Saturday, October 10, 2009

Umpires...Brought to You just in time for Playoffs

These arbiters of baseball are given too much flexibility in the way they are allowed to do the job they were hired to do.

Personally I am not familiar with how all Umpiring Schools are run and why they teach what they teach (the emphasis on what they think is important and all that stuff) but I did attend the Joe Brinkman/Bruce Froemming school located in Cocoa Cocoa Beach, Florida. Home of former TV sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie.

The only glaring incident happened when the Wisconsin born Bruce Froemming taught his method of umpiring the bases. To Froemming, getting the call right wasn't as important as where you were when you made the call. In other words, as long as you weren't out-of-position nobody could have a reasonable conclusion as to why you made the call the way you did. Because one thing you weren't was out-of-position.

Hank Greenwald, the former Giant, Yankees and A's announcer, has an autobiography that is a must read for local sports fans. The information in this book is enough to keep you interested.

Anywho, Hank has some opinions on umpiring. I am delightfully compelled by Hank's insights on umpires because Hank's thoughts are remarkably close to my own.

The next big baseball war will involve umpires. Something that speaks to the question of integrity. Why is it that whenever you mention that word, it raises the cry, "How dare you question our integrity?" Why not?

Major league umpires have become untouchable... if a player is disciplined for actions involving an umpire, it's announced to the world. When was the last time you were informed of an umpire's being fined or suspended for his conduct?

Is there integrity when an umpire deliberately follows a player who is walking away after an argument and tries to bait him into saying something so he can throw him out of the game? Where's the integrity when 3 umpires know the fourth has missed a call and won't say anything because they don't want to "show him up"?

Where's the integrity when an umpire misses a play and refuses to ask for help? Where's the integrity when an umpire decides to "stick it" to some player who has the nerve to question a call? Where's the integrity when umpires put themselves above the rule book and announce they'll decide what the strike zone should be?

(Says Hank) I'm not talking about bad judgment with regard to balls and strikes. That speaks for itself. I'm talking about the arrogance that allows umpires to adopt the attitude they're all-powerful and rulebook be damned. The point is, the questions of integrity raised here are not ones I alone should be raising.

They should be raised by league presidents and the commissioner. What else do they have to do that's more important? When were umpires granted infallibility status, and how did I miss that?

How come baseball can deal with Pete Rose, but won't raise the question of integrity when it comes to umpires? Do you think for a moment that an umpire can't affect the outcome of a game by "sticking it" to a player on a ball or strike call at a crucial moment? Do you think an umpire can't affect the outcome of a game by arbitrarily throwing a player out?

Next time you hear an umpire say he threw out a player because "he showed me up," ask yourself this question: To Whom?

Umpires often throw players and managers out of games because they're afraid they'll look bad in the eyes of their fellow umpires. They're afraid not only of what the other guys on their crew will think, but of what their brethren watching the highlights on TV that night will think. They're officiating not in the best interests of the game but in the best interests of their image. (I've had people tell me umps have had TV games taped for them in their clubhouse so they can hear what announcers said about them afterward.)

(thanks to Hank Greenwald's insights)

Kevin J. Marquez