Sunday, June 03, 2012

Umpires vs. The Rest of Baseball: The 2012 Edition

With full disclosure, I will tell you that I am no fan of White Sox broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson's style.  He was briefly a Yankees voice in the 80's and he...was...dreadful.

He has his detractors, which you can see here.

On Wednesday night, Harrelson went into a tirade about the performance of umpire Mark Wegner, who threw our pitcher Jose Quintana.  So long as Bud Selig as his band of idiots in the League office lave this video up, you can see the situation for yourself.

There is a notion in broadcasting that "we", the esteemed citizens of the booth, should not allow ourselves to get into a snit over officials.  To an extent, I agree - totally.  But as a passionate defender of sports, I have a real problem with officials who seem to think you - the paying public (of which I am a member as well) - have come out to see them.

I have heard more than my fair share of complaining over NBA officials, and equal whining about NHL stripes as well as the NFL zebras.  But nothing seems to be as out of control as the umpires in MLB.  It has been a cauldron that has been boiling for years - going back to a rant I did on WGCH way back in the late 90's, in which I heaved anger at then-ump union president Richie Philips.  At the same time, a target of my ire was longtime umpire Joe West.

Curiously, West is still at it - thinking we're there to see him.  More, West is the president of something called the World Umpires Association.  Well la-di-freaking-da.  So after a talking to White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and baseball Bud Selig, Harrelson then called Wegner to offer a few thoughts before visiting West to discuss the situation.

ESPN Chicago has the details.

If you didn't watch or listen to Harrelson pop off, here is what he said:
"What are you doing? He threw him out of the ballgame. You've got to be bleepin' me!" Harrelson said after the ejection. "What in the hell are you doing? What are you doing Wegner? You got to be kidding me. That is so bad. That is absolutely brutal. That is unbelievable.

"I'll tell you what, they have got to start making guys be accountable. That is totally absurd. Here's an umpire in the American League that knows nothing about the game of baseball. They have got to do something about this. They have got some guys in this league that have no business umpiring. They have no business umpiring because they don't know what the game of baseball is about."
My only problem with this - the point that it got personal - was where Harrelson said that the umpire "knows nothing about the game of baseball."  I understand his point - that Wegner stepped over the line because he (and a lot of umpires) don't let the players police things when it comes to brushback pitches.  Warnings get issued too easily these days, or they don't get issues and then the umpires take it upon themselves to decide what pitches have intent.  There's ZERO consistency.

That's what got Harrelson hot.  That's what gets me hot.

As I said, this has been building for years, and I thought Harrelson's tirade was actually going to be a good thing for baseball, causing Clueless Bud to focus less on outlawing the fake pickoff play or making the regular season one long playoff series, and maybe actually looking into the accountability and performance of his umpires.  But no, I was wrong.  It was a chance for Selig to chastise a broadcaster for speaking his mind.

I mean, let's face it: the Mets got their first no-hitter because an umpire screwed up.  Completely.  As I said yesterday, that's the way it goes, and it was human error, but still.  Let's be honest about it.  There's no accountability. (And yes, the Yankees got a home run for Derek Jeter because Richie Garcia made an awful call...just in case you want to get on the Yankees/Mets thing, which is so lame it is laughable).

Again, Harrelson went over the line, but that has been his thing for over 30 years.  Outside of the South Side of Chicago, Harrelson is not liked.  At all.

But there was an element of truth to what he said.

To me, it was a missed opportunity.

(OK, so-called "loyal" readers who scan the sports posts, you can stop scanning now.  The topic is over)

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