Results tagged ‘ Umpires ’

An International Incident

galarraga_donald.jpgA friend of mine came into town from Venezuela a week ago and she came bearing gifts.  The first thing she handed me was a thoughtful yet dangerous history of the American cocktail.  So many recipes, so little time.  Next up was what is surprisingly my first Scrabble set. 

But the final item, although the smallest, was really what got me excited.  It’s a calendar handed out by the US embassy in Caracas where each month features a different Venezuelan major leaguer.  Of course there was the requisite Johan Santana and K-Rod but when I reached November and Miguel Cabrera swinging a bat, that was when I realized just how great of a gift it was.

I didn’t realize how amazing it was, though, until I turned the final page to an unknown pitcher for the Tigers.  Well, unknown at the time.  In the last couple days I think the entire country, even someone who has never watched a baseball game in their life, now knows who Armando Galarraga is.

And with all the events of the last couple days, I got to thinking.  Despite MLB’s reliance on Venezuelan superstar players, relations
between the two countries are not exactly warm.  Was it possible that Joyce’s blown call at first base was actually a conspiracy?  Was this a subtle thumbing of the nose toward the often belligerent president of Venezuela?  And if so, why, two days later, has Mr. Chavez still not weighed in on the subject?

We don’t have answers to these questions but with the weekend approaching and another edition of El Presidente’s weekly diatribe, “Alo Presidente”, set to hit the airwaves, you can be sure he’ll have something to say.  And as always, we here at RSBS will make sure to keep you updated on all the events.  Well, unless we get sucked into that first gift.  Who knew you could do so much with whiskey, sugar and a lemon?

-A

Special thanks to L for the calendar and all the other gifts.  Be safe down there.

K.C.’s Comet

zack greinke.jpgLike Halley’s and Hale-Bopp, every great once in a while a comet will pass through the Kansas City Royal’s universe, causing the hapless west Missouri team to be relevant, if only briefly.

Such cases have been well documented: In 1985, Don Denkinger handed the World Series Championship directly to the Royals.  Some twenty years later, Hall of Famer George Brett revealed to the world his celebratory penchant for soiling himself.

And now, in 2009, Royals ace Zack Greinke hopes to snatch the Cy Young Award from big name, big money pitchers from big markets.

When Greinke wins on Tuesday it will be an historic event.  For the first time ever in the history of the franchise, the Royals will be relevant for something other than a bunch of s***.

And that, dear readers, is called crawling out of the gutter… where they will quickly return to on Wednesday.

Hate me ‘cuz I prey on the weak, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

(Image courtesy of Getty Images)

Mr. Magoo in Blue

ump_with_glasses.jpgWhat would a postseason be without umpiring controversies? Lucky for us, we don’t have to worry about it since the Yankees-Angels series has been a string of blown calls. I admit it, I do wear glasses. I have four eyes. I could probably use a stronger prescription. But even I could see that when Mike Napoli tagged Posada and Cano at third, neither one was touching the bag and time had not been called. I guess one of the perks of having the highest payroll in baseball is the umps knowing who pays their salary and calling the game according to that.

Now, to be fair, the Angels got straight up beat. Saying their thrashing was due to bad calls is like saying the Cubs missed the World Series because of Bartman. It just ain’t true. But, umpiring antics like these don’t make people feel any better about the Evil Empire’s stranglehold on baseball.

The thing of it is, the Yankees don’t really need
these blown calls to win at this point. It’s like a third world dictator who gets 99% of the vote
despite the fact that he’d win anyway because people are afraid to vote
against him. It’s not so much unfair as it is tragic.

When it comes down to it, we chalk it up to destiny when our teams win because of bad calls and blame conspiracy when the teams we don’t like use those same bad calls to succeed. It’s human nature, I guess. We ascribe patterns to things we don’t understand because that’s how our brains work. And since my brain doesn’t understand why the Yankees get to spend nearly twice as much as the closest team following them salarywise, I see conspiracy.

However, if the Tigers manage to make it this far next season with their proportionately overinflated payroll, you probably won’t hear me complaining if a couple bad calls go their way. I mean, it would be their destiny.

