It’s Rockies vs. Umpires — Let’s Start The Feud!

For Giants fans such as myself, Monday’s 14-inning frustration-fest with the Rockies was about as entertaining as watching workmen build a gallows in the center of town. Ryan Spilborghs’ walk-off grand slam was them testing the trap door. Bam! Isn’t anyone going to ask me if I have any last words? Well, as if that day needed any more drama, now comes word that Rockies players and umpires were feuding all through the game, and both factions may be in for disciplinary action.

Yes, I said players and umpires may be suspended by MLB dean of discipline Bob Watson, who is speaking to all parties involved before bringing down the terrible ruler of justice. Chief among the combatants, as I understand it, are umpire Bill Miller and Colorado catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who really got into it after the game (artist’s interpretation of that argument shown above, center). Read more…

Speed Read: Time To Expand MLB Instant Replay?

In the wake of the awful call at home plate on Monday night that ended the A’s 14-13 win over the Twins (go here if you’re not familiar with the play), the sports media world was spinning yesterday with varying opinions on the idea of expanding instant replay. I guess it was only a matter of time until a call was blown so egregiously at home plate that some people have decided that umpires basically can’t be trusted to get anything right anymore.

Twins lose on bad call

(Yeah, that’s not really even close)

Neil Velleman of TMR ZOO makes a pretty good case for expanding replay to cover close calls on the bases, as long as there’s a challenge system that is used in sports like football and tennis. Heck, every play at the wickets in important cricket matches is reviewed instantaneously using video technology to determine whether a runner is safe or not (this is analagous to using replay on the bases in baseball). I guess it is inherently silly that the whole world knew Michael Cuddyer was safe when he slid into home plate, and umpire Mike Muchlinski was the only one who didn’t see it. I’m all for letting officials use their best judgment in situations that require interpretation, but these kinds of plays aren’t really “judgment calls.” A player is either out or he isn’t, and if there’s a better way to determine that, why wouldn’t it be considered?


(Even these guys have replay)

The SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE’s Gwen Knapp says that baseball shouldn’t act hastily to enact replay based on one bad call, even though last year’s hastily-enacted system seems to work pretty well.  The SACRAMENTO BEE says that even David Stern has given referees latitude to use replay, and that in matters of clear right and wrong there’s no reason not to use the information you have available.

On the flip side, I can see the argument that we’re heading down the slippery slope of not using on-field umpires at all. There are automated systems in place now that can call every pitch a ball or a strike. If similar systems can be developed to determine outs on the bases and call balls fair or foul, why would we need umpires at all? You could also argue that if the bad calls are evenly distributed, everyone will benefit from them at some point. Sure, the Twins were victimized at the worst possible time, but they also shouldn’t have blown a 12-2 lead in the first place.

I just don’t want replay to ever extend into youth baseball, for the sake of future umpire baiters everywhere. I’m still proud of that time I really sold a tag at home plate with my glove when the ball was sitting like three feet behind me and I got the call. And, actually, the more that I think about it, I’m not sure I’m into this whole replay thing. What, is Ozzie Guillen going to argue with a machine? (well, he’s a bad example I guess)

Ozzie Guillen

Right after the All-Star break, the Phillies went to Miami for what was billed as a crucial four-game series that might swing the momentum in the NL East toward the Marlins and make the race wide open again. But after sweeping the Fish and taking the first two from the Cubs, the Phils have won 10 games in a row for the first time since 1991, and now look like they might be re-asserting themselves as the team to beat in baseball.

I’m not sure that Pedro Martinez is going to make all that much of a difference, but the idea that they could land Roy Halladay can’t make other NL teams very happy. And one of the biggest reasons for the team’s recent resurgence is Jimmy Rollins, who has decided to wake up after napping through the first three months of the season. Rollins is hitting .375 with a 1.039 OPS in July, which has still only managed to bring his average up to .238 for the year. But with all of the home runs the middle of the order is hitting, it sure can’t hurt to have their lead-off guy on base once in a while. Rollins homered last night, and Jayson Werth’s three-run shot in the bottom of the 13th won the game and kept the Phillies 6 1/2 games in front of second-place Atlanta.

Jayson Werth walk-off

The Dodgers blasted the Reds last night to win their fourth in a row and stay safely ahead of Philly in the race for the best record in the NL, but may have to go without Manny Ramirez for a couple of days after he was hit on the hand with a pitch. X-rays were negative, but he’s listed as day-to-day. Unfortunately, it might mean that he’ll miss his own bobblehead night, which is tonight at Dodger Stadium. Kaiser Permanente, the health-care provider that was originally the sponsor of the giveaway, has decided to withdraw its support because of his positive drug test.

