A Simple Kind of Fan. Fixing the MLB Umpiring Problem – 6.7.11
Remember back in 1987 when Team Streak was setting the baseball world on fire in early April? Of course you do. Do you remember who was umpiring at second base during Yount’s dramatic diving save of Juan Nieves’s no hitter? Of course you don’t. Why? Because fans don’t care who the umpires are each night. They pay hard earned money (in most cases) to see the players compete and not to see an umpire blowing a critical call in a high leverage point of the game.
Unfortunately, you should try telling that to a Detroit Tigers fan. They know exactly who Jim Joyce is. Why? Because he butchered Armando Galarraga’s no hitter with a HORRENDOUS call at first base. I realize that Joyce feels bad about the call and now he and Galarraga are working together on a book. Good for them. I am glad Joyce has managed to convince Galarraga that mistakes happen, even though these guys get paid to prevent making mistakes. My point today is that umpires don’t have to be put in a position of living in infamy for making a horrible call any longer. By using the existing technologies readily available, MLB can easily correct blown calls that are ruining the beautiful game of baseball.
The poor umpiring has gotten completely out of control. Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt sums it up perfectly when he calls out a terrible umpiring effort at first base Saturday night against the Marlins. Teams are spending millions of dollars and fans are spending hard earned (in most cases) money to watch a game, with the expectation of seeing the players on the field determine who the better team is on that particular day. My feeling is that there is too much invested to allow four umpires to incorrectly determine the outcome of a game. As a result, I have a new plan that would solve all of these issues in one fell swoop.
Each stadium in Major League Baseball possesses some sort of giant High Definition replay screen (paid for with public money in nearly every case) that can easily be viewed by almost every fan. On a questionable call, I propose that the umpires get together and look at the high definition replay, RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM ON THE FIELD!!!! It certainly isn’t unusual for fans look at the replay and confirm whether a call is correct. In less than 30 seconds, we could easily have the matter resolved, get the call correct, and then move on. Of course, MLB is soooooooooo far behind the curve on anything that makes sense that they are still trying to figure out what preparations are needed for Y2K and whether to support the tricky Afghans in their war against the Soviets. Remember, this is the same organization that claims it had no idea that a majority of the players were juicing.
I will acknowledge that my plan has a few holes that can easily be remedied. For instance, people often say, “the game is already long enough and instant replay will take too long.” That is a fair point, but one that is woefully inadequate and easily refutable. I give you this scenario:
You are at a Brewers game and there is a close play called against Ryan Braun at third base. The crowd goes bonkers initially and all eyes automatically turn to the big screen to get a better look. Before the next hitter can even step into the batter’s box, the umpires confirm a terrible call was made and the call is justifiably corrected. No time is wasted during this exercise, other than the time wasted waiting while the next hitter steps out to adjust his batting gloves incessantly after every pitch while giving his cup multiple gropings.
The argument against instant replay in terms of speeding up the game seems like one my three year old daughter made up. Here are ideas that will speed up the game immediately. 1) Keep the hitter in the batter’s box when there are no runners on base. 2) Hustle in and out and limit the breaks in the action to just commercial breaks. When the game comes back from commercial, there is always extra time wasted between innings, which added up over the course of 18 commercial breaks during a 9 inning game. This accumulation would equal a major time savings. 3) Limit catcher trips to the mound. 4) Limit the amount of visits each inning from the pitching coach. 5) Actually enforce the existing rules, such as a time limit between pitches. For years we have been subjected to listening to MLB say they are going to speed up the game. Clearly, they are failing in an epic way in this regard. I propose that when appointing myself the ‘CZAR OF SPEEDING UP THE GAME’, I would immediately use common sense to get every call right in a timely fashion without extending the elapsed time of the game. Everybody wins except those that love wasting time needlessly.
Another challenge would be that even a publicly funded High Definition scoreboard will not be able to help on every call. Certainly, there will be times when the umpiring team will need to get together and have a closer look on an actual monitor, just like they currently do on some calls in the playoffs. Of course, if umpires were limited to 90 seconds for a quick review, everyone would be happy. If a trained professional can’t make a correct call after seeing a replay for 90 seconds, then the call stands.
