The Herald Bulletin

May 11, 2013

Rick Teverbaugh: Better umps best fix for baseball


The Herald Bulletin

— There’s some really wrong-headed thinking going on in baseball right now.

It seems, I hope you’re seated right now to read this, some umpires are missing some calls at major league baseball games recently. I have never, in my 50-plus years of being a baseball fan, have heard of such a thing.

I thought umps, just by the very nature of being umpires, were infallible. No?

All right. Seriously. There seems now to be a movement to bring even more replay into the sport in order to get a higher percentage of those calls correct. Even though such a plan has failed on an epic scale in the NFL’s use of it and has made three-hour games a short experience, baseball seems primed to plunge down that road anyway.

Baseball has a slightly different problem than the NFL. Pro football’s problem is that it hasn’t cared enough about getting it right to turn officiating into a full-time job. Baseball corrected that grievous error a long time ago.

Baseball has long been reluctant to prune away the most incompetent of its brethren in blue, taking an attitude that maybe it would be akin to admitting some failure on its part to promote the right people or to train them properly.

The foolhardy in this matter runs through the ranks of the administration, some of whom are ex-players and should know better.

No less a baseball icon than Joe Torre recently admitted that no umpires are 100 percent accurate and that the elimination of errors shouldn’t be a goal of the sport. With that type of attitude, no wonder umpires seem relatively unconcerned about mistakes and why other sports commentators feel that expanded replay is the only answer.

It isn’t.

Mistakes in judgment calls, especially on extremely close plays, are understandable and tolerable, unless they keep happening to the same umpires all of the time.

That’s where an aggressive grading system and punitive consequences need to be implemented. Players who aren’t performing up to expected standards are released or demoted to the minors with accepted regularity. The same should happen with major league umpires.

What is less tolerable than the occasional goof on a close out-safe call at a base, is errors in applying the rulebook. That type of mistake should be dealt with severely.

Instead of putting in a system that will correct bad calls by umpires, let’s support a system where we get more umpires in place who will be making fewer bad calls.

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I want to wish all of our readers this morning who are mothers a most wonderful and happy day. Most every sports fans who reads these pages has or had a mother who enjoyed or at least tolerated a love of sports.

I know I have one and right now she’s hospitalized fighting off pneumonia. Her full recovery is the only thing on my want list right now.

Sports Editor Rick Teverbaugh’s columns appear twice weekly.