May 15, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Home plate umpire Bill Miller (14) calls a strike during the Toronto Blue Jays game against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Rogers Centre. The Rays beat the Blue Jays 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

It’s Time Umpires Are Held Acountable


 

I crave justice.

I’m sure everyone has their own opinions on the events that occured the other night. While both parties were in the wrong, only one is being held accountable publicly. If you missed the news earlier today, Brett Lawrie will receive a  slap-on-the wrist four game suspension, while Bill Miller will receive nothing… at least publicly.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

Currently stands a massive double standard within Major League Baseball. Everyone makes mistakes, yet in your job for instance, when you make a mistake over and over again, eventually your boss is going to take notice and then later, action ensues. This is no different in baseball, except players are held accountable in a very public forum–umpires are not. As a matter of fact, it seems to be some sort of umbral mystery as to whether umpires receive any sort of “punishment” at all. Angel Hernandez, CB Bucknor, and Joe West are not only some of the worst umpires when it comes to getting the call right, they are also some of the most egotistical, baneful, corrupt umpires in the game. You can now add Miller to that list.

Harsh? Possibly, I have honestly never heard of this umpire before this incident; Bill Miller has never been on my radar. Regardless of his prior actions as an umpire, this display has ruined him in the eyes of thousands. It’s not that he blew these calls, blown calls happen and while they don’t have to be a part of this game, they are. Miller blew these calls on purpose. A mere child could have made the correct call, those pitches were obviously out of the strike zone. The calls were designed to send a message and this is where umpires need to be held accountable. Miller, West, Bucknor, and Hernandez all crave the spot light, they believe they are above the game. So when Lawrie, a rookie, took a pitch in the opposite batters box and began his trot down to first, Miller took the game into his own hands. He intended to teach this rookie a lesson, so Miller waved his hand vehemently in the air, signaling a strike.

Lawrie of course angered the umpire by slowly sauntering back to the plate, obviously annoyed by the call. We’ve seen umpires react poorly to this statement by players before. Never show up the umpire, that’s the rule is it not? Joe West and Angel Hernandez are the kings of this notion. Joe West had his infamous tirade against the White Sox, atrociously calling two balk calls and tossing Mark Buehrle for dropping his glove. West claimed that Mark was showing him up, and cantankerously stood by his call. Although usually not the most acute source, the ever colorful Hawk Harrelson happened to be accurate when he had this to say:

He should be suspended,” Hawk Harrelson demanded on the WGN telecast, after West ejected Guillen. “That is a flat-out, absolute disgrace to the umpiring profession, what this guy has been doing.”

Hernandez is rather infamous for his confrontations with Julio Lugo. Whether it be asking for time out or a check swing, you can be sure Hernandez was a bully about it. Then of course you have Mike Winters, who is as far as I know the only publicly suspended umpire, who provoked Milton Bradley by spweing profanity at him because he believed Bradley had tossed a bat at his fellow umpire. This kind of behavior wouldn’t be acceptable were it coming from a player. So how is this acceptable coming from the mediators of the diamond?

What happens if Lawrie and Miller ever come face to face again? How will Miller react? How will Lawrie react? How will the Commissioners office respond if Miller ever treated Lawrie with the same amount of disrespect? These are all legitimate issues we now have to worry about because we just don’t know if Miller has even been punished.

Were any of these umpires ever held accountable? According to “one source” umpires are disciplined quite often, some are even “sat” due to poor performance. What does this matter? Have you tracked your umpiring crews recently? This information needs to be public. These characters, these “villians” need to be held on a public trail. These kind of umpires cannot be allowed to carry on the way they do, they cannot be allowed to breed others like them. By publically humilating these umpires, you not only discourage that particular umpire from ever putting himself above the game, but you also discourage others from doing the same. This “hush-hush” system does not work. If Angel Hernandez and Joe West have been “suspended” before, it certainly hasn’t stopped them from repeating their actions again. This game is full of egos, but they shouldn’t exist on the umpires side. No one is above the game, the umpires are there to officiate the game, not control it. There is no room for the likes of these kind of people.

I stand behind the punishment given to Lawrie; he was wrong and should be held accountable. As should the fan who threw beer at Miller. Lets all be adults here. My issues come from Miller receiving no public punishment whatsoever. I do not buy the argument stating that this is none of the fans business. This is our business. We invest our lives in this sport and in our team. We spend our hard earned money to attend these baseball games. In the back of our minds we believe that our team has a fair chance to winning the game. When umpires blow calls (intentionally or unintentionally) the integrity of the game has been stripped away. Fans are no longer paying to attend a fair game, fans are no longer investing themselves in a fair sport. So don’t tell me this is none of my business, because it is very much my business. If I believed my team was going to not only face the opposition every night, but the umpires as well, why would I watch? It’s time for umpires to be held publicly accountable, for the integrity of Major League Baseball.

