“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!
At the youth level, too many coaches ask the catcher... “Where was that?” Asking this during an at bat obligates the catcher to respond, which then publicly contradicts the call. Not a position us coaches should put our catchers in... teach discreet communication, so that we can keep the umpire as neutral as possible.
My 11 year old has a great relationship with umpires. He often says hello and introduces himself before the game and tells them that if they want him to move, or have any feedback, he's open to it. It creates a dialogue during the game where a C and an Ump can talk....not argue...but discuss...what happens. He doesn't need to turn around...doesn't need to see him...he can just casually, while returning the ball to the P, ask under his breath, how close was that... and he'd get an answer like - just off....a ball off....not close... etc...
Asking a catcher "where was that pitch" does not usually have a good outcome. IMO the head coach needs to ask the umpire himself and leave the catcher out of it. Catchers giving a sign back to the head coach is not as subtle as people would think. If the head coach does not get a response immediately after a pitch, ask between innings if and how the location can be conveyed.
As a long time, veteran umpire...if a catcher can't handle a pitch on the edge of the zone, you're not going to get the call. Just like you said, if he makes a STRIKE look like a BALL by his inability to correctly receive the pitch, then you can't expect to get the call.
I am youth Umpire i been umpiring since 2004 and have experience plenty still i have miss pitch's I remember a game i did my city guy was asking where the pitch was but i woudn't answer him cause of his tone in his voice it was disrepstful and i would talk to him after the innining or game i have more lately saying low inside... outside
Xan, all great advice. One to add is when you're having that conversation with the ump. NEVER turn around towards him. Now everyone in the park knows you're talking to him. Look straight ahead and make your point subtly.
Actually supporting an umprie by agreeing with him that "it was a tough pitch" or, "I could have given you a better look at it" goes a long way with them. Your pitcher is your number one priority, but the umpire can be your teammate, too, if you operate well in these situations. Defending the umpire--acknowledging and supporting his effort and the difficulty of his job--will help keep him cool, focused, and out of your dugout where those emotions can only make things worse. If you've done the important work of building your pitcher's trust and your head coach's trust already, you will be able to support the umpire (even when he misses a big pitch) and keep everyone on the same side.
Another way I handle it as a coach is to tell my catcher he has to do a better job of receiving that pitch!! Make a strike look like a strike. My catchers know I'm really communicating with the umpire that I thought it was a strike without actually addressing the ump himself. It works quite well especially if they feel bad for the kid taking the heat for his misses call.
If ump does not see the ball in glove,meaning ,kid jumped up stopped ball w/glove but landed ON ball with chest. Ump said "show me the ball" ( 2 times) then the player pulled out the ball in his BARE hand! Clearly no catch.
So far, so good. I like the article about what to do when an umpire misses a pitch. Short and sweet. I think you have to remind players more than teach them. Sometimes they forget the umpires are human too. Thanks a lot...