But Meals was doing his job honestly -- he just made a mistake, after six and a half hours of calling balls and strikes, and admitted it later. It happens; that's why I advocate using replay to assist the sometimes all-too-human arbiters.
Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, though, plate umpire Bob Davidson made himself part of the game, making several obviously wrong calls -- not favoring either team; it was equal-opportunity badness -- and involving himself in the following sequence. First, he called the Cubs' Tyler Colvin out on strikes on a borderline pitch:
You can see Colvin turning and walking back to the dugout. Davidson followed him -- something an umpire should never do -- and ejected him. I can't read lips, but it appears that Colvin is saying to Davidson something like, "I was talking to myself!"
Cubs manager Mike Quade came out to defend Colvin, and as he was turning to walk back to the dugout, he, too, was tossed:
Here's video of the entire sequence. What's said by Cubs TV announcer Bob Brenly -- a former MLB manager -- in that video clip is instructive. Brenly doesn't hold back:
I guarantee you, every game Bob Davidson works behind the plate, if you keep track the rest of the year, he will find a way to inject himself into that ballgame and become the center of attention -- tonight, no exception.
And that is the issue MLB must address. Most umpires are excellent, call a good game and do not bait players or managers into ejections. Some are not. Some -- like Jerry Meals, or Jim Joyce a year ago in Armando Galarraga's should-have-been-perfect game -- make mistakes, honest ones, and then own up to them afterwards. But some umpires not only make terrible calls; Davidson made quite a number of them Wednesday night, at one point calling a ball on the Pirates' Derrek Lee on a pitch right down the middle of the plate (at which point Brenly said of Davidson, "Why does this man still have a job?"), but make themselves part of the show, as Davidson did.
It's time for baseball to control rogue umpires like this, and umpires who consistently rate poorly, as shown in this 2006 SI.com poll of players. I'll name some of them -- besides Davidson (who wasn't named in that poll, but should have been), there's C.B. Bucknor, Joe West, Angel Hernandez and Doug Eddings (who might have cost the Angels a shot at the 2005 World Series with his bizarre non-call in the ALCS involving A.J. Pierzynski). I'm not sure how this sort of evaluation could be done, but it's imperative to do so. Umpires are there to impartially judge, not make themselves ESPN highlights. Those who do should be dismissed.