Some objectors might say, “Well, we can’t show up the umpires”. Oh really, why not? They missed the call. The only job they have is to get the call correct, the first time. If they missed it, they should feel embarrassed for not doing their job properly. NOBODY in the entire stadium gives a rip about the umpires saving face, except the umpires. A bad call is a bad call. If the umpires truly cared about getting the call correct, they should welcome instant replay as a way to validate their fine efforts. Ask Jim Joyce if he would have liked to have a second look at the replay screen to confirm that he needed a Seeing Eye dog and a cane that fateful day in Detroit.
One additional area of concern would be an issue that plagues NFL stadiums during instant replay. This is the issue of home favoritism during a questionable call. Routinely, NFL home teams will drag their feet showing a replay on the big board, much to the chagrin of a visiting team’s coach with a red flag placed securely in his right hand. Obviously, this is done in order to give the home team an advantage. Since MLB does not have a clock, this issue should be somewhat minimized. However, if for some reason the giant HD replay screen is not working in a timely fashion, then a monitor could be used as it is now during the playoffs.
In my utopian vision, I could see each manager getting two challenges per game, just like coaches do in the NFL. Once the umpire gives the OK for the pitcher to proceed, the challenge opportunity is over and the game carries on. By finding ways to speed up the game, and enforcing current established rules, baseball can have plenty of time to get the call right the first time, every time.
In closing, MLB has a serious problem on their hands with the current state of umpiring. In fact, the reason I have not watched even one quarter of NBA basketball on TV since THE BUCKS GOT ROBBED in 2001 is because of shady officiating. I equate NBA officiating to be on par with legendary referees Earl Hebner and Danny Davis of the WWE. Basically, I am convinced that NBA basketball is fixed and I won’t waste my time on it. I watched that game and I know what I saw that day. The pathetic refereeing from an dullard like Bennett Salvatore, or a crook like Tim Donaghy, has gotten in the way of an entertaining game and, as a result, has cost them my support as a fan.
MLB is similarly on a slippery slope with many fans. However there is one big difference. NBA calls are almost always subjective calls that can be interpreted differently (once again unless you are Bennett Salvatore) by different people. Other than home plate umpiring, almost every call in a baseball game could be confirmed, or overturned, in less than 30 seconds. Essentially, I question the point in playing in an 8-1/2 inning struggle just to have some crotchety old man blow a call (that he doesn’t really care if it is right or wrong) because dinner reservations are waiting. My humble proposal would completely eliminate the current stranglehold MLB umpires have on the game.
I will certainly give credit where credit is due. It was an improved week from Yuni at the plate. Despite having an entire city (other than Melvin and Roenicke) turn on the man, he did rise to the occasion this week. For the week he was 6 x 20 with a double, a triple, and a couple of RBIs. His slash line this year remain dismal at .232/.259/.343. Clearly Yuni has the talent and the elusive natural ability. When taking into account his refusal to properly work a count, it seems as if Yuni fits the stereotype of a million dollar talent with a two cent head. To further my argument that Yuni’s problems are between his ears I offer the following evidence.
I have previously groused about Betancourt’s complete lack of pitch selection. It is almost like Yuni has a card game going on in the dugout during at games, and he is in a hurry to get the at bat over with, to avoid being dealt out. It seems that properly working a count is an annoyance to him. If he just had more patience waiting for mistakes by the opposing pitcher, he might get more favorable pitches to hit, and hence, better results. For instance, Yuni had a pair of rare games this week in which he had two hits per game. In each of those games, Yuni saw 16 pitches in 4 at bats, which is at least 3-4 more than he typically sees in any ball game. He was able to work the count and successfully take advantage of mistakes, like most ballplayers try to accomplish daily. Why a guy who plays baseball for a living can’t figure this simple concept out is indeed what drives fans, coaches, and bloggers completely nuts about Yuni Betancourt.
