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When Umpires Go Bad…

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I was at the Phillies vs Marlins baseball game yesterday. It was a late afternoon, early evening game. Unfortunately for me, and the rest of Philadelphia, the Marlins won 7 to 3.

The game was freezing cold. It was surprising because the past two weeks have been way too hot for my tastes. Everyone at the game was uncomfortable. The players (some of the Marlins were as decked out as possible), the radio announcers were very cold, and especially the fans.

However, this post is not about weather or lop-sided scores. It’s about the horrific calls from the men who run the game. The umpires.

Now, I know that calling balls and strikes can’t be an easy job. And I know that each umpire is going to have his own definition of what the strike zone is. But, the good umpires keep a consistant strike zone. A ball thrown in a certain spot remains a ball. It doesn’t change throughout the game. I also realize that if I was a Marlins fan instead of a Phillies fan I would not notice the mistakes in this particular game.

However, as a Phillies fan I did notice. How, throughout the game, the Phillies pitchers didn’t get borderline calls. How a “ball” that should have struck out a batter resulted in a 5 run inning. But I wouldn’t complain if the Marlin’s pitchers were recieving the same kind of calls. But every time I blinked Phillies batters were getting struck out on more than borderline “strikes”.

The worst case was with David Bell at the plate. Everyone familiar with David Bell knows that he knows the game of baseball. He doesn’t argue calls and he doesn’t get mad. Bell plays the game right. He is th ekind of guy who does all of the little stuff that wins games. A much needed bunt or when to take a pitch. And he knows his strike zone.

Sure, you see Bell get called out on strikes. But he doesn’t argue. This time, when the “strike” was called by the umpire Bell got mad. He had some word for the umpire. The radio announcers were shocked at the call. It was at least 6 inches off the plate (and replays showed probably more). Maybe the umpire blinked. But whatever the case it was a bad call.

All of these “bad calls” bring to mind a solution which the NFL has started using. Instant replay. It would be nice to have Larry Bowa (Phillies’ manager) be able to throw a red flag from his dugout, like they do in football, and get the umpire to review the play to get the right call.


Then a 5 run inning would have ended at zero runs. David Bell might still be prancing around the bases as we speak. A 7 to 3 ball game could have been a 3 to 2 game. The Phillies could be in sole possession of 1st place in their division.

It sounds so good. “To get the right call.” And yet, I am not for instant replay. Not in baseball. Not in football. Not anywhere in sports.

Because I think that the umpires (or referees, etc) are a part of the game. Sure they make mistakes and bad calls and are prejudice for or against certain teams or players and sometimes act unfairly. But that is just something that teams need to play around. It’s a part of the sport. It keeps the sport from becoming a science. Instant replay makes sport a bit colder. It takes out personality and heart.

Every major league team will have several games in the losses column that will be atributed to bad calls. It’s just a fact of life that should be played around. Sure, umpires should be better trained so that bad calls are less likely. But they will still happen. “Kill the umpire” will continue to be screamed at ballparks around the country. Larry Bowa will for sure get thrown out of some baseball games for disagreeing with calls.

And after all of that, the calls were made, the Phillies lost, and I know I wouldn’t change the system.


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