Talking to myself about umpires

I’ve watched quite a bit of this year’s playoffs. I also caught Friday’s episode of “Pardon the Interruption.” The first three stories were about the MLB playoffs. But the conversations weren’t focused on how good Roy Halladay is or how dominant Tim Lincecum was or how the Rangers are about to win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. Nope, it was all about umpires. It’s an issue with good arguments on both sides, both of which I agree with to some extent. How to settle this? I decided to talk to myself about it.

Dan #1: Hey buddy, lots of talk about with this umpire stuff. What do we agree about on this?

Dan #2: We agree that replay needs to be expanded. I keep hearing everybody complaining about how bad the umpires are instead of talking about how good the games are.

Dan #1: That’s true. But what calls do you think would have been overturned if there was more replay? Let’s say baseball went to a system kind of like the one in the NFL. You need indisputable video evidence to overturn the call on the field.

Dan #2: Well, everybody says the pitch didn’t hit Chase Utley, but it wasn’t indisputable; the pitch was going 100 miles an hour, after all. Greg Golson looked like he caught the ball in the ninth inning the other night, but there wasn’t an angle that showed he did so for sure. And Michael Young looked like he went around, but the rule is pretty vague. So I guess that leaves Buster Posey being out at second base trying to steal. He even admitted it after the game.

Dan #1: So you’re telling me all this whining really boils down to one call that would’ve been overturned by expanded replay?

Dan #2: Yeah, but it’s more than that. If we have this technology and everybody else can see this stuff, why can’t the umpires, the guys who can actually benefit from it? What’s the harm?

Dan #1: You’re right about that. The goal is to get calls right more often. If this technology can help, it’s hard-headed not to use it.

Dan #2: Yep. I keep reading this stuff about baseball having a credibility problem. As a baseball fan, I don’t like hearing that.

Dan #1: You know who writes things like that? People who don’t follow baseball on a regular basis. The problem is, people are used to football and basketball, where they have replay in limited situations. But is the refereeing any better in the NFL or NBA?

Dan #2: Hmm…

Dan #1: The answer is no. In the NFL, everybody freely admits that holding and pass interference can be called on virtually every play, but it isn’t. Why is that OK? Can’t those calls/no-calls change the outcome of games just as much as missed safe/out calls in baseball? Why does the NFL get away with that?

Dan #2: Because replay challenges make the fans believe there’s somebody watching the officials, making sure they’re doing a good job.

Dan #1: And in the NBA, when’s the last time you saw ANYBODY called for traveling? Why is it OK that, as a policy, NBA referees don’t call one of the most basic violations in the game?

Dan #2: Because they use replay to see if players’ feet were behind the three-point arc and if the shots at the buzzer were released before the buzzer.

Dan #1: So what you’re saying is, in those other sports, the refs get calls wrong too?

Dan #2: Of course they do.

Dan #1: Even with replay?

Dan #2: Yep.

Dan #1: So why is everybody talking about “credibility issues” whenever a bang-bang play gets botched in baseball and not when it’s a recurring, blatant policy of ignoring rules in those other sports all the time?

Dan #2: Because baseball hasn’t officially admitted that umpires need help. They act like the umpires are infallible. People just want to feel like somebody’s watching the umpires. Basically, we don’t want to feel like we’re watching a glorified version of pro wrestling, where the refs always mysteriously missed the steel chair being slid under the ropes.

Dan #1: You know what sport has an infallible system of officiating? Tennis. They have a cyclops machine that they go to when somebody wants to challenge a call. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s always right. But guess what. Tennis has its own credibility problems. So do you think that, even if we went off the deep end and went to an all-machine officiating system, that will really solve all of baseball’s problems?

Dan #2: I don’t think anybody wants to completely eliminate umpires. Not that you could, anyway. But you’re missing the point: If we can improve the officiating system, why don’t we?

Dan #1: That’s valid and I agree: we should always be trying to improve. But everybody acts like adding more replay will fix baseball’s “credibility problem.” The fact is, as long as there are umpires, even the best ones are going to miss calls. It’s a tough job, they are scrutinized more than ever thanks to super-slo-mo, high-def replays, 95 different blowhards ripping it apart daily on SportsCenter as if they’ve just discovered plutonium by accident, blogs, etc. We try to make sports fair, but there’s always going to be something perceived as unfair. People need to get over it and just enjoy the game instead of looking for things to be upset about.

Dan #2: I’ll agree with that.

Dan #1: Fine. So we agree: expand replay. Is that really a new idea?

Dan #2: I guess not. Most everybody has thought that for about three years now.

Dan #1: My point exactly. Let’s move on with our lives,

Dan #2: OK. Next topic: Why did you shave your head?

Dan #1: This conversation is over.

Dan #2: Is it because every other guy in your family is bald?

Dan #1: I’m walking away now.

Dan #2: Is it because you’re secretly training to be a cage fighter and want to look tougher?

Dan #1: This is ridiculous.

Dan #2: Is it because there’s never been a time in our society when it’s been more acceptable to shave your head, so you might as well take advantage of living in this era?

Dan #1: I’m never doing this format of a blog entry again.

Now that that’s over, here are some random thoughts:

  • TBS’s broadcasts are roughly a billion times better than last year. Two reasons: A change in the on-air crews and the fact that Conan O’Brien’s promos are easily more entertaining than thousands of commercials for Frank Caliendo and George Lopez. I could do without the Kid Rock “Born Free”-fest, though.
  • Watched “The Office” the other night. Ed Helms is really good. Does he get a Best Supporting Actor Emmy? He should at least get nominated.
  • I’m going to have to recap my trip home in a separate entry. Just to give you a taste of what that’ll be like, I threw the football around today with my 7-year-old cousin. He dropped the ball and it rolled down a hill. It came to rest next to… A dead deer. I wouldn’t make this up.
  • And, I promise, I’ll post some season-in-review thoughts at some point too. It’s been almost a month since the season ended.
  • Line of the week, courtesy of Kenny Powers: “I want this thing to have all the pageantry of an Alabama concert!”
  • Dave Hutte status update: Dave Hutte saw Jupiter in the night sky. Sweet!

Musical guest… from Akron, Ohio… The Black Keys!


Take care!


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