As long as there have been umpires in baseball (or officials in any sport for that matter), there have been controversial calls made by them. That's just the nature of the beast when human error becomes part of the equation.
Therefore, it's no surprise that there have already been some less-than-accurate calls and decisions made by umpires in the early stages of the 2013 season.
From terrible strike calls to quick-trigger ejections to a poor use of instant replay, here is a look at the most brutal umpiring gaffes of the early MLB season.
Bryce Harper Ejected
Young Nationals star Bryce Harper has quickly become one of the more polarizing figures in the MLB today, with a confidence that often crosses the line into arrogance.
However, in a recent game against the Pirates, it seemed as though third-base umpire John Hirschbeck went out of his way to eject Harper from a game.
In a first-inning at-bat against Wandy Rodriguez, Harper worked the count to 2-2 before seemingly checking his swing on the next pitch.
An appeal down to Hirschbeck revealed otherwise though, as Harper returned to the dugout after a swinging third strike.
Harper looked down to Hirschbeck and raised his arms, and Hirschbeck began walking toward him and yelling something. As he walked away from the plate, some 120 feet away from Hirschbeck, Harper dropped his bat—that was enough for him to be tossed.
Arguing balls and strikes is never a good idea, but in this case it seemed as though Harper's reaction was out of mild disappointment in the call, and nothing more. Hirschbeck went out of his way to bait him into getting tossed; not the most professional display by an umpire, for sure.
Joe Nathan Records 300th Career Save on Horrible Third Strike Call
With the Rangers clinging to a 5-4 lead and a runner on first base with two outs, Ben Zobrist worked a full count against Rangers closer Joe Nathan.
After Zobrist took what appeared to be a clear ball four low and away, home-plate umpire Marty Foster instead called a third strike, ending the game and giving Nathan the 300th save of his career.
Understandably, the Rays were none too happy about the way the game ended. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon and Zobrist both pleaded their case to Foster after the game, but to no avail.
Twitter exploded in response to what many deemed the worst strike call in recent memory, and Maddon was among those who took to Twitter with a short, sweet reaction to what had transpired.
That can't happen in a major league game.— Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon) April 9, 2013
Third baseman Evan Longoria acknowledged that human error is just part of the game, but the loss stung all the same.
To error is human...still doesn't take any of the sting away. #Rays2013— Evan Longoria (@Evan3Longoria) April 9, 2013
To his credit, Foster took responsibility for the call after the game and admitted he had made a mistake, even calling the way Maddon and the Rays handled it "very professional" (via Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News).
I saw the pitch and, of course I don’t have the chance to do it again, but if I did, I wouldn't call that pitch a strike. Joe was not violent. Joe was very professional. He was frustrated and I understand. He acted probably the best he can under that situation.
The call itself was a horrible one here, but the way everyone involved handled the situation makes it a little less severe than our next example.
David Price and Umpire Tom Hallion Engage in War of Words, Jeremy Hellickson Winds Up Ejected
On April 28, Rays ace David Price picked up his first win of the season in a game against the White Sox, but that was far from the story of the game.
With two outs and a 1-2 count in the seventh inning, Price threw what appeared to be an obvious third strike right down the plate, but he did not get the call.
Visibly upset with the call, Price induced a ground ball on the next pitch for the third out. Price continued shaking his head as he walked off the field, but he never engaged home-plate umpire Tom Hallion.
Instead, Hallion made his way down the first-base line and addressed Price, and whatever he said clearly upset not only Price but the Rays dugout.
According to a report from Matt Snyder of CBSSports, Price claimed that Hallion said, "Throw the ball over the f****** plate," as Price walked off the field.
Hallion had a different account of what happened, claiming he instead said, "Just throw the ball," which makes little sense seeing as the inning was over and Price was walking off the field.
Hallion then went on to say about Price: "I'll come right out bluntly and say he's a liar."
A tweet from Rays beat writer Marc Topkin only made Hallion look worse:
Umpire Hallion admits #Rays Price didn't say anything to him but "certainly gave enough body language to insinuate that he was pissed off.''— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) April 28, 2013
Things got even more ridiculous from there though, as Hallion wound up pointing to the Rays dugout and seemingly ejecting Price. Instead, however, he tossed another Rays starter, Jeremy Hellickson, from the game.
Based on what Hellickson said, no one in particular was ejected. He more or less took one for the team.
It was a strange exchange all the way around, and it ended up with Price, Hellickson and Matt Moore (who tweeted his aggravation after the game) each fined $1,000 and Hallion fined an undisclosed amount (h/t ESPN).
Adam Rosales' Game-Tying Home Run Called a Double, Even After Replay
Trailing 4-3 and with two outs in the ninth inning of a May 8 contest, the Oakland A's were down to their final out when shortstop Adam Rosales stepped into the box against Indians closer Chris Perez.
Rosales connected on a high fastball and hit it high off the wall (or so it seemed at game speed) for a double.
A's manager Bob Melvin asked for the play to be reviewed, and as the announcers broke down the same tape that the three umpires were looking at, it became immediately clear that the ball had caromed off a railing just above the yellow line at the top of the wall.
Clear to everyone except the umpires, apparently. They upheld the called double, and the Indians went on to escape with the victory.
Melvin wound up getting tossed, and he wasn't shy about sharing his thoughts on just how poor a call it was (h/t SFGate).
"Inconclusive," to the only four people in the ballpark that could say that was inconclusive. Everybody else said it was a home run, including their announcers when I came in here later. I don’t get it. I don’t know what the explanation would be when everybody else in the ballpark knew it was a home run.
Rosales was also confused as to how the entire crew of umpires could have missed the call.
"The replays showed it hit the railing," he said (h/t SFGate). "It would have been great to overturn it. With six eyes on it you would like to think they could get it right."
Of late, poor calls by umpires have often led to a plea for more instant replay. This just goes to show that as long as there is some form of human involvement, there will always be human error.