Thursday, May 2, 2013

Some Umpires Just Cannot Call Balls and Strikes

C.B. Bucknor is not very adept at calling balls and strikes. Never was and never has been. You naturally give someone the benefit of the doubt, and in looking at his biography I can see he is a thoughtful person who is socially responsible to where he was born (Jamaica, West Indies). I am not judging him as a person nor do I have the God-given right to do such a thing. But I can judge him as an umpire based on his inconsistencies and inability to stick to the same strike zone from the top of the first inning to the bottom of the ninth.

Yesterday's game between the Giants and the Diamondbacks had C.B. behind the plate. Whenever the Giants' broadcaster tells you who the home plate umpire for that game is, C.B. Bucknor is a name that makes the savvy fan cringe. Unfortunately, Tim Lincecum had the daunting task of having to pitch with C.B. behind Buster calling balls and strikes.

Tim Lincecum throws a batting practice fastball when C.B. is behind the plate because the five-sided slab of whitened rubber set at ground level at the front corner of the diamond doesn't have the corners. It may as well be a pitcher's plate. Whether it's horizontal or vertical depends on the inning, I suppose.

In listening to last night's game, on more than one occasion both Jon Miller and Dave Fleming mentioned how "that's not a call that has been made for most of the game," or "wait a minute, it's coming. Pause. Ball?" Interpretation, from this listener, if you've listened to Jon Miller and became acquainted with his explanations for rules and regulations within the game of baseball and he has nothing further to add it's akin to ammending the current rule book. He doesn't have the authority to do such a thing. But he should because he understands the strike zone much better than a few of these incompetents who don't give fans of baseball the confidence they (the umpires) know a strike from a ball.

I'm not defending Lincecum. His fastball is no longer as intimidating as it once was but if he is not being allowed to do his job to the fullest of his capabilities because the thing he is constantly working with- THE STRIKE ZONE - is varied according to whomever is behind his catcher then there is something to be said about that as well.

Most of us are human, right? We have to cut anyone- giving one hell of an effort- some slack so we go the "consistency" route. It doesn't do the batters and pitchers on that day any good. Their livelihoods are effected tremendously due to their numbers (those that determine their availability for their current team's starting lineup or if their skills are deteriorating to "trade bait" status) not being up to par. Fact is if you can't do the job within the framework of the rulebook, which has to be the game's bible to an umpire, then find another line of work.

How they are grading umpires is suspect at best. Because more umpires have conflicting strike zones than do not. I'm all for individuality but it's head scratching when the Monday umpire's strike zone is worlds apart from Tuesday's, Thursday's, Friday's, Saturday's and Sunday's. Know what I mean?

Kevin J. Marquez