 

Tags: Bill Miller Brett Lawrie Featured Popular

  • JCondreay

    I totally agree with this need for public punishment. Right now, if they make a bad call, all they get is a week of vacation time, while the players who react poorly to their negative calls get ejected with occasional suspensions or fines. 
    However, I think that your statement, “Fans are no longer paying to attend a fair game, fans are no longer investing themselves in a fair sport,” brings up a whole new monster. When was the last time baseball was truly fair? Between large discrepancies in teams’ payrolls and the steroid era, I’m not sure baseball has been fair for the last two decades, or even beyond that considering gambling and drug abuse in the game. I’m not contradicting any of your opinions, its just something to think about.

    • http://marinermelee.blogspot.com/ Bryant Bartlett

      I don’t disagree. Things are never truly fair. One team is always going to have an advantage. However, when the Mariners are beat by a team that is a better than them, it isn’t upsetting. That is the natural order of things.

      When you lose a game because of a blown call, or the inccident cause by Miller the other night, that is were my issues with fairness arise.

      Think about it this way. If the Mariners were to go face to face with say, the Rays. You pay for that game knowing the Rays are the better team and have a good chance of beating your team. But say you somehow knew ahead of time that the umpire was going to toss Felix Hernandez in the 2nd inning, because he felt Felix was showing him up after he grimmaced after what should ahave been strike 3. If you paid to see Felix, that how now unfairly been taken away from you due too an egotistical umpire dedicated to controling the game.

      No baseball isn’t fair, but that competetive unfairness is built in. Umpires controling the game unfairly doesn’t have to be a part of this game and if I am going to spend the money I put my life on the line for, I better damn well get a fair game from the men dressed in black.

      I’m not intending to attack you Joel so I hope it doesn’t appear that way, I just happen to feel very passionate about this subject. I completely get what you’re saying.

  • bigyaz

    Any column that quotes Hawk Harrelson as an intelligent voice of reason is a joke.
     
     

  • Mariner_Melee

     @JCondreay I don’t disagree. Things are never truly fair. One team is always going to have an advantage. However, when the Mariners are beat by a team that is a better than them, it isn’t upsetting. That is the natural order of things.
     
    When you lose a game because of a blown call, or the inccident cause by Miller the other night, that is were my issues with fairness arise. Think about it this way. If the Mariners were to go face to face with say, the Rays. You pay for that game knowing the Rays are the better team and have a good chance of beating your team. But say you somehow knew ahead of time that the umpire was going to toss Felix Hernandez in the 2nd inning, because he felt Felix was showing him up after he grimmaced after what should ahave been strike 3. If you paid to see Felix, that how now unfairly been taken away from you due too an egotistical umpire dedicated to controling the game.
     
    No baseball isn’t fair, but that competetive unfairness is built in. Umpires controling the game unfairly doesn’t have to be a part of this game and if I am going to spend the money I put my life on the line for, I better damn well get a fair game from the men dressed in black.
     
    I’m not intending to attack you Joel, so I hope it doesn’t appear that way, I just happen to feel very passionate about this subject. I completely get what you’re saying.

  • Mariner_Melee

     @bigyaz Hawk Harrelson is a joke of a broadcaster and in most cases should be ingnored in his entirety, but in this case he happens to be right.
     
    So if you would like to discredit the entire article due to a quote that happens to be accurate, from an inaccurate person, that is your prerogative.
     
    Assuming you have nothing else to say on the matter I will ask you to watch what you say around here. Either add something of value to the comments or don’t comment. Considering this the first comment I have seen from you, I’ll let it slide.

  • Mariner_Melee

     @JCondreay I don’t disagree. Things are never truly fair. One team is always going to have an advantage. However, when the Mariners are beat by a team that is a better than them, it isn’t upsetting. That is the natural order of things. When you lose a game because of a blown call, or the inccident cause by Miller the other night, that is were my issues with fairness arise.
     
    Think about it this way. If the Mariners were to go face to face with say, the Rays. You pay for that game knowing the Rays are the better team and have a good chance of beating your team. But say you somehow knew ahead of time that the umpire was going to toss Felix Hernandez in the 2nd inning, because he felt Felix was showing him up after he grimmaced after what should have been strike 3. If you paid to see Felix (who in turn gives your team the best chance to win), that has now unfairly been taken away from you due too an egotistical umpire dedicated to controling the game. 
     
