It’s been clear for quite a while that the state of umpiring in Major League Baseball is not especially good. Most of the focus on fixing the problem has fallen expanding the use of instant replay, under the theory that cameras can’t miss seeing plays like the human eye can.
Wednesday night, Angel Hernandez proved that instant replay is not the panacea its proponents want it to be.
Oakland Athletics infielder Adam Rosales hit a game-tying home run – or at least he would have, if Hernandez had seen that the ball bounced off of a railing above the home run line on the outfield wall. Instead, he was credited with a double.
And to be fair, Rosales stopped at second base and it’s not hard to imagine an umpire being uncertain about where exactly the ball hit. That’s why have replay, so that the umpires have the technology they need to get those important calls correct.
Hernandez and two other members of his crew went off to look at the available video for several minutes. And they still got the call wrong.
MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, whose job seems less relevant than the Maytag repairman’s, agreed that Hernandez botched the call but basically told the Athletics “tough luck.”
If Hernandez is facing any consequences, I haven’t heard about them.
Peter Gammons went so far as to suggest that Hernandez made the wrong call on purpose as a protest against the use of instant replay.
Now there’s a impression – right or wrong – that Major League Baseball needs to address.
But Hernandez isn’t the only umpire who made the news this week.
Last night, Fieldin Culbreth, Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson demonstrated complete ignorance of Rule 3.05 (b).
If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chiefs judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.
Culbreth and company allowed Houston manager Bo Porter to pull Wesley Wright before he faced a batter after Angels manager Mike Scioscia put up a pinch hitter.
At least this time, Major League Baseball did something to address the problem: Culbreth was suspended for two games and all four umpires were fined.
But it’s time to do more – Major League Baseball needs to do everything in its power to make sure that players and fans have no reason to doubt the men who are enforcing the game’s rules.