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Friday, May 24, 2013

Fay Vincent: THE UMPIRE FIX

TONY RANDAZZO NO MISTER ROCK AND ROLL, MR. COMMISSIONER.

Major League Baseball should immediately adopt reforms to the umpiring system. MLB is now a $7 billion dollar industry awash in cash so the costs of these changes can hardly be the reason to defer making them.

  1. MLB should buy the umpire schools and take over the training and development of all umpires in professional baseball. The recruitment, training and compensation of minor league and major league umpires should be controlled by the commissioner and modern personnel programs instituted to insure proper professional development.
  2. Minor league umpires as employees of MLB should be offered the opportunity to become members of the same union as major league umpires to insure all of them are properly represented and protected by Federal law.
  3. The use of technology to improve the accuracy of on field decisions should continue to be explored with the full involvement of the umpires. Additional use of replays should be carefully adopted with careful attention to the risks of further delays in the games.

Over the years the umpires have been the victims of benign neglect as generations of owners and commissioners were content to focus on what they believed were the more important economic and unions issues facing the game. Now, however, there is time and ample money sloshing throughout baseball to warrant the kind of broad changes I am suggesting.

For that reason and because reforms are so obviously warranted I believe the baseball leadership under Commissioner Selig will take the action all of us close to the game have believed is so long overdue. The game will be better as the umpiring improves.

And finally, moving the umpiring profession into the modern era of personnel and management development will surely result in more and better qualified young men – and women – deciding to join the profession. The reform makes so much sense it has to happen and soon.

Repoz Posted: May 24, 2013 at 05:31 AM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, umpires

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   1. Brian C Posted: May 24, 2013 at 12:46 PM (#4451366)
Kind of tough to follow Vincent's logic here (as usual). Basically, umpires have a road to the majors that sounds similar to most players - years in the minors with low pay and an uncertain future. So this is a reason that umpires are bad? How so?

And furthermore, how does Vincent propose changing this? None of his "reforms" address the basic issue that there are a lot of people that want to be umpires and a relatively small number of minor league jobs. And again, it's not clear how this affects the quality of umpiring anyway, and he makes no effort to try to explain.

On the other hand, it's not even clear that he's actually asserting a causal link between the minor league system and quality of umpiring. His reasoning is so weak and his writing so incoherent that one sentence often has no clear logical relationship to the one before it or the one after. For example, he seems to attribute the length of time umps spend in the minors to MLB's lack of direct training, but what these two things have to do with one another is anyone's guess.

I know Vincent is a buffoon, but still. It's embarrassing that he can't do better than this.
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: May 24, 2013 at 12:51 PM (#4451370)
Kind of tough to follow Vincent's logic here (as usual). Basically, umpires have a road to the majors that sounds similar to most players - years in the minors with low pay and an uncertain future. So this is a reason that umpires are bad? How so?


Because players have a huge prize awaiting them if they survive the years of low-paid uncertainty in the minors, whereas umpires have... being an umpire. So how many people will sign up to be in the farm system?
   3. Jose Remains The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 24, 2013 at 12:58 PM (#4451379)
I think MLB really needs to get to a carrot and stick approach. The umpires should be paid dramatically better than they and rewarded for good performances (plum assignments, public recognition, stuff like that) but they should also be subject to the same sort of punishments players get. Sent down, fired, not getting the top games, etc... We have the tools to grade every umpire on every call, we should use them and publicize the results.
   4. catomi01 Posted: May 24, 2013 at 01:09 PM (#4451391)
My preferred Umpire tweak that would help improve the game, but not piss off too many umpires enough that they actually cause a stink:
Add a fifth umpire to every crew - have him in a booth near he field with a TV monitor - he has from the end of a play until the time the next pitch is thrown to question a call - if he wants it reviewed, he buzzes the crew chief - who must review the play - the TV ump, the crew chief, and the ump who originally made the call review and reach a consensus on whether the play stands as called or is revised (and adjusted accordingly) - maintain limits on what is reviewable (safe/out, fair/foul, HR/in play, etc) - and set standards for adjustment - safe/out only impacts that base - dead ball after that (no additional adjustments) - Fair/Foul - location dependent - but can be treated as a grounds rule double if in the OF, single in the IF etc.

