Unfortunately for the league, and really for everyone involved, one of the ever-growing themes in conversations around the state of MLB is the quality of umpiring. It’s rarely, if ever, spoken about positively, which is less than ideal. Now, this is not a uniquely baseball issue, as one can see from any conversation about the NBA or NHL playoffs. Reffing in any sport in inherently difficult, with baseball having its own twist on the difficulty with respect to the strike zone.
At the same time, while it is difficult, there are plenty of areas in baseball and really life in general where difficulty is not an excuse for not doing the job. At a certain point, these deficiencies can no longer be tolerated, especially if there is technology available that could ease these issues. The Red Sox specifically had their own moment in dealing with this recently when Kevin Plawecki last week had drawn what certainly appeared to be ball four with the bases loaded, which would have given Boston the lead. Instead, it was mistakenly called strike three, ending the inning. He and Alex Cora were ejected after the call, and the Red Sox lost the game.
For this week’s SB Nation Reacts polling is looking at where fans stand with the current state of umpiring.
Have things gotten worse?
My initial inclination was to say there’s no way, and that this is just recency bias in action. I still kind of think that’s the case, but it’s also not ridiculous to think that the increasingly nasty stuff from pitchers throwing mid-90s with movement is not only affecting hitters, but also umpires. But generally, I think the problem only seems worse because we have so many more tools to both more accurately judge an umpire’s performance, and also share those findings as well as clips of bad calls.
What word would you use to describe them?
There’s some good stuff there, but “meh” kind of covers it well for me. It’s usually not as bad as the worst calls make it seem, but it’s certainly not something I’m excited about!
Time to welcome our robot overlords?
I’m starting to come around on this, though I’m mostly just unsure about how ready the technology is. People I know who work with this sort of stuff have said for years that the technology isn’t ready, and I certainly defer to them for anything of the sort. But I think it’s at least getting close. Some of the other complaints that the zone would change from what we’re used to and hitters would have to adjust, and also that pitch framing specialists would be out of work are less appealing to me. Things change. That’s life. And especially to the latter point, it’s not as though the number of jobs would decrease. It’s just a matter of who gets them, and while framing is sort of an interesting topic to me in general it’s not something I get super excited about watching.