“I’m not allowed to comment on lousy officiating.” That famous quote by Jim Finks (former General Manager of the New Orleans Saints), speaks about what most fans commonly believe…that umpires and referees (in all sports, not just baseball) often times do a poor job. While I don’t think that is correct by any stretch, there are times throughout a game when umpires miss calls and how you react to them is very important.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled The Umpire Calls that Replay Won’t fix stated that in the MLB umpires miss about 8% of ball and strike calls. Keep in mind that these are the best umpires in the world and they’re missing 8% of all pitches. The same tracking technology that is in every Major League ballpark can’t be in every amateur stadium in the country, but if I had to guess, I’d say that the number of missed calls increases as you step down the baseball ladder. Almost all amateur umpires do it as a hobby or a second job. Professional baseball players are more highly skilled than amateur baseball players, and professional umpires are more highly skilled than amateur umpires.
I have no question that amateur umpires are doing the absolute best they can, but what should you do when an umpire misses a pitch? First, let’s discuss what NOT to do!
There are two ways that we can “show up” or disrespect an umpire after he misses a pitch:
While neither is acceptable, most umpires would probably agree that it’s best to be as inconspicuous as possible when having a conversation. Any time that you draw attention to the situation and try to let everyone in the ballpark know that you think he was wrong it’s usually not going to end well. So whatever you do, don’t make a scene! In particular, don’t throw the ball around the infield on missed strike 3…that is sure to get umpires heated!
A more appropriate response to a missed pitch might be politely asking the umpire “Where was that? I thought it caught the corner.” Or, “Was that a little too far out? I thought we got that same pitch last inning?” There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a conversation with an umpire about a particular pitch and most don’t mind it…unless it’s happening more frequently than it should and you sound like you’re whining.
A little bit of respect can go a long way! It’s always better to ask an umpire where he thought the pitch was, rather than you telling him where you thought it was!
Just remember, umpires are human too. They’re going to make mistakes just like everyone else and when they do treat them with the same respect that you would like your coach to show you whenever you make a mistake!
Side Note: The photograph used was taken from the article The Umpire Calls that Replay Won’t Fix on WallStreetJournal.com. It’s a very interesting article written by Brian Costa and I recommend reading it too!