The epidemic of bad umpiring

Major League Baseball has a problem. That problem? Umpires who like to inject themselves to ballgames and affect their results. As a whole, MLB protects their umpires from the negative side of getting a major call wrong. Unfortunately, few learn from their mistakes and just continue the same pattern of behavior.

A couple of events over the last few days have really brought this to mind, but I’ve been meaning to write something to this effect for awhile. Two just in this last series, a series that is one of the Cardinals’ most crucial series’ the rest of the way.

On Monday night with one out and the bases loaded in a 5-2 ballgame, the Cardinals were threatening to put a big number up on Brewers starter Zack Greinke. Skip Schumaker grounds a ball to second base and the Brewers turn two. Or did they? Replays show that Schumaker was safe. Clearly safe, even to the naked eye. So how did the first base umpire, Rob Drake, miss that one? There’s no excuse for a missed play like that. Skip Schumaker didn’t argue the call, though he stood there in disbelief for a moment and later talked about it to the media.

On Tuesday night with one out in the top of the 10th of a 7-7 ballgame, Yadier Molina was up to bat. He took a 1-2 pitch that the FOX Sports FOXTrax pitch tracker showed well inside. After home plate umpire Rob Drake (yes, the same Rob Drake as the night before) rung Molina up on strikes, Molina took exception. Turning around and getting in Drake’s face about the call. That’s not usually the type of response you get out of Yadier Molina. He’s the one with the cool head going out to calm another player down. If it was the first missed balls or strike call of the game, I think Molina lets that go. To me, there’s really only one reason why Molina reacts like he did: when Molina’s behind the plate, he’s not getting that call yet the umpire rings him up in the 10th inning of a tie ballgame.

Was Molina right to get in Drake’s face about the call? Not at all. And the contact between the two will likely land Molina on the bench for a few days (even though I contend that Drake stepped up as Molina was moving towards him and that’s why they made contact). Watching the replay you can tell that Molina never pulled an Alomar and intentionally spit in the umpires face. However, it’s very possible that sweat and spit flew as he was giving Drake the verbal barrage. Still, it’s likely going to be more games than Ryan Theriot got after his tirade in New York.

Then on Wednesday night, the icing to the cake that really propelled me to writing this story. With two out in the 5th inning, the Chicago Cubs’ Tyler Colvin had a 1-2 count and took a pitch inside. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson called him out on strikes. Obviously frustrated with the call, Colvin yelled some things out into the air, turned around and went back to the dugout. He never looked back at Davidson, just yelled, turned around, and went back to the dugout. Davidson followed him towards the dugout and ejected him.

Then the Cubs’ manager Mike Quade comes out to argue Colvin’s case. He was calm and never touched him. Ultimately Davidson shrugs his shoulders and walks back towards home plate as Quade continues to try to make his point. A few seconds later, Quade turns to head back to the dugout. That’s when Davidson turns around and ejects Quade too.

Am I calling for expanded use of replay? There are some valid uses for it, but no. I ultimately think umpires and the “human factor” ought to play a role in the calling of games. However, the MLB needs to hold umpires who consistently miss calls and consistently inject themselves into ballgames accountable for their actions. Suspend and fire those that do. Most would never be affected, just the three or four who consistently find ways to put their stamp onto a ballgame’s outcome.

It is complete and utter crap that these umpires get away with make bad calls and influencing the outcomes of games without punishment, while any player that objects to the obviously wrong calls gets suspended. If you want your league to be respected, you have to enforce the rules and make sure those who make the calls are enforcing the rules properly as well. If they aren’t, then you need to take action. They shouldn’t be exempt from being held accountable.