July 2008, Runge made a controversial call at home plate. Placido Polanco clearly scored the winning run in the 10th inning from 2nd base, but Runge called him out.
There were many bad calls in the 2009 playoffs, including what should have been Joe Mauer’s double against the Yankees, but the third base umpire ruled a foul even through the ball was two feet fair.
This year, Jim Joyce’s call cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game on June 2nd. Bravely, Joyce later admitted he blew the call. And, have you seen Bill Hohn’s strike zone? You would need to throw the ball in a tube to get it in his strike zone because it is so small. On May 31, Hohn tossed Roy Oswalt out of a game for arguing balls and strikes. Reports say that Oswalt was talking to himself when Hohn started to bark back at him. Afterward, MLB gave Hohn a stern warning.
Some umpires get in players faces, like Ed Rapuano who went nuts at Target Field in May and argued so much with Brewers pitcher Dave Bush that Brewer players had to restrain the umpire! It’s embarrassing to Major League Baseball when players have to start restraining umpires. Oh yea, that’s the same umpire who ejected Phillies’ Shane Victorino from center field for raising his arms in disbelief of his strike zone in 2009, even though batter Jimmy Rollins did the same thing and didn’t get ejected!
One avid long-time baseball watcher told us, “No major league stadium replays close plays on their scoreboard screens. Why? Because MLB doesn’t want to “show up” the umpires. Never mind that several million people watching on TV have just seen the play from six different angles and heard 2 or 3 broadcasters comment on it. No, we’re afraid that the 30,000+ people in the ball park will riot and rip the umps apart, Yeah, right. MLB has almost no leeway in removing the incompetent umps or sending them to the minors. Future umps are trained at one, maybe two, umpires schools run by former umpires, so the system perpetuates itself. There are what seems to me to be a suspiciously large number of umpires whose fathers were umpires, so methinks there’s a whole lot of nepotism going on, too.”
Bud Selig needs to expand replay to help this situation. Here is how it should work: When a questionable call occurs, somebody from upstairs would page the crew chief, then he would look at the replay and change the call if appropriate. It could take less than 90 seconds. I think MLB replay should be used for safe/out, diving catches, check swings, and home run calls, but not strike calls. That call can be left for arguing!
Written by: Michael L. Sack