Umpires Are Out Of Control, Yet Nothing Is Done About It

An article by posted on May 7, 2011

Enough is enough.

Major League Baseball has long had an umpire problem. There’s never going to be perfection, and missed calls are part of the game and always will be, but it seems they are happening with more regularity.

Bad calls are one thing, but couple that with arrogance and it is an untenable situation, such as the one last night at Fenway Park, which figured a meltdown by Red Sox manager Terry Francona clearly initiated by two of the worst umpires in the game, Angel Hernandez and Joe West.

When Francona went out to discuss a balk call against Tim Wakefield, Hernandez ran him within seconds. The rules, ridiculous as they are, dictated an automatic ejection. Francona wanted an explanation of what Wakefield did wrong, but Hernandez never let him get a word in.

That’s a quick trigger. Umpires are supposed to be composed and show some patience, but that obviously goes against the grain with Hernandez. You must give the player or manager the opportunity to make his point.

Had Hernandez shown discretion there might not have been the subsequent meltdown.

That’s when Francona lost it and went after Hernandez, only to be intercepted by West, who has the reputation of being a hothead and wanting to interject himself into the game.

West clearly butted into a situation that didn’t involve him as Francona would say later. All he did was escalate the confrontation. There was contact made – six times according to the replay – but it was instigated by West.

Francona will obviously be fined, perhaps suspended by Commissioner Bud Selig, but West will get a pass because MLB doesn’t want to antagonize the umpires union, which, if angry enough, will take it out on the game and be confrontational all summer.

However, something needs to be done about West, who has consistently been ranked one of the worst umpires in player polls. He has the reputation of being a loose cannon and putting himself in the middle of things.

West, you might recall threw ejected two cameramen from Shea Stadium when they allowed the Mets to view a replay of a play at the plate. He’s also the one who criticized the Yankees and Red Sox for their slow play.

MLB must do something to improve the quality of umpiring. It could begin with expanded instant replay, because the objective is to get it right.

But, what I want is for each umpire to be wired so we can hear what goes on in the argument. We will be able to tell who did the instigating. Many of these arguments occur when the umps have rabbit ears and seek out the confrontation.

Having the umpires wired, and held accountable with fines and suspensions similar to the ones given the players, will help calm the waters.

The umpires are supposedly graded every year, but what is done with those who are at the bottom? Evidently not much as they return to show us their incompetence the next summer.

In the case of Joe West, he’s been a example of what is wrong with umpires. It is time the sport ejects him.

About the Author ()

I am an active member of the BBWAA and have covered Major League Baseball in several capacities for over 20 years, including ten in New York working the Mets' and Yankees' beat. I covered the Baltimore Orioles for eight years and the Cleveland Indians before that. Today I am a freelance writer and social director for several media outlets and the Senior Editor for MetsmerizedOnline.com.

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