"Hell may have no fury like a woman scorned but heaven hath no sweetness like a sports fan vindicated." - Samcat

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Rick Rages

(Why do I suck so hard?)

Let’s say I’m watching the game. And let’s say the umpire – any umpire – makes a ridiculous call. I can pretty much countdown from ten and by the time I arrive at one, my dad will have called. Crappy umpiring is one of my dad’s pet peeves. He rants and raves like Carl Everett at an archeologist’s convention. Below, he takes on umpires, in a remarkably coherent way.

The Rick Rages:

So here's my issue with baseball umpires, Major League umpires in particular. It's my contention that umpiring baseball is so much different, and hence easier, than other sports and yet many, many umpires are still horrible. Why is that?

In baseball, let's say that 90% of the calls are predetermined – that is to say the umpire has to make a decision, be it fair or foul, strike or ball, safe or out. In virtually all those cases he gets to see it coming, and at least with balls/strikes and safe/out he knows precisely where the event will take place so he can better focus on that spot. And because there are umps at every base he should almost always be in a proper position to make the right call. Plus the players tend to be more stationary than the other team sports, again making it easier to determine where the call is going to be.

Obviously there are other calls that are required such as balks, interference/obstruction, foul tips, check swings, etc. that require unanticipated judgment but the vast majority of calls are served up to the umpires in a predetermined fashion.

Now compare that to football, basketball, and hockey where fouls/penalties are a big part of the calls. In any given game there are an infinite number of call/non-call decisions to be made. “Was that holding?” “Was that traveling?” “Slashing?” “Did he step out of bounds?” And so on. As an official you never know when there is going to be a call/non-call event so you have to be on top of it at all times. And because those games are so fast paced with players moving all over the playing surface, it must be very challenging to stay abreast of everyone.

Now, I'm not trying to say that Major League Umpires aren't good at there jobs, well, some of them aren’t. But I do say that their job is relatively easy when compared to their peers in other sports. And yet they still manage to screw it up a remarkable percentage of the time.

Granted, trying to determine whether a Wakefield knuckler or Wells curveball or a Randy Johnson fastball caught the corner can be challenging. But at least they know it's coming so they should be prepared for that moment of decision. But often they still miss the call, and balls and strikes are often notoriously inconsistent from umpire to umpire and even pitch to pitch by the same umpire in the same game. No wonder pitchers often get upset.

So while I'm on umpires, I'm glad they’re finally getting one thing right. They are now huddling on controversial calls to try and get it right, so that self-righteous arrogance they used to display in those situations is gone. Mostly. ‘Bout time, football has been doing it for years.

Finally, I pose one last question: When a batter check-swings, the catcher can appeal to either the third base (when a lefthander is at bat) or first base (when a right-hander is at bat) umpire to see if that ump will over rule the home plate ump and call the swing a strike. So why can’t the batter make the same appeal when the home plate umpire rules that the batter didn't hold up his swing and hence calls a strike? You never see that! Why not?

That’s The Rick, y’all. And his thoughts for today. In the future, I assume we’ll be arguing back and forth more often on certain things but I happen to agree with him on this one. However, I offer you a transcript of a voicemail I received from him last night shortly after Olerud’s grand slam:

“What’s wrong with you? You don’t have your phone on during such a pivotal moment? I’m disappointed! Sent you some stuff to post but dammit, get back on the job!”

Such pressure.

Speaking of pressure, the trading deadline has got me chewing my fingernails down to bloody nubs and alternately whimpering and raging. Aside from the fact that the Yankees have just signed Alan Embree which, frankly, I cannot bring myself to talk about yet, there’s nothing big to report. More later, I’m sure, assuming I survive the impending ulcer.