July 17, 2016

MLB To Managers: Pointing Out And Complaining About Umpires' Blown Ball/Strike Calls Is "Highly Inappropriate"

ESPN (Associated Press):
Major League Baseball is telling managers to cool it on arguing balls and strikes, and warning them not to rely on replay to bolster their beefs.

MLB executive Joe Torre sent a memo Friday to managers, general managers and assistant general managers that said: "This highly inappropriate conduct is detrimental to the game and must stop immediately." ...

[Torre] said skippers are increasingly relying on technology from the clubhouse or video room to argue from the dugout. Every pitch and play is monitored by teams in case they want to challenge for a replay review. ...

"Although disagreements over ball and strike calls are natural, the prevalence of manager ejections simply cannot continue," Torre wrote. "This conduct not only delays the game, but it also has the propensity to undermine the integrity of the umpires on the field."
I can barely believe this article is real. So Torre is saying that MLB's official position is that home plate umpires can continue blowing calls - which most certainly undermines the integrity of the game and often affects who wins and loses (sometimes because they are mad at a player; see, Kulpa, Ron) - but managers should shut up and let these incompetent arbiters continue to do their terrible jobs in peace. (And note that Torre implies that a delay in the game is worse than making the correct call. So as long as the game finishes in under 2:40, the number of blown calls is irrelevant.)

Because pointing out how deficit some umpires are in strike zone judgment would be "detrimental" to the game. However, it's not detrimental to have umpires re-interpret the rule book if they are upset at a player's attitude or decide that a batter has not had enough service time in the majors or judge that the pitcher has somehow "earned" the right to have pitches out of the zone called strikes. (Everyone simply accepts that each umpire has a "personal strike zone". Think about that. Do you see how insane that is?)

And so umpires like Kole Calhoun will continue to make calls like this one:
Pitch #3 is officially not a strike. But don't complain about it. We must preserve the integrity of the umpire.


allan said...

Well, at least NESN's Steve Lyons will like this.

allan said...

Something I had lying around that I might as well put here:

Josh Outman: "You need to have an umpire behind the plate. It always sucks when they miss a strike for you, but that's just the game — it's always been there. It wouldn't be baseball if we had some machine calling balls and strikes."

Fangraphs Comments:

Aaron (UK)
Imagine the official scorers not being able to do their job by the book, though:
"You need to have a scorer in the stands. It always sucks when they miss a run for you, but that's just the game — it's always been there. It wouldn't be baseball if we had some machine counting the number of times a run scores."

Dave S (the original)
I look forward to the day when the tolerance of completely and blatantly inaccurate calls because "it wouldn't be baseball..." becomes as quaint and anachronistic as it should be.

Then program the machine to miss calls.

james wilson
If fans saw strikes called electronically in MLB for a week they would never go back. The art of pitching would be elevated, or in some cases revealed. Hitters ditto. There is no one on the field who would not love it after one game. If MLB is concerned about the state of offense, or defense, add or subtract a few cubic inches of the strike zone instead of changing the height of the mound or lying about the rule book definition of the zone or dicking around in the shadows to get the result they want.


"The art of pitching would be elevated, or in some cases revealed." I love this. Watching a control pitcher continually nail the outside corner would be far preferred to watching him paint and then wondering if the umpire is going to call a strike this time.

Das Funk said...

Allan, I think you're missing the point. MLB believes that managers and dugout personnel are supplementing their routine ball and strike carping with technological "proof" attained via the instant replay system.

The instant replay rule explicitly states that "Judgment calls not specified above, including, but not limited to, pitches called ball or strike ... are not reviewable."

Managers are back-dooring the ball and strike exclusion with input from clubhouse personnel and that violates the intent of the rule. I don't have a problem with the managers being reminded that the technology is not to be used to argue balls and strikes.

allan said...

But I think the managers and coaches are just doing the usual carping they have done since umpires were invented. Except instead of saying (and assuming) that the home plate umpire has been missing the inside pitch all night long, now THEY KNOW without any doubt that he has been missing it.

So it's like now that we have actual visual proof that many umpires are less than great at their job - and that inability to call pitches correctly is obviously altering games - it's time to shut up with the gripes. More and more people are seeing that something should be done to make sure the games are decided by the players and not the umpires. And it looks like MLB and Torre want to nip that shit in the bud.

allan said...

What is bad here is not the complaining from the dugout, it's the WRONG CALLS that should be the issue.

Torre should do something about the shitty umps. If he did, then complaining might go down.

Maxwell Horse said...

I know it's bad form to simply copy and paste a comment from another article, but I can't help it. The below is something I posted under the Ron Kulpa stuff. In the end--like so many problems in the world--I think it comes down to hard-wiring in the human brain: We worship authority. Automatically, naturally, we become subservient and worshipful at the drop of a hat. I mean, umpires are just a bunch of schmoes in monkey suits who get paid 6 figures a year. That's it, and yet look at how "the game" and teams alike bend over backwards to try to please them.

If we can denigrate the role of a baseball player by simply summing up their jobs as "playing a children's game," then why can't we do the same for umps, whose job can be summed up as *watching* a children's game.

Oh, it's because they're pseudo authority figures. Like soldiers or cops, they put on a suit, can yell at people, and we as human beings automatically get on our hands and knees. "Showing up" the umps now takes precedence over calling the game fairly.


It's ironic that Ortiz is often accused of thinking he is "bigger than the game." And yet, what group is more irrationally "bigger than the game" than umpires? You can't ever question balls and strikes. Why? Isn't the point of umpires' existence to get the calls right?

But you can't, because it's offensive and it hurts their feelings. And if you do call their judgment into question, it's acceptable for them to intentionally make the wrong calls against you. Talk about being bigger than the game!

Oh, and they can never lose their jobs, no matter how poorly they officiate. Because of the union. Not even the biggest players have such perpetual job security.

Again, I'd like to point out that the only reason for umps to exist, ostensibly, is to be at the service of the game and *get the calls correct*. They're meant merely to be tools, a means to an end. (That end being accuracy and fairness.) And yet their personal feelings routinely take precedence over that one basic function.

If an ump "gets back" at a player, or alters the rulebook according to a whim or personal emotion, then it's all "part of the game." But if a player shows emotion on the field (or questions an ump's call) then that player thinks he's bigger than the game. Somewhere along the way we've lost sight of why the games are played (to see the athletes face off against each other) and have turned the supposed upkeepers of the rules into sacred cows.