-A

Photo by Getty Images

Why We Love LaTroy Hawkins

latroy hawkins.jpgThere was a time when LaTroy Hawkins acted as a personal savior of mine; because I knew the minute he came into a ballgame wearing that Cubs uniform, the chances of them losing took an astronomical leap.  While those days may be over — and the nomination of the world’s worst reliever has shifted to the awkwardly clumsy Kyle Farnsworth — I am happy to report that LaTroy Hawkins has given me yet another reason to worship him.

During Monday night’s game against the Cubs — as an Astro — Hawkins verbally and physically questioned the merits of homeplate umpire Mike Everitt, which eventually got him tossed.  Since then, Hawkins has suffered from a severe case of logorrhea and has had no problem jawing out at Everitt.  Now, Major League Baseball is investigating the incident.

“I have my own opinion, and he had his opinion,” he [Hawkins] said.  “He [Everitt] thought I was showing him up.  I saw Alex Rodriguez do way worse when I was in the American League.  He undressed the umpire.  Whatever he said, it was in his face.  It’s America.”

You’re damn right, LaTroy!  It is America!  It’s US America and I don’t care who you are — Alex Rodriguez or not — one should never be allowed to undress the umpire.  Who does this Rodriguez fella think he is anyway?  Some pretty boy poster child for Details magazine?  What a pompous sicko!

We applaud you, LaTroy, for saying what we were all thinking and going after the bad guys behind the plate.

And in the future, LaTroy, instead of getting into a war of words — a war that is rarely won by a journeyman reliever — you may want to follow the stellar example set by Chinese professional athletes and just pulverize your enemy:

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

Paunch ‘Em Out!

If you are an MLB.TV subscriber, you may have noticed that between innings you will see the occasional commercial now.  Most likely it will be an annoying five dollar foot long spot.  But if you’re lucky, you’ll get a poorly produced advertisement for a Major League Baseball umpiring school!

Nevermind the reality that you have a better chance becoming a Major League baseball player than you do an umpire, because that, dear readers, is not important here.

What is important is that you know umpiring is sexy now.  And anyone can do it.  Hell, Don Denkinger did it and he su<ked!

So go for it!  Just make sure you come prepared and look the part… no friggin’ skinnies allowed!

umpire school.jpg

Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

A Technocratic Disruption of the Baseball Cosmos

baseball god.jpgInstant replay may be here for good but that doesn’t mean I have to like it; nor does it mean I have to support it.  Because I don’t.

And I won’t.

Before you get all sassy (Mr. Krause), let me just say that my basis for detesting this technological intrusion is not rooted in science.  It does not rely on tangible evidence.  It is based on one simple cosmological principle:

The baseball gods are pissed off.

For it is my strong belief that in baseball everything happens for a reason and eventually the inequalities of umpiring decisions (though visible and often game-altering) will be settled at a later time, when appropriate, when it’s most necessary.  This is how it has been for over a hundred years — or in other words: a long friggin’ time.

Had the argument against instant replay in baseball not been so stringent in the past perhaps I wouldn’t be so upset about it now; but to maintain the party line for so long only to crumble under the pressure of a few whiny millionaires is quite embarrassing.  Baseball is not football.  It is not basketball.  It is not hockey. 

It does not need instant replay — at all.  Ever.

Of course, now people like my colleague Mr. Allen Krause have embraced this technology because it will supposedly ensure that each homerun call is made correctly.  And though they say it will be reserved only for homerun calls, we all know that you can’t just have one cookie.  Before long everything from close plays at first to suspected trappings in the outfield to balls and strikes will soon be up for review by some Geek Squad reject in the New York main office, thus eliminating the human umpire element entirely, not to mention extending what many already consider a game that goes on too long.

This is not good, folks.  It’s not good at all.  And Mr. Krause, you’re completely wrong in your steadfast embrace of this electronic eye-in-the-sky Pandora’s Box. 

exorcist 2.jpgYou will be sorry.  You see, the baseball gods — now raging in their defiance towards this atrocious innovation — have myriad unfinished business in equalizing the poor calls of the past.  But now, since MLB has gone against its purist principles, all those yet to be righted face the harsh and difficult reality that they may never see justice on the field again.  Fate has been tested and one ought to know better than to mess with fate, or the supernatural.

Just ask Pete Rose.

Ever wonder why the Yankees World Series drought has lasted so long?  Ask Derek Jeter or Jeffrey Maier or Tony Torasco.  They know.  They were there.  

