This has sort of brewing in me for a bit; a little mention of it here, a slight murmur of it there… at one point I started down the trail but wound up in “Instant Replay Argument” territory, where I veered off even further into that megalomaniacal three-part insanity on MLB commissioners that probably no one read. I certainly wouldn’t have. That shit was like a text book, only written by someone who depends way, way too hard on Wikipedia for solid facts.
Ladies, gentleman, fellow CttP staffers, the FanSided Network, Wally (Hey Wally!). You know me (possibly). You know that I don’t come on here every Monday, spouting stats and numbers and all-caps terminology. I don’t “fact check” or even sometimes “spell check” my own writing. I make arguments usually backed by news stories, not equations. In the math classes of my life, I made more comical fart noises than passing grades.
This isn’t to burn all those–geniuses, really–who write for this site and others and come up with theories and predictions based on hard work and careful analysis. Far from it. Rather, I’m just trying to show that my passion and whatever knowledge I seem to have of baseball come from a lifetime of watching the game happen in front of me, reacting (usually loudly) to it, and little else.
If I may compare our staff here at CttP to the cast of Lord of the Rings, I’d say I am surrounded by noble wizards and warriors, coming up with a calculative and thought-out plan to destroy the Ring; while I, the bearded, drunken dwarf, am reaching for my axe, seconds from screaming “LET’S JUST FUCKIN’ SMASH IT.”
So forgive my ignorance while I attempt to do just that.
Sitting in a pub in San Francisco, wondering why the hell they won’t put on the last inning and a half of a Phillies-Braves game that doesn’t (for the Phillies) really matter, I was “forced” to watch the start of today’s Giants-Padres, tension-riddled division-decider.
Now, I wasn’t complaining. Eventually. Actually, I was when the woman showed up who sat next to me and started yammering on about how much greater hockey is than baseball because she once lived in Montreal (I saw her point, but it was so far off in the distance, I had no wish to stay on my stool wait for it to arrive).
But as I sat there, I realized though this was still technically the regular season, the playoff atmosphere had arrived, and the post season was leaping upon us. And for the last few years, said post season has been tainted, kicked, and stained by one undeniable factor–these umpires.
And lo and behold, we weren’t two innings into the clincher in San Fran when Andres Torres slashed a double down the line; so close to the line it sprayed some chalk in the air. Over 42,000 people were watching live today, and granted, they were Giants fans, but they all seemed to know that that ball was fair. It hit the foul line. It’s fair.
I know that, you know that, 42,822 Giants fans knew that.
Third base umpire Mike Everitt does not know that, it seems. And every time we have a close play like this, no matter which team’s announcers are talking, they go right to the umpire’s numbers.
The bar was pretty loud, because every NFL football game was also being broadcast all around us, but I was pretty sure I could make out what the announcers said:
“Well, Phil, Mike Everitt’s been umpiring since 1996, so you’d like to give him credit where credit’s due, but I don’t know that ball looked–”
“It sprayed the chalk, Jim. It’s a fair ball.”
“Yes, I thought I saw that too, but we’re just going to have to trust that–”
“I don’t know what the fuck to tell these people. It’s a fair ball. Three teams’ 2010 seasons hang in the balance and this guy’s out there fucking pulling calls out of thin fucking air.”
“Uhhh, well Phil, let me first just remind you that your microphone is, in fact, on–”
“I don’t care if it’s on. This is horse shit. I’m going down there.”
Sure, the Giants won anyway. In fact, Torres went back to the plate, almost homered, and then singled, so everybody pretty much forgot it happened (until the next guy grounded into a double play).
My point is, I was furious. Like, way too furious for a game that does not directly affect my favorite team. Off-my-stool-screaming-at-the-TV-in-public furious. Even Montreal lady shut the hell up for a second while I took some time to rip the monitor off the wall and hurl it into a nearby contingency of Steelers fans (What the hell were those assholes doing here anyway?)
