Dear Rob: umpiring ruining baseball – The San Diego Union-Tribune
An open letter to baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred:
You’re losing me.
And by that, I mean baseball.
It’s nothing you’ve done, but something you must do to save your sport. I can’t stand much more of this. It’s reached the sickening stage.
Umpiring, Rob. The umps are ruining the game. At least they are for me, and I’m not alone. The room is SRO.
I’ve been watching televised baseball since the mid-1950s, when Dizzy Dean brought it into our living rooms. I saw the minor league Padres at Lane Field and Westgate Park and listened to Al Schuss — and his hilarious recreations — and Vin Scully when the Dodgers came to L.A. Loved Vinny, hated them, but it was the big leagues most every night. We were a Giants house then, and we could catch San Francisco and Russ Hodges’ calls at the end of the AM dial.
Not that we all were very good at it, but baseball was our game, and we played constantly, be it at night in the Dryers Furniture parking lot on Kettner Boulevard, over-the-line at the beach or three flies up in Balboa Park.
We were fortunate to be around for what to me was the game’s greatest era. We saw Mays, Williams, Mantle, Aaron, Musial, the Robinsons, Koufax, Marichal, Gibson, Spahn. We never heard of Tommy John surgery until Tommy John came along. Players played hurt, maybe fearing for their jobs because there simply weren’t that many teams then. Hundreds of quality players didn’t make the bigs simply because there wasn’t room for them. Pitch counts didn’t exist.
Umpires back then were characters. Let’s not go so far to say they were well-liked, but they were so much better than they are now, not nearly so arrogant and knee-jerk.
And this isn’t football or basketball, where many rules have changed, where the players have become much bigger, faster and athletic, making it so much more difficult to officiate. Those zebras aren’t all that good either, but next to baseball’s umpires, they’re damn near perfect.
But baseball, the game itself, remains baseball. Players could be 10 feet tall and it still would be baseball. There is no one doing it now who could get down the first base line faster than Mantle in his prime. Players hit, field and pitch.
I’ve seen more Padres games over the past two years than I have in ages. But my frustration with umpiring has reached the breaking point. They’re taking the fun out of it, Rob.
Every last one of them has a different strike zone. Why is that, Rob? And, as Tony Gwynn often lamented, why can’t they stand directly behind the catcher to call balls and strikes so they actually can see the edge of the plate (which would help them not call a strike on a pitch a foot outside). It’s not one or two. But all of them. It’s an epidemic.
I have no problem with replay, but if you’re going to have it, use it, Rob. The other night the Nationals’ Bryce Harper, with two out, took a dive, a flop, as if he had been struck by a foul ball at the plate when it didn’t come close to hitting him. The ump called it foul when it obviously was in play and should have been a putout, inning over. A few batters later, Ryan Zimmerman hit a grand slam.
Harper’s Hamlet-worthy effort couldn’t be reviewed. Why, Rob? Maybe Washington would have won anyway. Maybe not. The game changed and Padres interim manager Pat Murphy later was thrown out.
(A ball bounced between Harper’s feet Thursday night, didn’t hit him, and he was awarded first base. But who’s counting?)
If I managed a team today, I would watch the end of every game from the clubhouse. These umps have a fuse a millimeter long. They used to have fun with this. It was part of the show. Think Billy Martin could manage today?
These people shouldn’t be above the game. Put them in their place. There should be one strike zone, one for all, all for one. Expand replay, and if it can improve calling balls and strikes, replay those, too.
It stinks. Everyone else is held accountable, even you, Rob. Do something. It’s your job. Our game.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @sdutCanepa