The role of the umpire is tough. During Saturday’s Game 3, possibly the greatest malfeasance was the inconsistency in calls by the umpires. The bad calls started well before “Obstruction Gate.” The calls made by the home plate umpire were horrid. One pitch was a ball then the next pitch thrown in the same way, in the same place, was a strike. Pick a lane, ump! The only aspect of consistency by the umpires was that both pitchers suffered at their hands.
The umpires seemed to have learned from their mistakes given fewer people crabbing about the calls on Twitter during Game 4.
The umpires, making these split-second decisions about whether a pitch is a ball or a strike, have a very difficult job. A job that is far more art than science. Other sports like tennis and football have turned to technology for assistance with accuracy. One can say the space between the shoulders and the knees is the strike zone, but there are far more variables in the space that lies between those parts of the body. The sides and corners of this invisible box lend themselves to subjectivity. Joe West’s corner and Jim Joyce’s corner may be very different. Oh, and just for fun, if you happen to be behind the plate the baseball flies straight at you, humming along to the tune of approximately 90 MPH. The fans easily criticize because they can see the playback of the ball in slow motion once the pitch is thrown, or from a different vantage point, in the stands. Everyone has opinions, and you know what opinions are like.
I look forward to next season where managers will have the opportunity to challenge decisions. Umpires, despite how they otherwise may feel, are only human. Technology is available and should be utilized. The only concern fans have about the challenge process is its affect on game length. Many games go 3 ½ to 4 hours as it is, so taking time to review plays will add precious minutes.
My vote is for accuracy over time. Each and every game counts, especially those in the post season. What do you think about next year’s impending review process?