Major League Umpires: It's Time for Some Changes

Lenny KosteckiCorrespondent IMay 28, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 27: Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs argues with home plate umpire Mark Carlson #48 after a play at the plate in the 7th inning with Zambrano and Nyjer Morgan of the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 27, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Mark Carlson...you’re outta here!

Well, so it was according to Carlos Zambrano and his imitation, yet ineffective, hook.

In reality, it was the Z-Man who was tossed and a valuable link in the Cubs’ pennant hopes that will probably be saddled with a five-to-10-day suspension and fine of up to $20,000.

Ah, a chip off the ol’ Piniella.

The thing is, as much as I think Zambrano needs to chill on the hill, I’m thinking those men in black hanging around the bases need to do a bit of stepping off of their own.

I watched the replay of the Carlson/Zambrano encounter a number of times, and it sure looked to me like something off the early stages of Dancing With the Stars, with Carlson stepping into Carlos.

Yes, contact was made between player and umpire, but how can a player be ejected when the umpire initiates contact? It’s like a fighter losing points for suffering a low blow. “You should’ve gotten out of the way!”

But this is just one case of the umpire is touched, the umpire strikes back. I think the problem is much broader than a simple “hot-headed player brushes umpire” headline. I think umpires have gotten entirely too arrogant for baseball.

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among the ruling class of Major League Baseball—umpires seem to be not only instigating confrontations, but prolonging them once they arise.

I remember when umpires would stand by, absorb the torrent of spittle, dusty shoes and rage, and then turn and calmly walk away. Let’s review—that’s turn, and walk away. How often do you see an umpire exhibit this behavior today?

Today’s script reads more like this:

Player disagrees.

Umpire yells back.

Confrontation escalates

Umpire remains glued to argument.

Manager approaches.

Umpire meets him halfway.

Out comes the thumb, twice

Player finds his way to the shower

Manager lingers in the tunnel, pretending not to manage

The End.

As far as I’m concerned, umpires should be like good football linemen; you know: They’re doing their jobs when you don’t notice they’re in the game.

The umpires roaming MLB diamonds today seem to think the game needs some spice from their personal shakers. They dig the camera time and crave the attention. These gents who are supposed to be faceless are yearning for face time.

This is an arrogance that goes beyond personalizing the strike zone. These actions can cost a team something more than a big inning.

Suspensions might as well be the disabled list, with the possibility that a player could miss season-defining series all because a friendly, neighborhood umpire needed to see how his outfit looked on the Jumbotron.

Am I asking too much to have the umpires fade into the scenery? Can’t baseball force these non-entities into a role more suited for them, like doling out rulings and shutting up?

These guys are not counselors. They’re not preachers. They’re umpires, hired to keep the game under control with official rulings, not light a fire underneath it with personal vendettas.

Perhaps a new set of guidelines for job performance is what we need. If they can’t be followed, well, Mark Carlson...you’re outta here!

And while we’re at it, let’s do something about that strike zone, eh?