Open-Mic: MLB Umpires Are Without a Doubt the Best in the Biz

Matthew IrbySenior Analyst IMay 25, 2008

Discussing which group of officials are the best at what they do is a great way to spark people to write-in and boast their opinion.  Luckily, it is a very easy discussion, Major League Baseball umpires are leaps and bounds above the rest.

When I speak of the rest I'm talking about football (college and pro), basketball (college and pro), hockey and soccer (national and international).

When I was younger I was taught a phrase that perception is reality. This couldn't be more true when fans discuss which officials are the best at what they do.

When I see an NBA referee my first thoughts are that he probably has money on the game or a grudge against a certain player. I've been watching the NBA playoffs and I have yet to witness a referee look confident when making a call.  They blow their whistle either a second too late or seem to feel the need to explain themselves if anybody, and I mean ANYBODY, disagrees with them.

As for the NHL, again I've been watching the playoffs, and I get the feeling that I'm back in school when the referees are volunteer dads and every game they have one or two makeup calls. Now, I will give hockey officials credit. They have to be in great shape to skate up and down the ice for 60 minutes and they are the only officials in all sports that have no problem getting right in the middle of a scrum.

Later this year, watch an NFL game and tell me that the officiating crew doesn't look similar to guys at the retirement home down the street. 

Seriously, over the last few years I have lost almost all of my remaining respect for NFL officials. They have the easiest job of all officials when it comes to making a tough, split-second decision.  Feet in-bounds or out-of-bounds, fumble or knee down and marking the spot where the player was downed. I'm sorry, but it doesn't seem like they care about those calls anymore because they know it's going to be reviewed. If any other sports reviewed as many close calls as football does, the games would take an entire work day to play.

However I do love that this is the only sport that when a coach disagrees with a call he lets the closest official hear his rantings, instead of yelling at the official that actually made the call.

Soccer referees, when they aren't being killed for officiating a game, seem to have predetermined the game before it is played.  Give them credit, they are easily most in shape of all officials. I watched the UEFA Champions League Final between Chelsea and Manchester United and that game was an officiating disaster. 

At first I was yelling at all the missed calls, but that quickly turned to sacrastic laughter.  It was the equivalent of a MLB umpire sitting in the dugout on a recliner, while talking to some pretty blond, then looking over after every pitch and yell out ball or strike.

Finally that leaves us with Major League Baseball umpires. Yes they may be a tad overweight and can be lazier than PGA Tour officials, but day-in and day-out they make the most consistent correct calls. 

It's true that over the past two weeks they have had three blown home run calls and it has thrown fuel on the fire of having instant replay in baseball. Which as a side note, is a huge mistake because of what it can lead to.

Every year baseball has third-party firms at certain ballparks tracking pitches and close calls for the umpires to review later on.  Last year they did this at over 200 games, which would involve thousands of pitches and hundreds of calls.  The umpires final percentage that they got correct was 95%.  That's unheard of, I can't even make that grade in school, let alone a 92 mph pitch will movement, inside or out of an invisible box.

MLB umpires are the only officials that during an argument with a manager or player, will get right back in their face and yell back instead of walking away and ignoring them.

Also, can you honestly tell me that any other sport has better ejections than baseball.  Even ESPN's Sportscenter is going to start the MLB Umpires Ejection Fantasy League.

My ideal umpiring crew if I were able to pick them to officiate "the Big Game": Behind the Plate - Jim Joyce, First Base - Derryl Cousins, Second Base - CB Bucknor (pictured above), Third Base - Laz Diaz, Left Field foul line - Ed Montague, Right Field foul line Dale Scott.