Does baseball have an umpire problem? Is the tension worsening between umpires and players and managers, as Detroit manager Jim Leyland would have us believe? Uh, no.Yankees fans are very familiar with the disaster known as Joe West, so I don't think this article will come as a surprise to you. But shouldn't Major League Baseball do something about these knuckleheads? To paraphrase a line from a young Michael Jackson, one bad apple shouldn't spoil the whole bunch, and if it is, how about throwing that apple away? MLB would be doing everyone--the players, the fans, and the rest of the umpires--a huge service if they would just fire West and the rest of his horrible horrible umpiring crew.
Welcome to summer, when the weather and tempers heat up. We did see 16 ejections in the first five days of July, so people assumed the state of umpiring was worsening. Ah, the power of the small sample.
But look at the first half of the season. While it's true that ejections through June were up for a second straight year, they were 18 percent below ejections through June from 2008. Things in recent years are much better than they used to be with the men in blue. Take a look at the table at right, which shows year-by-year ejections through June over the past eight seasons:
The "problem" is that a disproportionate amount of attention to umpiring recently has come from the crew of Joe West, which includes the equally controversial Angel Hernandez. Guess what crew caused Leyland to bemoan the rising tension? Yep, it was Cowboy Joe's crew. Guess which crew has ejected the most players, coaches and managers this year? Yep, Cowboy Joe's crew. And guess which crew caused Texas manager Ron Washington to be as blunt as you'll ever hear a big league manager in discussing an umpire? ("Angel is just bad. That's all there is to it.") Yep, Cowboy Joe's crew.
Most of the umpires do an amazing job every night. West and Hernandez have been in a spate of high-profile incidents recently. Fairly or not, they have developed reputations for being combative. (Hernandez's "boxing out" of Leyland, for instance, while Leyland was arguing with West, was unnecessary.) Baseball is always better when you don't notice the umpires.
Friday, July 8, 2011
From Tom Verducci: