Are Baseball Umpiring Standards Declining?

The saga of Tuesday night's Dodgers-Giants game rumbles on, with news today that MLB are now saying the umpires misinterpreted the rules in the ninth. Rather than ejecting Don Mattingly and letting Dodgers' closer Jonathan Broxton pitch to the current batter, as MLB is saying was correct, the umpires ruled Broxton had to be replaced immediately.

Tim McClelland, the crew chief, still thinks otherwise, saying, "I am not of the opinion [that's the way the rule should have been applied]. The league is of that opinion. It's a difference of opinion in a situation that's not covered." Still, it's another gaffe in a season apparently filled with them, leading veteran writer Tom Krasovic to pronounce that umpiring has "never been worse in my 16 years of covering baseball."

After the jump, we'll look at a few high-profile exhibits for the prosecution in the past few weeks.

  • May 26. Joe West calls a balk on Mark Buerhle - regarded as having one of the game's best pickoff moves - tosses Ozzie Guillen for protesting, calls another, even less-justified balk on Buerhle, then tosses the pitcher for dropping his glove. "He likes seeing his name in the papers a little bit too much instead of worrying about the rules," commented Buerhle afterward.
  • June 2. Jim Joyce blows a call at first-base on the 27th out, costing Armando Galarraga his perfect game. Sure, it turns out okay, thanks mostly to Galarraga's grace under pressure, but it remains a horrible call.
  • June 26. With a full-count and the bases-loaded in the ninth, and the Tigers down by one, Gary Cederstrom calls strike three on Johnny Damon, on a pitch that was obviously a ball. "I knew it right away," said Cederstrom afterwards.
  • July 3. Bruce Dreckman sends Xavier Paul of the Dodgers to first-base, on ball three. Said LA manager Joe Torre, "I thought he got to three balls awfully quick."
  • July 18. Bottom of the ninth, Giants vs. Mets. Phil Cuzzi calls Travis Ishikawa out at home, negating what should have been a game-ending run. Admitted Mets catcher, Henry Blanco, "He was safe all the way. Good for us."

So, is the standard of umpiring really so low? Or is it just that they are under ever-increasing scrutiny? Hard to say. But I certainly can't recall another season when there were so many flagrantly-bad mistakes being made, in high-leverage situations.

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