Throwback Jersey of the Week
Since there is only a couple of weeks left until Father’s Day, I thought I would put together a small three part series on 9 player jerseys you should own that aren’t Milwaukee Brewer related. Today we will discuss #6- #4 and will finish up next week with the sweetest jerseys around.
6. Reggie Jackson. Witnessing Corey Hart bomb three homers in a game earlier this season was special. So far, only six players have accomplished the feat in 2011. Of course, Jackson is famous for his three homeruns in a playoff game, hence the phrase, Mr. October (among other reasons). I would imagine WHEN the Brewers makes the playoffs, if a player were to accomplish this feat he would never have to buy a beer in Milwaukee again. As standard protocol dictates, I will not highlight the Yankee years, but here is a sweet 1972 Oakland jersey. If that price is too stiff, here is an affordable 1974 green Jackson jersey for under $30.
5. Hank Aaron. No list of throwback jerseys in Milwaukee is complete without a nod to The True Home Run King of Major League Baseball. Sure, someone else might officially hold that title for now, but he cheated to do it. If you deny this, please find a mirror and get a good look at what an idiot looks like. Yes, before Victor Conte’s laboratory, there was hard work and Hank Aaron. This Aaron throwback is my favorite Braves throwback out of all Braves throwbacks. If you are short on paper, no worries, I found a decent looking Hank Aaron throwback for under $30, just for you.
4. Roberto Clemente. Many baseball pundits describe Clemente as baseball’s Latin Jackie Robinson. Clemente is one of my all time favorite players. Sure he could hit, but Clemente could also throw a baseball probably as hard as any human being ever to roam the earth. Quite simply, he was a stud that was taken from us entirely too soon. I am a big fan of the old school Pittsburgh gold jerseys. As a result, my pick is a sweet 1979 jersey that is sure to impress. Of course, for my thrifty fans, I also found a black and gold throwback for under $30 here.
The “What the F*&# Does That Stat Mean” Stat of the Week.
There are two areas of advanced statistics that I feel need some modifying. The first is catcher defense, which is nearly impossible to equate into SABR- like statistics. I am aware that some catcher metrics exist, but just because they are there doesn’t mean that they are worthwhile. The second advanced statistic that needs work is baserunning metrics. Luckily, Fangraphs has incorporated a new metric into WAR, to help give a more complete player analysis.
UBR (Ultimate Base Running) simply measures a player’s ability to advance extra bases on balls put into play. It is worth noting that UBR does not factor stolen bases, or caught stealing, into the equation. Toby Harrmann from Disciples of Uecker does a great job of breaking it all down and examining the Brewers, in relation to this new statistic. To summarize Toby’s great work, the Brewers stink at taking extra bases successfully, thanks in large part to Casey McGehee and Prince Fielder. In fact, according to UBR, Prince has been the worst baserunner in baseball since 2008.
Of course, nobody had to tell us Prince and Casey are slow runners. We certainly can see that for ourselves. This statistic attempts to determine not how fast a player is, but how successful he advances on the bases to create offensive opportunities. As Rob Neyer points out in my link above, if we are using WAR to determine the overall quality of a player, shouldn’t we also look at baserunning ability as a factor as well?
Dates Appearing Closer on the Horizon
June 13. Starting with a 4 game set in Wrigley, the schedule get ridiculously difficult until the All- Star break. I have already detailed my prediction that the team will be in big hole after this crucial stretch. Staying healthy will determine how big that hole is.
Shameless Self Promotion
Please don’t forget to follow my Twitter account, @simplekindoffan. If you aren’t following me, then you are missing out on useless tweets such as this.
Are you traveling or will you miss an upcoming Brewers game because of a MLB black- out? No worries, the Pocketdoppler is here for you. Brian has you covered with a nightly ‘250 words or less’ summary of what happened for the Brewers. It is a quick and convenient way to stay on top of the team when the social calendar fills up in the summer.