The unusual circumstances surrounding the 2020 MLB season could lead to an odd mix between teams and umpires.
Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon confirmed on Monday that the league is considering having some umpiring crews travel on team charter flights this year, according to The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya.
Unlike the NBA, which has set up a “bubble” situation in Orlando, MLB is planning to have teams operate out of their home cities and travel during the season. Their aim is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep players and officials away from the virus. If having those who umpire the games travel with teams means less possible exposure, that is something the league will consider, despite the obvious conflict of interest.
Major League Baseball is reportedly making a significant change to how umpires can communicate about reviewed calls in 2020.
According to ESPN’s Pedro Gomez, umpires will wear microphones starting this coming season allowing them to address the call and explain rules and replay decisions, much like the NFL has always done.
This is long overdue. Since the institution of replay in MLB, it has been the worst league in terms of communicating what is being reviewed and why calls do or do not change. A large part of that is down to the umpires simply being unable to communicate with anyone, which results in the outcome of the replay review being announced and nothing else. That leaves fans and media alike to guess why certain calls changed and others did not. That doesn’t even cover controversial calls, either. It certainly would have been nice to get an explanation for calls like this one while the game was taking place.
Major League Baseball will begin testing a computerized strike zone during spring training this season, but those most familiar with the system believe it isn’t close to being ready for use in MLB games.
Strike zone technology has been tested in the independent Atlantic League, and that technology will be tested this spring at the MLB level. Atlantic League umpires, however, told Bob Klapisch of the New York Times that the system simply is not ready for meaningful competition.
It’s been suggested that this technology may be in use at the highest levels of the minors as soon as 2021 ahead of its introduction to MLB. Based on this feedback, this may be optimistic. The league will have ample opportunity to test and tweak the technology, but adopting it in MLB before it’s completely perfected and ready would be a massive mistake that would severely undermine any faith in it both inside and outside the game. The spring training testing should be telling in just how close we really are to making this technology a reality in the majors.
New York Yankees fans are furious with umpire Joe West for blowing a call during Brett Gardner’s final at-bat on Friday night.
The Yankees were trailing the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth and had one out with Gardner facing closer Ken Giles. Gardner had a 3-1 count and Giles threw a pitch that was a solid few inches outside. Rather than call it a ball and put Gardner on base as he should have, West called it a strike, leaving Gardner with a full count. He struck out in the at-bat instead of reaching base.
Here’s a look at the pitch:
The pitch was tracked by MLB (seen as pitch 5 in the graphic) as being over the far side of the white chalk of the other batter’s box.
Mike Ford followed by striking out to end the game.
Umpires should never be missing calls that badly. It stings even more when it’s a one-run game and your team is competing with the Houston Astros for homefield advantage in the playoffs.
Angel Hernandez was at the center of some bad calls during Sunday’s Minnesota Twins-Chicago White Sox game.
The veteran umpire blew a call in the sixth inning of the game that led to White Sox manager Rick Renteria’s ejection. Eloy Jimenez was batting with a full count and the bases loaded. Kyle Gibson threw a pitch low in the zone that was a clear ball. It should have walked in a run and helped the White Sox continue their rally. Instead, Hernandez called it a strike, upsetting Jimenez and Renteria.
That wasn’t the only blown call he had. In the top of the second, Jimmy Cordero had Nelson Cruz 0-2. Hernandez called this pitch a ball even though it was right down the middle.
Hernandez also called the 1-2 pitch a ball even though MLB.com showed it was also a strike.
Memo to Hernandez: a pitch can still be a strike even if the pitcher misses the intended target. He’s so bad he doesn’t realize that. He did the same thing in early June against the Yankees and it was even worse.
MLB issued a statement on Tuesday in response to the Umpires’ Association statement about the Manny Machado suspension.
Machado was suspended one game for making contact with umpire Bill Welke after being ejected for arguing a third strike call during Saturday’s San Diego Padres-Colorado Rockies game, the league announced Monday. The Major League Baseball Umpires Association apparently was not happy with the light punishment for “violence in the workplace” and issued a statement on the matter.
