Why the expansion of replay review makes it more vital that MLB give umpires a voice.
Picture this. You’re at a ballgame. Yeah, you. At a baseball game. You’re sitting behind the third base dugout when this play happened.
Max Scherzer, who was not pitching that day, was ejected from the game. But you didn’t know that. You bought expensive Yankee Stadium seats with prices well into the triple digits for your family and had no idea who was ejected—whether it was Torii Hunter, someone due up later in the inning, a bench coach, a bat boy, it could have been anybody.
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A new argument in favor of reviving a long-extinct species.
On July 9, 2013, Sir James Paul McCartney performed at Boston's Fenway Park on one leg of his Out There Tour, which has seen him rocking in an amphitheatre from 30 A.D. and coming under attack by thousands of grasshoppers. While he was at the oldest big league park, footage of him holding a baseball bat was taken, as you can see at the 0:44 mark of this video. Two things immediately appear to the attentive baseball fan: 1) the former Beatle features a Ty Cobb-like split hand grip and 2) he swings from the right side despite being a southpaw.
McCartney is not alone in the latter trait, Rickey Henderson and the elder George Bush being notable precedents. However, throwing from the portside while swinging from starboard is not advantageous, as you forfeit the frequent platoon advantage at the plate, plus the possibility of playing three infield positions.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Gary penned an early, pre-PITCHf/x plea for robot umpires in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published as a "6-4-3" column on March 15, 2002.
With the Mariners rallying against Rangers starter Justin Grimm in the second inning on Friday night, catcher Jesus Sucre stepped into the box for his first major-league plate appearance. Sucre, a career .255/.292/.338 hitter over eight minor-league seasons, bounced into a 3-6-3 double play.
A former umpire and umpire supervisor weighs in on the influence catchers have over calls.
Jim McKean worked as an MLB umpire from 1973-2001, serving on three World Series crews. He became one of MLB’s umpire supervisors after retiring from active duty and has since served as an umpiring consultant for ESPN. He offered his thoughts on the influence a catcher’s receiving skills can have on an umpire’s calls.
Now, whenever I go to the ballpark just to watch a game and the maniac next to me in the upper deck is screaming bloody murder at the home plate ump, I think: This is someone who has never umpired; this is someone who has never come upon the sudden understanding that the strike zone is malleable by the mind, that every pitch is a puzzle, that just about every ball has strikelike qualities and almost every strike is ballish. —Bruce Weber, As They See ’Em: A Fan’s Travels In The Land Of Umpires
Over the years, I’ve read a lot of proofs Rob Neyer has written that I could never find again, that were tucked into longer pieces or chapters, that elude search engines or scans of his online archives, but that I have gone back to so many times in conversation and thought that they stay with me. One of these proofs was about the flimsiness of the Human Element argument, the case against instant replay that praises umpire error as a loveable quirk of the game, like Tal’s Hill or pitchers batting. Fine, Neyer said, it’s a quirk. But who’s to say that we have exactly the right amount of human element? Why not more? Why not hire only umpires with bad vision, and refuse them glasses, if the human element is so good?