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MLB needs to fix its umpire problem

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  October 8, 2010 12:58 PM

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Here's how bad the umpires have been in the postseason: The Red Sox aren't even in the playoffs and there are are people e-mailing or commenting on this blog about how bad the umps are.

Through six postseason games, there have been four brutal calls and two managers ejected for arguing. That call in right field in the ninth inning of Game 1 of the Yankees-Twins series seemed like the worst. Greg Golson clearly caught the ball but somehow the umpires at first base, second base and right field all missed it.

The Giants scored one run to beat the Braves last night and that run was undeserved because Buster Posey scored on a single after being thrown out stealing second base. Only he was called safe.

"I guess it's a good thing we don't have instant replay," Posey said.

Two things need to happen:

1. Instant replay needs to be available for more than home run boundary calls. Let's use it for anything beyond balls and strikes and checked swings. Give each manager two challenges. If he gets it right, he keeps it.

Have a fifth umpire (or seventh in the postseason) in the press box ready to quickly adjudicate calls. This would cut down on arguing and the games would not be longer. Seems pretty simple. Baseball could install that system in 48 hours if it wanted.

2. MLB needs to, in detail, explain to fans how umpires are evaluated. The general perception fans have are that umpires are like Supreme Court Justices and have lifetime jobs no matter what. This is not true, but the perception remains that MLB is powerless to fix the quality of umpires.

MLB needs to explain how it evaluates, assigns and disciplines umpires. Umpires need to be accountable, too. If there's a controversy on the field they must be made available to reporters to explain their side of it. No more hiding behind crew chiefs or locked doors. If some 22-year-old shortstop needs to stand there and explain why he made an error, a 50-year-old umpire can, too.

When an umpire is disciplined, MLB needs to explain what they did and why. If an umpire is fired, baseball needs to say, "We fired this guy. Here is who we replaced him with and why." Again, if a GM can hold a press conference and explain why he changed his roster, so can Bud Selig or one of his vice presidents.

If Pitch f/x shows a certain umpire misses a larger percentage of balls and strikes than his peers, MLB needs to explain why that man still has a job.

Right now there is a total lack of transparency and accountability.

Baseball is a few more blown calls away from becoming the NBA, where the presumption of illegality or bias exists. That has to be fixed.

It's not right that everybody knows Joe West is a self-promoting clown. Or that the Hunter Wendelstedt likes to pick fights with players and managers. Or that Bob Davidson likes calling balks for no apparent reason other than he can.

Baseball can't afford to have its most watched and crucial games be blemished by so many bad calls. If it happens once every 10 years, that's part of the game. When it happens every night, it needs to be corrected.

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