Destroying MLB umpires has a baseball tradition stretching back a century, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not. Refereeing is tough and thankless work where fans expect you to be perfect in a game of 100 mph projectiles, split second reactions and a 188 page rulebook.
And yet, maybe it’s time to sit down and have an important discussion, because MLB seems to have a huge problem in its hands: MLB umpires have forgotten how baserunning works.
The latest example of this strange illness came on Saturday when Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Matt Joyce hit what looked like a double-play ball against the New York Mets. Moved shortstop Francisco Lindor lined up the ball, missed a tag on baserunner Andrew McCutchen, then sent off Joyce early.
The referees responded by calling a man: McCutchen.
Incredibly, McCutchen was called out by second baseman Jose Navas, under the rule that a runner is put out if he deviates from a base path (defined as a straight line to base) on an attempt. of tag. From the moment Lindor had the ball to the moment he gave up the tag, McCutchen ran in a straight line.
The field call was reviewed, but only to determine if Joyce was absent at first base, which he was. The SNY broadcast booth summed it up best:
“So the guy who was safe they called and the guy who was out they called the safe. I mean, just a disastrous streak for this team of umpires.”
Making the situation even more embarrassing for the MLB was almost the exact opposite that was happening earlier this week when the Milwaukee Brewers faced off against the Miami Marlins.
With runners in the corners and two outs, Brewers pitcher Zack Godley induced an easy ground ball in the front row, lined up the ball and pitched it first to get Isan Diaz. An easy exit … until first base umpire Marty Foster ruled that Godley had interfered with Diaz’s basepath and called Diaz to safety.
You can judge for yourself, but it seems pretty clear that Godley never even touched the ground.
Sounds wrong, but of course let’s conclude that even the grass along the first baseline is runner’s territory. Hey, wait a minute, this concept sounds familiar to you …
OK, great, so we have no idea where a runner’s path along the first baseline begins and ends. What about marble?
Surely we can trust the umpires to tell if a runner did something as simple as hitting home plate, right?
Complaining about umpires is one of baseball’s longest traditions, but so far 2021 seems to be experiencing even more mind-boggling appeals than usual. Strike areas also appeared to be a problem, with areas sometimes expanding to a disconcerting degree. What makes it all the more frustrating is that some of these calls are made with the benefit of proofreading. Some calls are not reviewable, but this Alec Bohm game above was, as were a number of games this year that should have been canceled.
It’s hard to see what MLB could do to fix this beyond telling their umpires to be better and maybe expanding the boundaries of what can be looked at, but even this latter option could open up. a Pandora’s box.
In the meantime, we can at least relax knowing that the refs won’t do anything really infuriating, like, say, giving a team a clear win because a batter got his elbow stuck in the strike zone, right? Right?
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