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The umpires of baseball or the referees of hockey – who’s worse?

Okay, I know they’re tough jobs and all, but it is frustrating when you see certain things happen. Anyway, I’m just glad to have baseball back, and just as hockey playoffs are about to start too.

I’ve been having the debate of what to watch all night, flipping between the Canucks vs Flames and the Jays vs Angels. I’d usually choose the Canucks, no questions asked, but so far this season, it’s pretty exciting to watch the Blue Jays. The bat of Bautista, the defense of Escobar, Hill and Macdonald, the emerging young rotation of Romero, Drabek, and hopefully soon, Morrow. These Jays are young, skilled, and hard-working. The new GM and manager represent a total overhaul of the Jays as a franchise, and early in this first season I’m liking what I see.

And I liked what I saw tonight, except for on a couple of plays, of course. The first was game-changing call on Yunel Escobar in which he was called out for running in a straight line, avoiding the ball, and stepping safely on third base. This call was absurd, and absolutely affected the game in a critical moment in extra innings. Scott Carson, the 3rd man in the booth for Rogers Sportsnet, seems to be just as puzzled as I am. He tweeted “Been doing this a long time, but I’ve seen things happen for the first time over the last two innings … Bob Davidson’s call on Escobar????” That call definitely influenced the outcome of the game, and made no sense. I hate when umps do stupid things.

The second play that was tough to watch was Snider’s botched fly out, in which he misread the ball. It sucks to have the winning run reach base on a play like that, but I guess that’s baseball.

Back to the positive stuff. The Jays looked fairly promising, the Bautista deal looks like it will work out after all, and I’m excited for some of these young guys like Arencibia, Drabek, and Escobar.

All that being said, I’m only talking about baseball as a sport. Baseball has many problems, or more precisely, the MLB has many problems. The game of baseball is great; the league is terribly run, however. First, the steroid scandals. It’s so painfully obvious that some players have used steroids, and it’s certainly tarnished the game. Baseball has always been a game of statistics, of numbers, and of chance. The steroid era has greatly inflated a number of players’ stats, and their names are still in the record books.

Secondly, the umpiring.

Umpiring is crucial in a baseball game. Each umpire has a slightly different definition of what a strike zone is, and the pitchers and batters slowly learn it as the game goes on. The umpire behind home plate is not the only important one making calls on the field. The umps at the bases are undoubtedly just as important, as they have to make many close calls at the bags. We all know how bad it looks when an umpire blows a call, especially when the stakes are high. Who can forget the call that cost Armando Galarraga his perfect game last season?

When umps do stupid things, it’s a lot more obvious nowadays. Sitting at home, we have the benefit of instant replay and the ability to rewind live TV, so we can watch the replay again and again to see how just bad the call really was. When will the MLB wake up and start using instant replay of some kind, at least on foul calls or close plays at the bag. If they brought in some sort of challenge system, I think it could work.

I understand that making judgment calls in any sport is a tough job. It can be hard to see what happened in a quick game like baseball or hockey, and making a decision on the spot, you’re bound to make mistakes sometimes. Today, in the digital age of HD TV and dozens of cameras at every game, we can make the right call. The MLB should at least try to erase two or three of the stupid things umpires do each game, by bringing in some form of instant replay.

One Comment

  1. The entertainment value of sports will always keep me interested, but as you mentioned, the associations governing these sports have a long way to go, in my opinion. At the end of the day, the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, etc. are businesses, and we’ve seen how lax businesses can be when it comes to ethics. Consider American collegial sports – coaches and universities are making millions of dollars off their student-athletes, yet they don’t get paid anything. In fact, it is against the rules for them to. Work without payment sounds a lot like slavery to me.

    I also think the labor disputes in these leagues are representative of labor disputes in other arenas of social life. Consider the owners of many of the American football teams – these aren’t very progressive folks. What have the labor disputes been about in previous years? I think it’s also important to note the Green Bay Packers, and how they are the only team owned by their fans. I also wonder if there are any parallels between how the Texas Rangers were run while George W. Bush was the owner and how reckless capitalism is?

    There’s a writer by the name of Dave Zirin who talks about the social aspects of sports and if you’re interested you can check out his website:

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