    No baseball isn’t fair, but that competetive unfairness is built in. Umpires controling the game unfairly doesn’t have to be a part of this game and if I am going to spend the money I put my life on the line for, I better damn well get a fair game from the men dressed in black. I’m not intending to attack you Joel, so I hope it doesn’t appear that way, I just happen to feel very passionate about this subject. I completely get what you’re saying.

  • Mariner_Melee

    For those of you not watching the Marines game just now. The HP umpire just called Saunders out on strikes on a checked swing. He didn’t even ask for help from his third base umpire. 

  • maqman

     @Mariner_Melee I agree, it was a disgrace of the game.

  • bigyaz

    “Fans are no longer paying to attend a fair game, fans are no longer investing themselves in a fair sport.”
     
    I think you’re going a bit over the top here. I would argue today’s umpires are BETTER than they’ve ever been. They’re certainly better trained. Their every call is monitored by multiple camera angles. They receive daily feedback of their work from league officials.
     
    They’re simply under incredible scrutiny now. In past eras nobody was tracking every pitch down to the fraction of an inch. Calls on the bases often can only be determined by the third or fourth camera angle, in super-slow hi-def — and then we’re told it was a “blown call.” Didn’t happen back then.
     
    I’m not here to defend the Joe Wests of the umpiring world. There should be a way to weed them out. But I think to suggest that there was some golden age of umpiring that made the game somehow more fair in the past flies in the face of the facts and logic.
     

  • bigyaz

     @Mariner_Melee Didn’t see the play, but if he judges it a strike it’s his job to call it a strike. Once he does so, that’s it, there’s no appeal.
     
    Again, didn’t see the play, so it may have been a bad call. Just wanted to point out the rule, since you didn’t seem aware of it.

  • Mariner_Melee

     @bigyaz I think you are missing my point. Honest mistakes are made. Jim Joyce is highly regarded as the best umpire in the league and I am sure he misses his fair share of calls, that is fine and I don’t have issues with honest mistakes. Those mistakes don’t tend to favor one side or the other. If an umpire has a lopsided strike zone, then the zone is probably the same for both teams.
     
    I have issues with egos. I have issues when umpires take the game into their own hands. I have issues when the umpire thinks he is thre to teach players lessons. I have issues when umpires believe they are there to control the game and not officiate. Joe West throwing out Mark for dropping his glove. I have an issue with that. Angel Hernandez bringing his beef with Lugo onto the field. I have issues with that. Miller deciding that instead of making the right call, he would instead teach a rookie a lesson.
     
    These are the issues I have problems with. If an ump honestly misses a call, I don’t have a problem with that.  I am not here to throw every umpire in the league under the bus, there are plenty of good ones out there. But the aforementioned umpires deserve punishment, and the fans deserve to know about it.

  • Mariner_Melee

     @bigyaz Above everything else it is his job to get the call right. The home plate umpire should never be too ashamed to ask the third or first base umpire for help.
     
    He was called out on the check swing, not the location. 

  • bigyaz

     @Mariner_Melee I understand that he was called out on the swing. My point was simply that once the HP ump calls it a strike — whether on the swing or location — he cannot BY RULE go for help.
     

  • Mariner_Melee

     @bigyaz This I understand. Which is why the HP ump should always ask for help. He is in no position to make that call. 
     
    Do you disagree?

  • bigyaz

     @Mariner_Melee Actually I do. His training is that it’s his call to make, and if he calls a strike he must be extremely confident in his call. If he has any doubt, then I agree he should call a ball and leave open the opportunity to go for help.
     

  • Mariner_Melee

     @bigyaz Why do I have the feeling I’m talking to a sympathizer?
     
    You ump little league or something? Beyond everything else it is his job to get the call right. The HP ump has no business calling a check swing a strike, he just doesn’t. 

  • maqman

    Well you got your wish, umpire Bob Davidson was suspended for one game as was Phillies manager Charlie Manuel for a disagreement regarding interference.  “Davidson was suspended for repeated violations of the Office of the Commissioner’s standards for situation handling, MLB said in announcing the penalty.”  Davidson has been an ump for 22 years.  It took them a while to notice his problem.

  • Mariner_Melee

     @maqman I saw that am have responded accordingly. It’ll be interesting to see if they take action against Miller next. Umpires have had their rule of the roost for so long (22 years for instance), I’m glad MLB is making a much needed change. 

  • jakely

    I agree totally. Umps that do it intentionally deserve to be out of the game. That call on Lawrie hypothetically could cost a playoff spot. What if Tampa had that happen in a game vs Boston last year. They don’t run them down on the last day of the season. It matters.