Ever wonder how a barely-above mediocre Cardinal squad won the 2006 World Series?  Ask Don Denkinger.  He knows.  He took it away from them 21 years earlier.

Ever wonder how a pompous autocrat like me got to write a hit blog?  Ask Greg Altmix, my high school baseball coach who sat me on the bench because I couldn’t hit the ball to the opposite field.  He knows.  I was a pull hitter.  You can’t change a pull hitter. 

Dear readers, for every wrong there is a right and the baseball gods know exactly what the hell they’re doing.

Call me a purist, call me old-school, call me Suzie… I don’t give a s***.  Go ahead.  Hate me if you must.

…but don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Filibuster

This week saw the introduction of instant reply — a
technocratic advance many still consider blasphemy — in Major League
Baseball.  Currently, the only calls
deemed debatable are homerun calls.  But now that the surface has been cracked, is it not only a matter of time before
we are reviewing foul balls down the line, close plays at first and dare I say
the strike zone?  Where does one draw the
line and how will this impact the overall game?

 

– Jeff

                                                                      

arod_replay_homer.jpg

Ah yes, the ol’ slippery slope argument. If we do “x,” then “y” and “z” must follow. It’s an argument politicians have used for years to hold out against reforming everything from farm subsidies to gun ownership. But, the fact of the matter is that the argument holds no water.

Beyond that, however, is an even more important distinction when it comes to instant replay. The use of replay for this one small area of the game is a huge improvement over the old system.

Just this past week, replay was used to uphold an Alex Rodriguez home run and the game neither came to a screeching halt nor did the ghosts of long dead major leaguers suddenly come flying out of the ground to right some injustice that had been done to their memory. Replay equals innovation and evolution in the game.

In the old system, a bunch of middle aged men who saw the ball’s path from 300 feet away would get together and debate what had happened. Often, they got it wrong. So now, instead of paying the hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be necessary to put extra umps in the outfield, MLB came up with a suitable alternative.

No one who truly calls their self a baseball fan wants to see the abolition of the umpire. The call at home plate in a swirl of dust and dirt is as much a part of the game as the wooden bat and pinetar covered batting helmet.

But instant replay adds to the game. And in fact, in honor of its resounding success during its first week of use, I’d like to see it applied in other places where it’s never been seen before.

For instance, I’d like to see an instant replay of Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention the other evening. Maybe then we can discover how someone who’s views so clearly fall outside the mainstream (creationism taught side by side with evolution?) has become an overnight media darling.

Or perhaps we could find out via replay how the Chicago Tribune came to print a story that so closely resembled my colleague Mr. Lung’s recent post.

No matter what, instant replay is here to stay along with the DH and All-Star Games that have way too much of an impact on October baseball. Instant replay, though, that’s change we can believe in.

-A

The Filibuster

John McLaren, the fiery, F-bomb dropping manager of the Mariners just
lost his job, perhaps in part because of his profanity laced tirade.
Bobby Cox set a career mark for ejections last season. And Lou Pinella
always seems to be cussing out someone, no matter if his team is in
first or last place. Does it really make a difference when a manager
hollers at, kicks dirt on or otherwise abuses the umps and who does it
best?

– Allen

                                                                                       

I believe it was 1985 or 1986.  I was just a bright-eyed kid who would hold his breath as he walked into the chasm of old Busch stadium — overwhelmed and overjoyed by the simple lush green of artificial turf. They were known as the runnin’ Redbirds back then and Vince Coleman was on the front line. 

He walked to lead off the first inning and on the very next pitch he stole second.  The ump called him out.  Coleman went nuts.  He got in the ump’s face, threw down his helmet and the crowd (me included) erupted with a supporting roar.  It wasn’t enough to change the umpire’s mind because two seconds later, he tossed him. 

Immediately, Whitey Herzog stormed from the dugout and dashed towards second base.

Absolute pandemonium. 

He got tossed too.

I was only six or seven years old, but I got it.  I was pumped.  I was charged.  I would’ve fought to the death for Whitey.

And that sentiment rings true still today for players and fans.  Why do managers argue calls, risk being fined, and make scenes in front of 30,000 people?  It’s part of their job.  They are paid to lead, to discipline, to encourage and to fire up the troops.

