Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eliminate The Screaming Matches: Five Things MLB Should Do Now To Improve Team/Umpire Interactions

Interesting article today out of discussing Joe Torre's plans to try and quell the discord between umpires and players.  Some feel apparently that the tension between the two sides is rising, and it's affecting the game.

Ultimately, what Torre wants to do to work on the problem is to get small groups of players together with an umpire or two so that they can come to understand and know each other better.

Nice try, Joe, but this lack of respect is a society-wide issue.  Baseball has this set of archaic unwritten "rules" that are accepted and allowed by MLB.  You have network coverage of baseball quick to point out umpire errors that the players can see in the clubhouses right after the game. Trying to simply get players to accept the fact that "mistakes happen" and that's it's just "part of the game" is difficult to swallow in a world where other leagues are trying to address this issues more aggressively.

Photo: Getty Images
There's just too much money at stake for these players, and MLB's failure to modernize the game is causing more and more problems with how the umpires are calling their games.  There are things that MLB could begin to do RIGHT NOW that could help with this issue of rising tensions.

Five Things MLB Should Do Right Now To Improve Player-Umpire Relations:

  • Call me crazy but in all my years of watching baseball I've never seen an argument won by a player or manager.  The act of going out to "discuss" things with the umpire is pointless in itself.  Without instant replay, this is the only way someone has to disagree with the umpire, but NOTHING EVER HAPPENS. A player that screams at an umpire and gets in his face should be automatically ejected in every case.  Torre says bumping an umpire is a show of disrespect. I contend that screaming at one is also a sign. Use punishment to reinforce the idea that disrespect won't be tolerated.  Don't make the umpires be the bad guy all the time.  MLB needs to hand down punishments more frequently as well.
  • I personally think the frustration from the player/manager side is that they have no way to correct an obviously wrong call.  I'm not an advocate for instant replay for everything in baseball, but I am for plays on the base paths.  I think if players knew they had some recourse to get bad calls reversed, they wouldn't be so frustrated.  However, that's unlikely to happen until Bud Selig leaves his position, so that's a mute point for now.
  • MLB needs to have a formal anger management program in all the clubhouses, as well as mandatory training for all the umpires. Clearly, most of these guys have no idea what to do in a tense situation.  There was a time when the umpires would simply turn their back and walk away. Now, there's a need to confront.
  • I think MLB needs to adopt some of the most aggressive punishments that you seen now in the NBA and NFL.  Bench-clearing brawls should be a thing of the past.  You leave your bench, and you'll get an automatic suspension.  Throw a punch, that's 10-15 games minimum.  
  • MLB says in this article that their umpire review system includes their own review system for evaluating ball/strike calls.  That needs to be shared with the players.  Show them a sample inning or two of disputed strike/ball calls with your own review system.  If it's as different (and seemingly accurate) as MLB says it is, then the players should relax on being upset with a perceived bad call at the plate.

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