This isn’t a pro-intstant replay rant. This is an anti-umpires rant. I have no answers for you people. I have no solutions. I haven’t been constructing a $10 trillion ump-bot in my basement for the last decade, and am finally ready to expose my first prototype to live baseball.
I just hate this shit. And maybe it happens a lot more in the regular season than I think, because I don’t see every regular season game; maybe because literally every play matters in the post season, their mistakes seem magnified; maybe because each game is broadcast nationally and anyone can try and make a big deal out of something (e.g., this blog post).
These guys are considered pretty much infallible at this point, like they’ve earned the right to fuck up after years of fighting in the baseball army. And in the end, how much can they care (besides Jim Joyce who appeared to actually give two shits when he screwed Armando Galarraga)? They get to go sleep in their hotel room, and if they mess up badly enough, probably get some death threats or whatever. But eventually, they forget about it, and so do the fans, probably.
And here’s the best part–Mike Everitt really isn’t a bad umpire. He was the guy who made that ridiculously precise call in last year’s World Series, when Ryan Howard missed home plate, but was ruled safe after C.C. Sabathia threw to second to get Pedro Feliz (thus nullifying any right to appeal Howard being safe). He was also the guy who made the ruling on the Steve Bartman Cubs-Marlins NLCS affair in 2003.
So… he can make those calls, but he can’t look down the line and see white chalk fly into the air? The only place his eyes need to be are on that ball, and where it hits the ground. And it was close, sure, but not the closest ball ever; certainly determinable without having to hem and haw over a replay monitor (Not that they’d let him do that).
And I know what your reply is to this argument, because everyone of these complaints follows the same line of logic… “Well, mistakes happen.”
Here’s the problem, though, and there’s really no escaping this: MISTAKES CANNOT HAPPEN. If you’re a player, sure. They’re called “errors.” They suck, but they happen. Managers, too. Remember Kirk Gibson’s little mound mis-step?
But the umpires? If they want the right to be infallible; the end-all, be-all of a game; to be able to throw somebody’s season away and not be challenged, STOP MAKING IMPOSSIBLY SHITTY CALLS.
I said I wouldn’t make this an instant replay argument, but like I said, the direction of these topics is always the same. Umpires are human, they will make mistakes. Instant replay could change that. And no, umps don’t get credit for making a great call. You know why? Because that means they’re doing their damn jobs. Nobody sticks a gold star on a second baseman for fielding a routine ball. The ump makes the call. That’s his job. He has to look at it, recall his knowledge of the rules, and react. Because that is his job, he should have perfect vision and a brain that is only the MLB rules handbook for the duration of a game.
In “Watching Baseball Smarter,” Zack Hample does a superb job illustrating the career a pro ump has probably followed to get to where he is. It’s tough. It sucks (Unless you’re like Joe West and just jump on over to professional umpiring after conquering the billboard charts as a musician). There’s a lot of people like me out there. I don’t want to trivialize the importance or skill of their profession. It certainly seems, however, that there is a particular line of work that has in recent years especially been given insane leeway in their latitude to fuck everything the hell up (second behind meteorologists).
Like I said, I have no answers. Just exclamation points. But I am out of patience, I am out of gratitude. I do not want to see another year of intense playoffs annihilated with umpiring so ridiculous they might as well be wearing clown suits.
So this one’s on you, MLB. Somebody’s got to fix this, because it’s a problem, and it’s a glaring one. Players work too hard and too long to get here just to have one second guess toss it all away. There’s an emotional toll on fans, too, who know their team may have been in the right, but one man in one moment said they weren’t–though 3000 miles away on TV screen, they can see plain as day that he is wrong.
There is a specific, inescapable horror in umpires these days. You never know when the next screwy mindfuck of a call is going to come, and if it can happen to a guy with as much skill as Mike Everitt, it can happen to anybody. Your team could be next. Something must be done, because just wait…
It’s officially the post season, and I am telling you, there is going to be one call, at least, that is such a salty stain of shit on somebody’s season that it costs them everything. And the truly terrifying notion is that there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.