Manny Ramirez

The Red Sox continued their offensive woes last night, losing to the Rangers 4-2 and dropping a full game behind the Yankees, who beat the Orioles 6-4. Even worse for the Sox, Tim Wakefield has been put on the DL because his back is in too much pain to toss a 65-mph floater.

Now, here’s some links to help you pass the time while you wait for that solar eclipse:

• It’s a good thing TMZ got that Michael Jackson death report right, because they were way off on UFC fighter Kimo Leopoldo, who isn’t actually dead. Kimo confirmed his non-death to YAHOO!: “I knew I wasn’t dead.” Well, as long as he knows, that’s good enough for me.

• UNI WATCH says Ivan Rodriguez just decided to change his uniform number to 77 out of the blue the other night. He had to abandon his #7 when he was traded to the Yankees (that Mickey Mantle guy wore it) and now can’t wear it in Houston because of Craig Biggio. So I guess he decided two 7s were better than one. It worked for Ray Bourque (once, anyway).

Ivan Rodriguez #77

• And you thought we’d seen the last of Ed O’Bannon. Yeah, well think again, mojambo.

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin owes the state of California more than $22,000, according to the BIG LEAD.

• MLB TRADE RUMORS says the Nationals aren’t even close to signing Stephen Strasburg, but also maintain that they won’t be conducting any negotiations through the media.

Tyler Perry is sending all of those kids who were kicked out of that swim club in Pennsylvania to Disney World.

Mark Cuban is firing back at Ross Perot Jr.’s lawsuit, saying that he “must be desperate from the losses he has suffered from Victory and his hedge funds.”

• Why will the UFL go the way of every other wannabe competitor to the NFL? They’re banking on people actually wanting to see J.P. Losman play.

J.P. Losman

(The next Tommy Maddox?)

• More proof that soccer’s struggles in America has everything to do with the level of competition in our pro league: a friendly match between Chelsea and Inter Milan drew 81,000 fans to the Rose Bowl last night.

• Model/actress Katie Price, who goes by the name “Jordan,” is apparently a really big star in the U.K. And now that she’s split with husband Peter Andre (someone else who people over there are familiar with), she says she wants to go the WAG route and “do” Frank Lampard and Cristiano Ronaldo. Think she’s got a chance?

Katie Price Jordan

Should MLB expand instant replay to include plays on the bases?

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Braves Minor League Manager Melts Down. Again.

Who says there’s no such thing as organizational personality. Following in the footsteps of Bobby Cox’s ML record 145 ejections, Braves minor league coaches seem to be upholding a tradition of epic manager meltdowns. Thursday, it was Class-A Rome (Ga.) Braves manager Randy Ingle showing you don’t need to be insane to argue a call, but it helps.

Randy Ingle

The scene - a tie ball game in the top of the 10th inning, when a Braves batter hits what appears to be a home run down the left field line. While the batter rounds the bases and the team celebrates, home plate umpire Erik Hill rules the ball foul. After the jump, we break down the video of Ingle’s tirade, and rate it on the usual scale of ten Piniellas.
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Umpires Can’t Take Blows to the Face Anymore

To put it as bluntly as a 96 mph fastball to the jaw, Major League Baseball umpires are dropping like flies from blows to the head and neck caused by batted and/or pitched balls and no one seems to know what to do about it. Yes, catchers go through the same types of blows, but they’re much better protected and, you know, athletes. (Okay, most of them.)

Roberto Alomar spits on John Hirschbeck

(Don’t do it, Roberto; you’ll give him another concussion!)

Five MLB umpires (including Kerwin Danley, who took that Brad Penny pitch off his head last month, and John Hirschbeck, pictured above) cannot complete their duties at this moment because of those head and neck injuries that have accumulated over time. Umps have been asked to start reporting the blows to the head, but that’s probably the last stat on their minds during a game.

(Especially if a concussion has wiped the blow off the mental stat sheet.)

Read more…

ESPN Baseball Nerds Start Fantasy Umpire League

You thought you were all geeked out this baseball season with your five different fantasy teams — each one with different stats, metrics, scoring style, and clever names like “Shane Halter Tops” and “Mlicki Mouse Club.” But the ESPN gang probably has you beat. Buster Olney shared in his blog (Insider only, sorry freeloaders) that he’s part of a fantasy baseball league where GMs only draft umpires.

Umpires arguing

(”Whoever’s umpiring the Cubs game” is not a valid fantasy selection.)

The roto rules seem pretty simple: “[W]e were not scanning the names of the candidates with thoughts of QuesTec or bang-bang play efficiency. No, we considered only one factor. Ejections.” Read more…