Umpire Fieldin Culbreth suspended for not knowing the rules

USA TODAY Sports

Shocker: MLB acts!

Bill James once observed that Joe Torre bears a passing resemblance to Richard Nixon. Maybe that's why now that he's in an executive position at MLB and does something typically passive, like admitting an umpire's call was wrong but refusing to reverse it, I am reminded of the old Trickster himself talking with John Dean on the Watergate tapes:

Granting executive clemency to Howard Hunt -- "You don't do it politically until after the '74 elections, that's for sure," Mr. Nixon told Dean. When Dean suggested that "it may further involve you in a way you should not be involved in this," the President replied: "No -- it is wrong, that's for sure."

That's Joe Torre, a broken record saying, "No -- it is wrong, that's for sure," again and again, but still letting whatever the "wrong" thing is stand. It's all hilarious until you realize that it hides a deeper dysfunction. That is why it is deeply shocking that MLB will act to discipline an umpiring crew chief, Fieldin Culbreth, who allowed a manager to break a rule that has been on the books in various forms for 104 years.

Culbreth was also fined an undisclosed amount.

On Thursday night in Houston, the crew chief and his umpires forgot one of baseball's most basic rules and allowed Astros manager Bo Porter to remove a pitcher from the game without his facing one batter. Porter had concocted an elaborate fantasy in which MLB had changed the rule so that, "If you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter."

Actually, no; what Porter described is exactly what the rule is intended to prevent. There used to be a time when managers studied the rule book so that they would know (a) when they could gain an advantage, and (b) when they were being taken advantage of. Those days are gone, but then, so are the days of players wearing high socks so the umpire could have a bright line drawn where the strike zone ended (think about it -- it makes perfect sense). For that matter, a protest hasn't been upheld in nearly 30 years. Fairness takes a back seat to just getting it over with and not complicating the schedule.

Baseball ducked a bullet last night in that the Angels came back to win the game, thereby obviating the need to replay the game from the point of the protest, a protest that almost certainly would have had to be upheld (though it's worth noting that if, in view of the official reviewing the protest the rules violation did not affect the outcome of the game, the replay can be denied). MLB's normal tolerance for this kind of thing is troubling; if, in the old days, umpires derived their legitimacy from being sacrosanct authority figures who could control a rough game, now they derive it from being professionals. Events such as this one undermine that legitimacy at a very basic level.

As such, it's heartening to see MLB take some action to discipline an umpire for being unable to perform his job at its most rudimentary level -- here is a book, learn it -- but they still have a long way to go to restore faith in their arbiters.

More from SB Nation:

Baseball moms of yesteryear

Mother's Day: Mom taught us baseball, too

The Rotation: Will women ever play in the majors?

Manny Ramirez does Taiwan

Five lost scouting reports

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.