Major League Baseball has a problem to which it seems oblivious. Umpires have long been criticized for trying to take over the game instead of doing their job and staying out of the way, but things seem to be getting worse this season.
The latest instance of terrible judgement and subsequent ignorance from an umpire came in the sixth inning of the Oakland A's-Texas Rangers game on Thursday, when A's pitcher Brandon McCarthy came off the mound to catch a squeeze bunt that was popped up from Texas' Elvis Andrus.
McCarthy made the catch and threw the ball to third for what should have been an inning-ending double-play, preserving a 3-3 tie. Of course, home plate umpire Laz Diaz did not see it that way, and he wasn't about to do anything to call his authority into question on the field.
To his credit, McCarthy, who often speaks his mind on Twitter, took the time to explain himself and his reaction to the play after the game on his blog:
I went nuts, Bob Melvin came out to defend me (and argue the horrible call) and went nuts too. Over and over Laz continued to say that he saw me “trap the ball”. And that’s what pushed me over the edge. I cannot stand being accused of something I didn’t do- or someone telling me that I’m wrong when I am 100% certain that I’m in the right.
If this was an isolated incident, there might be some way to forgive it, but this has become the norm for Major League Baseball in 2012.
This wasn't even the most egregious call of the year; that distinction goes to Tim Welke in the Dodgers-Rockies game on May 2, when Todd Helton was standing about 25 feet off the first-base bag, and the runner was called out anyway because the ball beat him.
Baseball refuses to implement a replay system because it likes the human element attached to the game. Let me clarify that: The people in charge of the game are more concerned with feeding the ego of the umpires than making sure they get the call right.
The umpires obviously recognize that Major League Baseball is going to defend them blindly, and they take full advantage of that. Instead of calling the other umpires over to get another set of eyes on the call, they always have to defend their point, even if they know they are wrong.
Arrogance and ignorance are seemingly the only character traits it takes to be an umpire in Major League Baseball today.
Don't try to say that the A's wound up winning the game anyway, so the decision didn't end up being all that bad. McCarthy was taken out of the game as a result of that play, and it went into extra innings, thus taxing the A's bullpen even more. Maybe the game would have gone into extra innings anyway, but you don't know just how much this missed call changed the game.
McCarthy wrote that he feels like "an ass," but he has no reason to. He was perfectly right to explode the way he did. Just because he doesn't like seeing himself like that doesn't make him wrong. Via McCarthy's blog:
Usually I enjoy swearing, but only on much friendlier terms. I was swearing at Laz like he had personally tried to screw me and now the more I look back at it, I was being an asshole. I could’ve sworn at him until my cerebellum melted, but what would that have solved? Nothing.
Commissioner Bud Selig needs to take a hard-line stance against his umpires, because their erratic behavior and need to become part of the action is doing a lot more harm than good to the game.
For more conspiracy theories involving umpires and commissioners, be sure to check me out on Twitter.