MLB responded to the statement from the umpires and said it was not appropriate for them to comment on the discipline issued by MLB. They also said the comparison to “workplace violence” was inappropriate.
Machado appealed his one-game suspension on the grounds that he did not make contact with the umpire.
Umpire Angel Hernandez continues to make us wonder how he keeps his job.
Hernandez had one of the worst blown strike calls of the season on Tuesday night. He was behind the plate for the New York Yankees-Toronto Blue Jays game and didn’t call a strike on this Masahiro Tanaka pitch down the middle to Randal Grichuk in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Here’s where the pitch was according to MLB.com’s tracking (check the green ball that’s marked No. 2):
That should have made it an 0-2 count. Instead, due to Hernandez’s missed call, it was a 1-1 count and Grichuk homered on the next pitch.
Why did Hernandez miss the call? Probably because he was thrown off by Gary Sanchez setting up inside and expecting a pitch up and in. Tanaka missed Sanchez’s glove but still threw a clean strike. It really wasn’t close to a ball. This goes to show how Hernandez calls pitches based on expectation rather than execution, which is a poor trait for an umpire.
But it gets worse. He missed another couple of definite strikes that inning and called them balls.
Hernandez has been terrible at his job for a while, something we’ve called out many times in the past.
Sadly, this might not even be the worst call from him we’ve ever seen.
Two Houston Astros coaches were ejected for arguing balls and strikes early in Wednesday night’s game against the Texas Rangers, but it is home plate umpire Ron Kulpa who has been heavily criticized for the way he handled the situation.
Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron was the first to get tossed when he and several others in the Houston dugout were furious over pitches they believed were off the plate being called strikes. Manager AJ Hinch was ejected next when he came out to defend Cintron, and Kulpa was smirking and seemed like he was enjoying the whole thing. He could also been seen telling Hinch, “I’ll do what I want,” and Hinch later confirmed that’s what Kulpa said to him.
The following inning, Kulpa irritated Gerrit Cole when he inexplicably interrupted the Astros pitcher while he was warming up. Kulpa later appeared to antagonize Cole as he was heading off the field, which led to a discussion between the umpire and Houston catcher Max Stassi. While it looked like the two were having a civil conversation, some have pointed out that Kulpa gave Stassi a condescending shove toward the dugout.
Hinch has had issues with umpires he claims acted inappropriately in the past, but it certainly seemed like Kulpa escalated the situation and was on a power trip. That’s the opposite of what Major League Baseball wants its umpires doing, and it would not be a surprise if he hears from the league about it.
Monday’s tiebreaker game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs was so exciting that even the home plate umpire had trouble keeping track of the count.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth emphatically rang up Jason Heyward for the last out of the inning. While you have to appreciate the enthusiasm in such a big game, there was one problem — the strike was only the second of the at-bat.
Heyward’s reaction said it all, and it looked like Culbreth was able to have a laugh at his own expense. Heyward sent the next pitch to the warning track in right, coming up just a few feet short of the perfect ending to the at-bat. It’s been a long season for everyone, so you can’t blame Culbreth for briefly getting swept up in the buzz surrounding Game 163.
A poorly-positioned umpire played a role in a walk-off win at the Little League World Series on Monday night.
Texas and Georgia were squaring off in an elimination game at Williamsport, Penn. and went to extra innings. The game was tied 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth when Georgia had runners on the corners with one out. A flyout to right allowed runner Wills Maginnis to tag up and score the winning run, but not without controversy. The umpire in right stood in the way of right fielder Matthew Hedrick trying to make a throw home.
Take a look at the positioning of the umpire down the right field line:
There’s no way to know whether Hedrick would have been able to throw out Maginnis at the plate had the umpire not been in his way. But we do know that the positioning prevented him from having his best shot at getting the out. That was a pretty disappointing example of an umpire getting in the way. Unfortunately, we’ve seen worse examples of umps trying to sabotage players.