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It is time for MLB to address its umpiring problem

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The level of umpiring in MLB does not match the high level of talent in the game right now. It’s time to fix that.

Chicago Cubs v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We’ve seen it time and time again. There’s a close play involving the Braves but it’s close enough to where you figure that things are going to go the Braves’ way once the replay officials get involved. The umpires take it to New York, the replay officials pore over the video for what seems like an eternity and then the umpires on the field remove their headset only to determine that what you saw with your own eyes was actually a lie and that what they saw was the truth.

It’s frustrating to see that happen — especially when it happens to your favorite team on what seems like a regular basis. It’s gotten to the point where I am so cynical with the results of replays that I just automatically assume that unless it’s just completely impossible to see otherwise, if it’s close and the adverse ruling could hurt the Braves, that’s what the replay officials are going to determine. It’s definitely a bit of a homer stance but after all of these recent replay rulings going against the Braves, can you really blame me? I mean, look at this!

It’s honestly annoying. Plus, it hasn’t just afflicted the Braves, either. Just this past Saturday, the Athletics/Yankees game turned on a dime thanks to a crucial replay decision. In the top of the ninth with the game tied at six. the A’s had the bases loaded with one out and Jonathan Lucroy hit a fly ball to left field. It was deep enough to bring in Matt Olson for a sacrifice fly chance and while it was a close play at the plate, it was pretty obvious that Olson beat Gary Sanchez’s tag and the A’s should have been up 7-6.

Here’s a photo of the crucial moment:

Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees
Out?
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Here’s video as well:

So you have photo evidence of a missed tag, then slow-mo replays indicate that the tag was missed, yet somehow, the replay officials overturned the safe call on the field and determined that Olson was out. If Sanchez tagged Olson then he tagged him using a stray string of leather from his glove that somehow connected with a tiny piece of loose fabric from Olson’s jersey. The replay officials clearly have the best eyesight in the continent of North America.

The A’s went from having the lead to being out of the inning in one fell swoop and the Yankees went on to win the game in extra innings. Our friends over at Athletics Nation were rightly livid over the call and the A’s themselves were hot. If you’re going to overturn that, there had to have been conclusive evidence. If you could find conclusive evidence in that video then you are far smarter than me and you have 20/20 vision on a level that I cannot possibly comprehend.

With that being said, this is not just a replay issue either. The umpires themselves on the field continue to make mistakes. On Tuesday night, on the play right after replay officials upheld Johan Camargo being called out at the play on a whiffed tag, Charlie Culberson was called out on a play at third base.

Combine that with a strange and inconsistent strike zone from Jim Wolf and you have the recipe for a very poorly officiated game from both the on-field crew and the officials in New York. Wolf had a shocker on Tuesday night and it was a truly shameful display from everybody involved.

Even if MLB themselves came back to the play and realized “Welp, the replay officials missed the call,” or “Welp, the umpires mad an egregious mistake,” the only thing that really happens publicly is that the league issues an apology, they acknowledge that the call was incorrect, and that’s it. There isn’t really a public reprimand of the umpires and officials and judging by the continual employment of umpires like C.B. Bucknor, Angel Hernandez, “Mr. Infield Fly” Sam Holbrook, Laz Diaz and Joe West, there’s really no sort of accountability for what these umpires do on the field.

They make the bad call on the field and receive all sorts of backlash from the fans but it doesn’t matter because the backlash only lasts for a limited time and then we’re all back to accepting that this is the status quo before the next egregious decision comes around. There’s no serious accountability other than whenever the umpires feel the need to uphold whatever level of integrity that they feel like reaching at the moment.

This isn’t to say that all umpires are terrible — after all, they’re all human and most of these guys are trying their best. At the same time, there are too many rotten apples in the bunch and it’s spoiling the entire crop. If Major League Baseball really wanted to do something to help drum up more interest in their game, then instead of focusing on trying to get people out of the ballpark as quickly as possible, they should focus on trying to make sure that the game is officiated at a level that matches the game being played at the highest possible level. Who cares about a game being completed in under three hours when the umpires are spending that time literally stumbling over themselves?

I’m not going to advocate for robot umps or anything like that, but it’s clear that the officiating in MLB needs some sort of reform. The talent level among the players is arguably as high as it’s ever been in the history of the game and it’s time that the umpiring met that standard as well. If it doesn’t, then we will continue to see exhibitions of poor judgment like what we saw on Tuesday night and it will truly be a shame for all people involved in the sport — from us fans to the players themselves.

This isn’t me saying this as a homer — this has affected teams and fanbases all over baseball. It’s time for MLB to make the right call for a change and try to fix this.