Major League Baseball (MLB) Umpires Are Ruining the Game
I’m tired of watching umpires taking over and ruining the beautiful game of baseball. Every umpire has his own strike zone and it is disgusting the way some pitches that are called strikes are clearly out of the strike zone. I admire the players for their restraint because it has to be so frustrating to have an “at bat” taken away or at least altered by today’s umpire’s version of the strike zone.
Opponents of instant replay say that it will ruin the integrity of the game. I say the umpires have already done that. They say it will lengthen the game time, I say it will it shorten it. They say it will take the “human element” out of the game and I say it will improve the human element by eliminating mistakes.
Currently baseball has agreed to use instant replay to review questionable home runs. However, the way they implemented it was all wrong. Why make the umpires walk into some room under the stadium to view tape? In a recent (8-16-11) game between the Yankees and Kansas City Royals there was a disputed home call. It took five minutes to review the play and in the end they still made the wrong call.
It wasn’t replays fault that it took umpires five minutes to make a call (right or wrong), it’s the way the process has been implemented. What is the sense of having three umpires walk from the field into a viewing room under the stadium, when a fifth umpire in a replay booth could have made the correct call in a matter of seconds.
I’ve read some opponents articles where they suggest that it could take 15 minutes to review a play. That is ridiculous. Again for you fans that watch baseball on TV, we see the replay, many times from several different angles in a matter of seconds.
This Didn’t Just Start…Remember This One?
Jeffrey Maier was involved in an incident in which he deflected a batted ball hit by Derek Jeter in-play into the stands during Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. His action altered the course of Game 1, as the resulting home run allowed the Yankees to tie the score. They would go on to win the game and the series, four games to one.
What is the Strike Zone?
There actually is a definition of a strike zone in the rule book; however it certainly isn’t being enforced. I love the technology (e.g. ESPN’s K-Zone) that television provides us showing where a pitch is in relation to the actual strike zone. One of the arguments opponents of instant replay have is that it will make the game longer. What happens today when an umpire calls a pitch that is out of the strike zone a strike; the batter backs away, adjusts his gloves, stares at the ump and finally gets back into the batter’s box. How long does that take; multiplied by how many times a game this happens. Also, the use of the technology would eliminate the possibility of players and managers from being thrown out of games for arguing strike calls.
A Typical Example
Based on a true situation, K-Zone shows the pitch as a strike, but not to the umpire on this night. He calls it a ball, ball 4. The batter takes first, loads the bases. The next batter hits a blooper into left for a walk-off single. Instead of strike three the batter is given a free pass based on an arbitrary strike zone keeping the inning alive and giving the home team one more chance for victory. There are probably thousands of situations like this during the baseball season. The next night or for that matter the next batter that same umpire could call that pitch a strike.
MLB needs to incorporate replay reviews in other areas of the game where missed calls frequently arise.
Fixing baseball umpiring requires a two prong approach: (1) significantly expand the use of technology and, (2) completely redefine umpire’s roles and responsibilities.
The technology has existed for 10 years. Why won’t MLB use applications like ESPN’s K-Zone to show the exact trajectory of the ball across, around, or outside the strike zone? The best solution here would be to have something like Pitchf/x automatically call every ball and strike. He can communicate electronically with the first, second and third base umpires to overturn a close call when that umpire misjudges a bang-bang play. If a call is simply too close to call on replay, then the on-field call will stand.
Technology will make the game better and end the bickering between players/managers and umpires. Players and fans want it and I would bet that even most of the umpires want it. They don’t want to make a blunder that will hang over their heads forever.
I love baseball. But I’m fed up with the inaction. Fans deserve to have their sports judged fairly. Time moves on, baseball needs to finally move with it. Given the battle ahead for expanded replay of any kind, I don’t see that day coming any time soon.