What Has Gotten Into Umps this Year?

Some years we dub “The Year Of the Pitcher”. Others are known as “The Year of the Hitter”. Well, if that’s the case, we must be in the middle of the year of the umpire. 

Yesterday, a clip circulated around social media of a player from East Carolina University hitting a no-doubt homer. He didn’t stand in one place and stare at it, but he didn’t exactly hustle out of the box either. This is when the umpire decided to take it upon himself to push the player on his way to first base. Now obviously we don’t have all the context behind this story, but the umpire should never be putting his hands on a player, especially because if a player so much as bumps an ump, they’re facing a hefty fine and a suspension.

This clip made me think about all the umpire interactions we should never be hearing about, since umpires are supposed to just call the game and no one should hear much about them. However, they seem to be in the news every week for something. Dan Bellino massaging Madison Bumgarner’s hand way longer than needed for a foreign substance check while staring him down, baiting him into a confrontation was embarrassing. It was extremely embarrassing for Bellino, but also embarrassing for baseball. Sure, MadBum was upset at a pitch in the inning and had some words for the home plate umpire, but the problem there is that Bellino was at first. He knew exactly what he was doing and he made up his mind before he even went over to do the foreign substance check that he was going to throw Bumgarner out. 

Just two days ago, Vic Carapazza made sure everyone knew just who was umping behind home plate. The Astros called upon closer Ryan Pressly in the ninth with a 7-3 lead over the Royals to lock down the win. With two outs, and a 2-0 count on Royals outfielder Michael A. Taylor, Pressly lost control of a fastball that ran inside and almost got Taylor. Instead of continuing the game like it would make sense to, Carapazza decided that Pressly was choosing two outs in the ninth inning as the time to get back at the Royals for a Yordan Alvarez hit-by-pitch. Carapazza held a meeting between the umpires, and then decided to warn both benches. As soon as Pressly started to plead his case that he obviously wasn’t trying to hit Taylor, Carapazza ejected him. It was an embarrassing ending to the game, and clearly a way for Vic Carapazza to make it about him before it was too late.

College baseball has seen its fair share of umpires joining the war against fun, yelling at players after celebrating home runs and strikeouts, as well as literally pushing hitters after hitting a home run. There was a video of a high school umpire taking a batter’s sliding protector out of his back pocket and throwing it back toward the dugout before the at-bat. Terrible calls behind the plate haven’t gone anywhere, and confusing decisions on rulings in the field have not helped the umpires’ image. 

Baseball needs to do something. No one is watching the game for the umps. No one wants to watch their favorite player get ejected for nothing. MLB needs to have umpires answer questions about decisions and calls in a press conference or something. Umpires need to be held accountable when they derail the game to put all the attention on them. Fans of baseball are sick of the ump show.

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