It was the bottom of the ninth, two outs, a runner on first, and a 3-2 count – the Tampa Bay Rays had a nine inning rally going on. Ben Zobrist was batting and Evan Longoria was up next; the two best Rays hitters were up and could make a difference in the game. Texas Ranger closer Joe Nathan threw what appeared to be a ball; catcher A.J. Pierzynski’s glove touched the ground when he caught the ball. As Zobrist began his trot toward first base, home plate umpire Marty Foster shouted “strike!” The game was over – Rays lose 5-4.
It was obvious to me and viewers everywhere that it was a ball – it was low and nearly bounced into Pierzynski’s Sports analysts, sports journalists, baseball fans, Rangers fans, and even football players took to Twitter to comment on how that was obviously a ball. Rays fans took to Twitter to express their anger about the call; how once again, the Rays lost because of bad umpiring. Now, there are those who will say “the game shouldn’t have been that close to begin with” or “mistakes happen, you try being an umpire” and I would go to bed angry and wake up in a better mood, except I’m tired of hearing those excuses. Why do umpires continue to determine the outcome of a Rays game? This is hardly the first time an umpire made a bad call against the Rays, it is becoming way too common for Rays fans to witness umpires controlling the game. Former Rays pitcher Matt Garza was switched in the pitching rotation because one home plate umpire believed Garza’s strikes were actually balls. Another umpire had trouble with B.J. Upton’s batting – the two would argue every year they met. And if the Rays are playing the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees, Rays fans expect to different strike zones – one zone favored the big market team, the other ruined the Rays’ chances to win. As a low-market team with a small fan-base Major League Baseball (MLB) probably prefers a team that will bring in television ratings in October.
There has been seven baseball games this season and already two of the games involved umpires making bad calls against the Rays when they had momentum on their side. On April 4th, the Rays had another ninth-inning rally going on when Evan Longoria was called out for passing up Ben Zobrist while they were running bases. The cameras show that all the umpires were looking toward outfield to see if the ball was a homerun, none of them were watching Longoria and Zobrist running. When coach Joe Maddon asked them to huddle together to make sure one of them saw Longoria pass Zobrist, they refused.
Now, umpires will make mistakes because they are human, so why does MLB continue to believe technology will hurt the game? Maddon could have “challenged” a call and had it reviewed – it would take a minute and all fans would be satisfied with the call. Other sports like football, basketball, and hockey use video-replay and the games have not gone on for half-a-day. As long as MLB continues to favor umpires, the umpires will continue to be the bad guys. MLB made a rule that coaches and players cannot argue balls and strikes, meaning umpires can get away with an unique zone. If a player complains about an umpire, he is fined but some umpires were allowed to complain about certain teams making the games last more than 3 hours. Now there is a possibility that certain umpires may try to hurry games along by using the strike zone to their advantage. But as baseball fans know, baseball is played in all 9 innings – the Cincinnati Reds scored 9 runs in the 9th to beat the St. Louis Cardinals just the other day. And if an umpire is ever in trouble for making a bad call, it is not made public like coaches and players. If MLB continues to let umpires take the blame, fans will continue to believe that baseball favors certain teams over others. Its time for MLB to stop letting umpires get away with bad calls but removing some of the human element and replacing it with technology – it is 2013, not 1913.
- Chris Davis leads Orioles past Rays (mlblogstbchick2011.wordpress.com)