Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues

Kill The Umpire!

Cover of "Baseball Double Feature - Kill ...

Cover via Amazon

    Two teams, the Red Sox and the Braves, have suffered colossal collapses and lose playoff spots for this baseball year.
    Due to career mobility, mine is a serialized fan history, from the Cardinals to the Braves and Diamondbacks, and in these latter days I root for the dearly departed Sox from Beantown. So I know that being a fan is heartbreaking, that most predictions are false, and that annual Octobers can bring anything.
    The Red Sox were in no way deserving of the playoffs, and had they gotten there, it would have been a miracle, and likely not one of their own doing.
    So I hereby recommend that Boston fans herewith and forever shut up about Bill Buckner, whom they have vilified since his costly error, lo, those many years ago. Whoever can’t forgive and forget by now is in need of serious therapy. Having reason now to curse the entire 2011 Sox team, they won’t, because it’s much easier to blame one person than many.
    Their failure was not due to umpires, no more so than all other teams, which doesn’t save the men in black from the damnation they deserve. I watched many a team via TV in this notable season, and was heard to say aloud and often that all were getting screwed to the max by pitch calls. Umpires are equal opportunity abusers of all who hold a bat in hand.
    There is absolutely no excuse for the escalation of bad calls over the past decade. The profession has not changed since it was first deemed necessary that  someone call balls and strikes behind batters. Every umpire sees more pitches than all of us put together, and by now it should be a supreme art with few lapses, however many dips and curves pitches take in the modern day. Compared to their counterparts in football and basketball, baseball umps have to focus on but one thing at a time.
    Umpires have become a privileged class, immune to public reprimand or penalization. There was a day when fans had to wait to know a call. Only later did umps employ hand signals and, later still, shout out balls and strikes. Now they sport all manner of cute little barks and behavior behind the plate that more properly belong to rock stars on a stage. And it’s gone to their heads.
    The answer? The pitch-monitor is already a staple of televised games, and please ignore all assertions that they are error-prone too, since the lords of baseball are too invested in keeping things unchanged.
    Do away with umps? Heavens, no. They are needed to call action on the bases (which they are not good at either) and to affirm that fly balls in the outfield are fair or foul. But for god’s sake strip them of their tyrannical power over balls and strikes. A standardized pitch monitor could be connected to the scoreboard for instant communication (hey, “if we can put men on the moon…”), even if a plate ump is still used to bellow it out.
     Other dispensable things: the international “world” series that comes before the opening of our season every several years should be off-limits to those under contract to Major League teams. This is what screwed Daisuke Matsuzaka, who felt he was “honor-bound” to participate but should have been told it isn’t the player’s call when he has another contractual obligation.
    Pitchers are most at risk in such contests because they have to throw at World Series level before beginning a long season for those who are paying them handsomely. Matsuzaka, as they say in the sport, “threw out his arm” that year and isn’t worth the inordinate millions he now gets to ride the Red Sox bench. And don’t get started about his role in the ‘07 Series win by the boys from Boston: he didn’t win it all by himself, and only if he had would the price be merited. And that would be in another world, not this one.   
    And get rid of that insane home run contest at the All-Star Game break. It ruins more than a few sluggers for the balance of the season: they line up for big, fat pitches and swing from the heels, knocking them off the groove of their established timing and batting stances. Exhibit A this year is the Red Sox’ Adrian Gonzalez, whose last-half of the season was much less homer-productive.
    Last: get rid of big money in baseball. It got that way due to free agency, which was to protect players from greedy owners and front offices, but it merely opened the door to George Steinbrenner, whose expenditures on play rosters was beyond sanity. I grieved when the Red Sox joined that crowd only to find it did them no good in this highly anticipated year. Josh Beckett hasn’t been worth a damn since he got that obscene contract at last mid-year.
    Bless all those other owners who dare not go there. This is a game, not life and death itself.
    I’m still a Red Sox supporter, but in other bad news, this won’t be the Patriot’s year either.

2 Responses to “Kill The Umpire!”

  1. John, where’s your loyalty to one of your other homes, Tampa Bay? The Rays are The Comeback Kids and since we also have friends, family and loyalties to AZ , Alden and I are hoping for the World Series match-up of the Rays and the Diamondbacks. Should be fun!

    • Would love to have claimed the Rays as one of “my” teams, but left Tampa Bay area the year before they began life there in the American League. It’s not only a gutsy team, but has a great manager and excellent organization.


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