Umpires

Thoughts on Umpires

I don’t want robo umpires. For some time I did. I wanted umpires to be perfect because the technology requires it but over time I’ve started to dislike seeing the strike zone on the screen. One thing I’ve noticed is how terrible a ball just outside of that zone is spoken about but when I watch old baseball there’s a ball that appears much, much further to the naked eye that isn’t even controversial. The announcer will just say (oh he caught the outside corner) and the batter would just continue his at-bat.

Umpires

It seems that since the K-zone has been put on screen and the pressure on home plate umpires is actually stronger to get calls right it seems something’s been missing from the game. In the age of baseball where trying to draw a walk is more appropriate and is considered a great strategy you see a lot more players taking pitches and as the strike zone is clear and more universal it seems easier and easier for a player to do.

As someone who absolutely has an appreciation for sabermetrics, technology, and this new age of baseball in general I actually like the potential behind differing strikes zones. I do think at the end of the day baseball still needs some kind of emphasis on action because I am one of those people who think baseball does have a ball-in-play problem over a pace of play problem. While I understand and appreciate a good battle between pitcher and hitter I do kind of think we’re losing some of the athleticism in the field. To me, less focus on perfect strike zones could potentially get more swings on the ball.

umpires

When I was in little league there was an emphasis on calling a wider zone because they wanted to get us to swing the bat more and I feel that kind of what happened in the old school game, a lot of times if a pitch was close enough that thing was gonna be called a strike and I do think part of that is to inspire action. This is ultimately a preference thing and I get the idea behind getting the call right but, I don’t know, I just feel the game isn’t meant to look perfect. Guys are meant to get hits on lucky bloop singles, they’re meant to be out on a perfectly squared up ball, they’re meant to make errors, they’re meant to have a ball die on the warning track and hitters will strike out on a ball outside the zone. To me, imperfection is part of the aesthetics of the game.

I don’t hate instant replay though I do think it’s overutilized. We don’t need replays in the 3rd inning of an August game between two teams below .500 and I think in baseball, a good chunk of calls can be decided quickly. If you can’t tell in a very, very short time span just move on. When there’s no clock there’s plenty of time to make up for things. But while I think most old school arguments with the player in the umps face are stupid and replay does mitigate that kind of thing, I do think there’s an opposite effect where umpires are way too quick to run a guy.

I’ve seen a lot of videos of the batter leaving the box, getting in the umpire’s face, and arguing the call but the umpire doesn’t do anything but yell back. There’s an understanding of who we’re there to watch in my eyes. Heck, there was a time period where the ump and player just decided things by “stepping outside.” There were definitely a couple of moments where Ty Cobb challenged umpires to shirtless boxing matches in the clubhouse (and the umpire would accept) Some of the things guys do get tossed on are a bit much and umpires do clearly get power-hungry.

Umpires

I always thought it was interesting that the more terrible an ump is the more famous he is. There are metrics and a good Twitter page called Umpire Scorecards in which the user judges the games called by an umpire and it does seem the ones who are the best I barely know by name.

So I don’t know, I didn’t really have much of a theme in mind I just started thinking about how baseball does seem to be losing popularity in a lot of sense and I’m just thinking of ways the game was different in the past when it had more popularity and really thinking about what I have personally enjoyed watching and applied it to my thoughts on umpires. Maybe I’ll have more thoughts on what I enjoy about watching baseball and I’ll include things you don’t see and things that you do see in the modern-day.

For example, a thought I have that probably has an element of controversy….I think domes, astroturf, and cookie-cutter stadiums, while they’re not that aesthetically pleasing to look at, do add an exciting dimension to the game. I’ll defend that statement another time, however.

Featured Image Credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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