Umpires Gone Wild: What Should MLB Do?

Scott Halleran

For the second consecutive night, major-league umpires made an embarrassingly bad ruling. Baseball has to get this fixed, and immediately.

Two nights ago in Cleveland, the umpiring crew blew a home run call even after viewing what should have been conclusive replays. Major League Baseball made a statement that the call was wrong, and here's good news for Athletics manager Bob Melvin, who was ejected after arguing about the call:

It is likely that Melvin's fine for getting ejected will be rescinded, as manager fines occasionally are when their arguments are determined to be correct.

That's good for Melvin's wallet, not so good for his team, who should have had the game tied 4-4 (at least) going into the bottom of the ninth inning.

Thursday night in Houston, the umpires did it again, this time missing out on a rule that's well-known to even casual fans:

The dispute came with two outs in the seventh when Astros reliever Wesley Wright ran onto the mound and threw several warm-up pitches before rookie manager Bo Porter raced onto the field between the mound and home plate to stop him from throwing more.

Hector Ambriz soon jogged out of the bullpen and onto the mound, and Wright headed to the dugout.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia ran onto the field and argued that Ambriz shouldn't be able to enter the game because Wright did not face a batter. Scioscia remained on the field for several minutes while the umpires huddled and discussed the situation.

If you'd like to see the whole mess, here it is:

The Angels played the game under protest; since they came back and won, the protest was rendered moot. But what if the Angels had lost? Would MLB have ordered the game resumed at the point where the umpires made their mistake? The above link hints the answer is "Yes":

The rule covering pitching changes was not applied correctly by the umpiring crew in the seventh inning of Thursday's Angels-Astros game in Houston, Major League Baseball said Friday.

The Angels played the game under protest before going on to win 6-5 after scoring three times in the eighth. The matter is under review, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said Friday, the second time in two days that baseball has acknowledged bad calls by umpires.

That's all well and good -- and last month, umpire Tom Hallion got into a shouting match with Rays pitcher David Price, for which Hallion was fined -- but how many more of these are we going to see? The incident in Houston, in my view, was even worse than the missed home-run review; the umpires get paid, in large part, to know the rules of the game backward and forward. I'm completely stunned that an umpiring crew with three umpires with many years' experience (Fieldin Culbreth, Brian O'Nora and Bill Welke) would let something like that happen.

At this point, I think a NHL-style review system in a central location would be the best thing for MLB -- and that could be instituted right now, because you wouldn't have to install special equipment or hire more umpires, just hire people to watch the games at MLB Network headquarters in New Jersey and communicate calls to the umpiring crews.

Regarding the misinterpretation of the rules in Houston, it seems that umpires need a refresher course, or at least these umpires do. It wouldn't hurt if Astros manager Bo Porter would brush up on things, too. Here's what Porter said:

"Technically, Wesley came in to face the batter that was scheduled to hit, but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit, which my understanding of the rule means you can now bring in another pitcher to face the pinch hitter."

No, Bo. That's exactly wrong. Why do you think managers pinch-hit like that? To regain the platoon advantage you got when you brought in the lefthanded Wright. Read the rules, Bo. And the umpires should have just told Bo no.

This has to be fixed, and now. It's getting embarrassing for baseball.

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