Cryin' Foul

First and foremost, I’d like to say that it’s great to be writing for Inside Pulse Sports. I’ve been a reader on and off for a few years now, and hope I can contribute some relevant and intriguing writings for the site. Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, on to business…

As the “Hunt for October” progresses throughout the MLB season, there are a number of factors that contribute to the game itself. Some of these factors are the obvious ones, like RBI’s, runs, strikeouts…all the statistics that lead to a club’s production. In the past month, there have been two perfect games thrown, a feat that has not been duplicated since 1880. With Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay’s epic achievements, and batting performances like Miguel Cabrera’s monstrous 3-home run game, it’s often the most skilled of hitters and pitchers that end up getting the most press.

Enter the umpires.

One would think that the umpire would not be a major factor in the outcome of a game, but it’s amazing how one umpire’s call or ejection can change the entire complexion of a game. For example, today’s Dodgers-Diamondbacks game was decided by an umpire’s call for a balk, which led Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake home to decide the game. Never mind that Blake had just tried days earlier to get an umpire to call a balk against Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly this past Thursday, but that’s just the point: an umpire’s decision can change a game just as much as a home run, a two-RBI-scoring single, or a shutout.

In the past month, the umpires have been in the public eye, more so than any other time I can recall in baseball (maybe they’ve always been there and I haven’t noticed, if so, someone feel free to correct me). In the case of today’s game, it was a legitimate call, and one that unfortunately decided the game. However, there are also the questionable calls, such as Joe West’s ejection of both White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and pitcher Mark Buehrle. As I watched this game, the first balk call itself was questionable, at best. Obviously Ozzie Guillen was going to come out and defend his pitcher, which eventually led to his ejection. Okay, that’s one thing, but when Buehrle got called for ANOTHER one, which, from what I could see, was no such thing, of course he’s going to be frustrated. What stood out to me, more so than the disgusted reaction, was how quick West was to eject Buehrle as well. Now, rather than not having your “skipper” in the dugout to be able to make the tough decisions to decide the success or failure of your team, now you have your pitcher thrown out too! Two important elements to a team’s success, ejected over what can be best described as a controversial, if not flat out BAD, call.  All three parties were fined for an unknown amount, but it begs the question: was West simply trying to draw attention to himself, as he has been accused of in the past? Intent notwithstanding, this article isn’t a bash on Joe West, but it’s a primary example, once again, of how much influence the umpire has in deciding a game.

Yesterday,  Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt was ejected by umpire Bill Hohn after an incident in which one of Oswalt’s pitches missed the strike zone. Oswalt yelled something toward the first base line, which led to Hohn removing his mask and screaming, “I ain’t talking to you!” He then ejected Oswalt, and according to sources on Yahoo.com, MLB officials plan to address Hohn “in a very stern way.” Once again, an umpire’s behavior makes the press, rather than the feats of the athlete.

Both of these incidents, I might add, happened in the past MONTH.

One could argue that the only role of the umpire is to call the game fairly, but what is to be said when the umpire’s actions directly affect the outcome? These incidents occur from time to time, I understand that. But it’s happening more frequently, and it’s sad that some fans, myself included, may feel that the identity of the umpire overseeing the game is as important as who’s pitching.

The umpires have now come into the limelight of a game, and the question is, do they TRULY belong there?

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