That way we get increased accuracy - the umpires get 15 new jobs/union members...and there is a more formalized system of how reviews should be handled without the silly gamesmanship inherent in the NFL's system.

Won't solve every issue overnight, but giving the umpire's 15 new decently paying jobs would buy MLB an awful lot of bargaining power to increase performance reviews, and disciplinary actions where warranted.
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 24, 2013 at 02:07 PM (#4451445)


Because players have a huge prize awaiting them if they survive the years of low-paid uncertainty in the minors, whereas umpires have... being an umpire. So how many people will sign up to be in the farm system?


Maybe we need an inner city RBI program for umpires.
   6. Brian C Posted: May 24, 2013 at 02:10 PM (#4451452)
Because players have a huge prize awaiting them if they survive the years of low-paid uncertainty in the minors, whereas umpires have... being an umpire. So how many people will sign up to be in the farm system?

So you're offering this as a reason for why umpires are bad? Because this doesn't seem to be what Vincent is arguing; you'll notice that "just pay the damn umps more" isn't one of his proposed reforms.

But even still, you're not getting around the issue that jobs as an MLB ump are in short supply, while the number of people who are aspiring to be MLB umps is much, much larger. So while he does suggest unionizing MiLB umps, it's unclear how this is supposed to address that issue, since MLB umps are of course already unionized and still have no "huge prize" to offer prospective umps. So this is supposed to solve what problems and how, in your view?
   7. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: May 24, 2013 at 02:21 PM (#4451464)
he has from the end of a play until the time the next pitch is thrown to question a call

Do you think the replay ump would question any calls and run the risk of "showing up" their union brethren on the field?

OTOH, the idea of Angel Hernandez taking orders from another umpire has the makings of some pretty high comedy.
   8. catomi01 Posted: May 24, 2013 at 04:40 PM (#4451586)
That's where the performance review and consequences come in - we give you jobs, you give us performance.
   9. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: May 24, 2013 at 05:00 PM (#4451607)
#3 has the right approach I think.

There has to be better umpires in the minors or indy ball or the NCAA than oh, Angel Hernandez, perhaps just maybe, if the possibility of demotion was a real one he'd work harder at his job- and if not, if he's simply not as capable as some others? He would be replaced by someone better.

The current "system" simply doesn't work.

In the minors: It's not like with players, among players almost no one good drops out voluntarily- with umpires? You could have someone who is a good ump, the potential to be a great ump- but the pay sucks, and it may take years to reach the majors, where the pay is decent (not compared to players of course), but even if you do everything that asked of you, even if you are as good as half the MLB umps, there's no guarantee you'll get there. So someone with the potential of being a top 10 ump, may just up and quit to go to business school or something- and from that guy's POV it's a very sensible decision.

OTOH if an aspiring ump knows that:

1: IF he in fact calls balls and strikes better than those in the bigs, he will get one of those guy's jobs; and
2: If he does reach the Majors he;'ll be paid a good salary.

He's more likely to stick it out. Now, under the current system the guys who are going to more stubbornly stick it out umpiring in the minors are the guys who think the career path alternative is saying "you want fries with that?"


   10. drdr Posted: May 25, 2013 at 03:30 AM (#4451888)
If all the umpires are in the union, it allows for demotion of umpires, something that is starting to be used more in Europe in football. Very bad game means a few weeks in second league (typically, there are enough refs to allow for one or two being sent down for a month or so, but if not, the best from second league are temporarily called up). At the end of the year, umpires that have been consistently below expected level are sent down, and the best from the second league are called up. Yes, refs still **** a lot, but at least the system sounds good.
   11. Swedish Chef Posted: May 25, 2013 at 04:36 AM (#4451894)
At the end of the year, umpires that have been consistently below expected level are sent down, and the best from the second league are called up. Yes, refs still **** a lot, but at least the system sounds good.

It should be noted that referees in soccer have just started to become professionals. The refs in Premier League have had refereeing as their job since 2000. In most other leagues, even top leagues, they have jobs on the side. Though it seems Germany is planning to go pro.

Of course, refs in soccer have physical demands on them that make it impossible to work at that for their entire careers, so unlike baseball umps they still need a back-up plan for life after their mid-forties.

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