When Umpires Compound Bad Calls

James HulkaAnalyst IJune 22, 2009

You could read Eric O'Flaherty's lips on TV. "How do you miss that?", he repeated to plate umpire Bill Hohn.

I doubt the response was, "Because I'm blind with an ugly mustache to boot," before he made three quick ejections.

Anyone who watched all or part of the game had to wonder who was the awful umpire behind home plate.

The man doing the Eric Gregg impersonation behind the plate with the disgusting facial hair was Bill Hohn—not the first time I've seen him call an inconsistent (at best) game of balls and strikes.

If the Braves had scored in the ninth after Nate McLouth's walk—I would expect a Red Sox fan to be writing a similar article.

The nice thing about instant replay is that it does show, in most cases, whether or not a call was made correctly. I'm glad MLB added it as a tool for umpires to get homers correct.

Those of us watching TV get the ability to see when umpires, referees and officials make mistakes, and then analyze whether or not it made a difference in the final outcome.

This day, it probably did.

Umpires are human and make mistakes. The NFL realizes that and for the past few years evaluates referees and if there's a badly blown call in the game, they'll at least admit a mistake. The addition of the challenges and in-game instant replay allows the referees to get the call right, eliminating most of the bad calls. 

If you're a San Diego Chargers fan, or were a New York Giants fan in 2003, that may not be enough.

But the MLB Umpire Association can't continue to not address blatant umpiring mistakes that greatly impact games.

On May 13, plate umpire Paul Schreiber ejected Tigers manager Jim Leyland after Schreiber put his hand on Magglio Ordonez's shoulder after a called strike three.

Was there anything inherently wrong? No. However, it was perceived to be inappropriate and Schreiber personally apologized the next day.

I doubt Chipper Jones will be getting any apologies from Bill Hohn.

In the rule book, I understand the reason behind umpires ejecting players or coaches if they argue balls and strikes.

However, Bill Hohn went from being a bad judge of the strike zone to an all-out poor umpiring job when he ran Eric O'Flaherty, Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox in succession.

Even the Boston broadcasters on NESN, especially Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, agreed that the 0-2 fastball O'Flaherty threw to J.D. Drew in the seventh inning was strike three.

However, I don't agree with Eck's idea that he tossed the Braves trio because he knew he missed the call and didn't want to hear about it.

O'Flaherty got tossed while he was still on the mound, gesturing with open hands and saying twice "How do you miss that?", while Hohn walked closer to him and third baseman Chipper Jones. His ejection didn't matter much as Cox was about to bring in another reliever anyways.

Players like Jones—whether opposing fans like them or not—who are calm and collected most of the time don't fly off the handle unless something really ticks them off. Jones took exception to the called strike three he took earlier in the game that was several inches low. When Jones saw Hohn walk in his direction and seemingly engage a pitcher on an argument over a thigh-high fastball that caught the middle of the plate, he lost it.

As a Braves fan, I can't ever remember seeing Chipper that angry.

He had a right to be. If you watch closely enough, you can decipher two words Jones directed at Bill Hohn before hitting coach Terry Pendleton pulled him towards the dugout—two words I can't write in this article.

Players don't have too much of a problem with wide versus tight strike zones unless it appears to be inconsistent.

Calling a knuckleball that's six inches below the knees a strike, but two fastballs (one from O'Flaherty and one in the ninth from Papelbon) that were clearly strikes is anything but consistent.

What should happen is the umpires release a statement outlining the missed strikes, the poor judgement of the home plate umpire. As a result of this, no fines or suspensions will be levied on the players involved. The ump then gets some sort of reprimand, whether it be a game suspension or fine.

Would the game have turned out differently had those correct calls been made? Perhaps.

Jones' first inning strikeout came with two on and no one out, right before Brian McCann doubled in both runners that Jones left stranded.

The pitch to Drew should have been the second out of the inning, and maybe Kottaras would have been stranded on instead of scoring and giving the Red Sox a 5-4 lead.

The pitch in the ninth gets overlooked as it wound up not mattering. Jonathan Papelbon threw a pitch in about the same exact spot as O'Flaherty with a 2-1 count on Nate McLouth.

The pitch was called a ball, sending the count to 3-1 instead of 2-2, McLouth fouled off the next pitch before walking on a full count. No runs scored that inning as McLouth got stranded at third when Matt Diaz struck out with the bases loaded.

Like I said earlier, if McLouth scored and Drew was called out because of the inconsistent strike zone, I would expect the Boston fans to be screaming for Bill Hohn's head, too.

I write this knowing that the stubbornness of the head honchos at MLB and the Umpires Association will never admit they screwed up or make changes to address blown calls that seemingly cost one team a game.

The only solace I can take out of this ump's colossal screwups is that at least this wasn't the NBA where a dozen missed calls each night is about the average.

Maybe someday, Major League Baseball will wake up to the idea and get the hint that the NFL did. If your umpires screw something up - admit it.

It won't happen tomorrow and won't happen while bumbling Bud Selig is commissioner. Maybe someday in my lifetime—if I'm lucky.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)


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