Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

MLB Umpires

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Is it just me, or does it seem like someone took a nasty piss in the collective corn flakes of Major League Baseball umpires. First Balking Bob Davidson gets in an argument with Carl Crawford and Joe Maddon that would embarrass even the most belligerent drunk buffoon at a bar, then the embarrassing and pathetic Joe West tossed Mark Buehrle and Ozzie Guillen after calling Buehrle for two balks and generally making a spectacle of himself, and now Bill Hohn has gone looking for a fight, tossing out Astros ace Roy Oswalt in yesterday’s game. What is going on? I’m somewhat tempted to think this all started when West took the liberty to call the Yankees and Red Sox “embarrassing and pathetic” for their slow pace of play at the beginning of the year, something that’s just completely indefensible coming from an official, but the truth is, all of these guys have long track records with this sort of thing, particularly for Hohn and West, and nothing has ever happened to them before. Indeed, West is President of the world umpire’s union. So really, why shouldn’t they do this sort of thing? They know good and well nothing is going to happen to them. If Hohn can survive brazenly antagonizing the Braves, including calling time-out himself to go argue with a manager in the dugout, what can’t he survive?

Baseball umpires get a lot of flak for blown calls and odd missing balls and strikes. God knows I’ve criticized them for that multiple times. There are varying degrees of thought as to how bad the problem is, and that’s fine. But this isn’t about blown calls or idiosyncratic strike zones, it’s about the professional conduct of officials. That ought to be non-negotiable. Can you imagine an NFL official criticizing a team for passing too much, causing more clock stoppages than a team who runs the ball 30 times a game? Or an NBA official calling a time-out to stop and argue a foul call with a coach sitting on his bench? Of course not, because these officials would be fired immediately afterwards. And they should, because this sort of thing damages the integrity of the game. And not just because it calls into question the official’s credibility (and it does), but because it can have actual effects on the game. Roy Oswalt getting ejected forces the Astros to go to an inferior reliever, and makes them over-tax their bullpen as well, something that will affect their game-management for a week or more. Let me repeat that, a decision made by an umpire will have effects on games played for the next week.

Officials wield a lot of power on a baseball field, they need to wield that power judiciously. Games, to say nothing of seasons, should not turn on the bad attitude of an umpire on a power trip. Additionally, this isn’t good for the umpires either. Baseball umpires get enough criticism for missed calls, and several people probably aren’t giving them enough credit for doing the difficult job their taxed with. And nothing is hurting the umpire who maybe makes an honest mistake on a call, but nonetheless conducts himself with professionalism and integrity at all times than the Hohns and Wests of the world carrying on like arrogant buffoons. More than just baseball, those umpires, as well as the umpires union, need to speak out and marginalize these bad apples, for the good of the game, as well as their own.

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On Manny

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

I will admit, I probably wouldn’t have guessed Manny Ramirez was using PED’s if you asked me. He never really seemed that bulky, never really exhibited common symptoms, and frankly, never seemed to care enough to bother with it. Manny always looked like hitting was effortless to him, and like the game was just fun. I would have leaned toward the view that A-Rod was clean as well, but I wouldn’t have had much trouble imagining him shooting up either. Not so much with Manny.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that baseball’s steroid hysteria is nothing but an attempt to take another crack at union busting, after the efforts to break the MLBPA failed in the early 1990’s. That’s why the Mitchell Report made little note of ownership’s complicity in the prevalence of steroids in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and why baseball officials have seeded “rumors” that “union officials” were tipping off players to upcoming drug tests. From a PR standpoint, they’re playng on the inate resentment fans feel for players who are making a lot of money to do something most of them (the fans) wish they could do, even for less money. That’s the sentiment you hear expressed about how the legends of yesteryear “did it for the love of the game,” never mind that most of them hated the reserve clause that kept their salaries artificially low, and embraced free agency when it finally came around, and forced owners who wanted to compete to pay players a fair market value. And as an aside, let me say that while he might have been a stupid, overbearing, egotistical son of a bitch, George Steinbrenner deserves a lot of credit for embracing free agency early on, and killing any attempts at collusion ownership might have attempted before it could even start.

So far as numbers are concerned, there’s really no other way to explain the phenomenon. Lots of records were broken a generation or two ago. Roger Maris broke Bae Ruth’s single season home run record in 1961, Hank Aaron broke his career home run record in 1975, Pete Rose broke Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record in 1986, and so on. The difference between these guys and today’s players, for the most part, was money. Records broken before free agency were broken by guys who were still being paid a pittance of what they were worth, because of a regulation that bordered on legalized slavery. Rose is an exception, breaking Cobb’s record about a decade after free agency became a reality, but Rose was generally regarded as a guy who managed to produce above his natural talent level by sheer force of “hustle,” always the kind of guy fans like to see, because they’re easier to live vicariously through.

And then you have the really ridiculous aspects of the way writers employ a double standard to the issue. I love Andy Pettite, but the guy was named in the Mitchell Report, and you never here it mentioned, or if it is, it’s mostly to explain why “it’s different.” Same for Brian Roberts, Paul Lo Duca (who sounds like a narco-trafficer in the Mitchell Report), etc. And don’t get me started on the “old-timers.” Nolan Ryan had a sudden resurrgence after he turned 38 years old, even as he moved to a very hitter friendly park in Arlington, in the late 1980’s. Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 straight games, most of them in the 80’s. I’m not saying these guys used steroids, if for no other reason than that there’s no way to prove it, but we know there were steroids in baseball at this time, there was no testing whatsoever for them, there was no real “hard” rule against them, and so on. If either of them were playing today, especially if they were Hispanic, it would just be widely assumed that they were juicing.

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Sunday Sports Blogging: Opening Day

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

by Brien Jackson

And it’s about damn time. Finally, we can stop spending our sports time obsessing over amateur basketball. And of course, the new season demands predictions, which I’ll put behind the jump.

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