Some are passive-aggressive (Bobby Cox), some are aggressive (Lou Pinella, Earl Weaver, Billy Martin) and some are just lameballs (Willie Randolph).  No matter what the style, the purpose is the same.  This is elementary.

As for who is the best?  I’m not sure that any current manager could touch the combativeness of Earl Weaver or Billy Martin.  Perhaps “Sweet” Lou Pinella is the closest we have as he always puts on a good show and his teams seem to respond: they win.  And isn’t that the most important thing?

Of course, there’s always room for a loony toon or two, and I think we could all agree that minor league manager Phillip Wellman of the Mississippi Braves is the quintessential example of how sometimes one can take the whole arguing with the umpire thing a bit too far.  If you live under a rock and don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this footage from June 2007:

Nutjob.  Yes.  But at least he was committed.  And confident.  Confidence can go a long way, especially if you’re looked up to as a leader and you have no clue what you’re doing half the time.  Of course, I can’t relate to that.  I can’t relate to that at all. 

Don’t hate me cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeffy

The Filibuster

“MLB just handed down suspensions to Joe Girardi, Dusty Baker and Wally
Joyner as a result of recent disputes with umpires. Meanwhile, the umps
blew several calls over the past week, including what should have a
been a three-run homerun by Carlos Delgado last Sunday. Are umps
earning their money and has MLB become overly sensitive to criticism of
their arbiters?”

– Allen

                                                                                       

“Are umps earning their money…?”

Seriously, Al?  You act as if baseball has never seen a controversial call or a heated argument between umpire and manager before.  Ejections, game-changing calls — right or wrong — are fundamental aspects of the game, Mr. Krause.  They are as natural as the infield-fly rule or the strike-em-out throw-em-out inning-ending double play. 

Your questioning of recent events yet again proves your ignorance for what has always been a defining element of the grand game of baseball.

What sets baseball apart from all the rest is that it doesn’t rely on the fast-paced pinpoint accuracy of machines to govern its highly relative rules.  As a game that sees its best players fail 7 out of 10 times at the plate, baseball’s umpiring system — which has a much higher success rate — is bound to see a mistake or two during the long season.  But to introduce technology (like instant replay) to arbitrate — even if it’s solely used for home run calls — would be nothing short of sacrilege in my point of view, which by the way, is the only correct point of view.

85WSTheCall.jpgAnd I’m saying this as an avid proponent for burning down Don Denkinger’s house — still – 23 years after he singlehandedly destroyed my childhood by calling Jorge Orta safe when he was CLEARLY OUT during the 1985 World Series.  A few years ago, I was going through some personal issues and while recovering made a list of all those whom I had hurt in some way with the ultimate goal of verbalizing an apology to them.  I have said a lot of awful things about Denkinger in my lifetime and I am not proud of them.  But when it came time to write an apology to him, the one person whom I hold more contempt for than even Bill O’Reilly, I was unable to reverse my absolute hatred.  I even did extensive background research on Denkinger’s life, hoping that it would humanize him in some way that would make me feel bad about the anger I held inside. 

The result? 

Nothing changed.

But that’s just me.  As an adult, I realize that that call was just a part of the game I love so much and that if I changed it, baseball would no longer be the rhetorical love of my life.  It’s really as simple as that.

And while the league minimum salary for baseball players is around the $350K mark, the umpiring crews hover around $100K.  The best umps in the game might make close to the player minimum, but of course, they’re doing it without any fanfare.  They’re doing it while having to be on the road for every game, not just 81 games.  They’re doing it while being targeted by angry fans in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Detroit.  They’re doing it without any attention paid to how good of a game they might call and they’re doing it while being singled out only when they get one wrong, which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t very often. 

So they’ve had a bad week.  So what.  Their bad week pales in comparison to an Eric Byrnes, who is having a terrible season while getting paid over $6.5 million this year or an Eric Gagne, who is getting $10 million for throwing like a batting practice coach.  These guys are the ones who aren’t earning their keep.  These guys are the ones we should be talking about.

french-revolution-2.jpgThe umps are doing just fine.

And if for some reason Bud Selig lets these idiots get to him with the whole instant replay institution, I will take to the streets French revolutionary style to ensure that the game stays just the way it is.

I may do it alone, but I will do it because it is right, because I am right.  And whether I come out of it dead or alive, please don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right ‘cuz that’s all I have in this cold, cold world.

Peace,

Jeffy

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