While you are out at a ball park in the area this weekend, say at the Legion games Saturday at Butler Park, take a moment to appreciate the relative quality of the officiating compared to that seen on major league fields of late.
None of it is perfect, of course Some umpires make upwards of 300 decisions a game and, given that there are only two to cover an entire field of play spanning the better part of an acre of ground, angles and personal limitations (we all, however reluctantly admitted, have those) will create errors.
Seldom, however will those errors be as egregious, or of the magnitude and importance, as those all-too-frequently made by, “big league,” umpires who earn a minimum of $95,000 and an average of over $200,000, with benefits including a quality pension plan, to ply their trade on behalf of the game.
Just recently I watched an entire crew of major league officials blow a basic rule call about a pitching change – when the players/coaches know the rules better than the umps you know the officiating situation is really awful.
Generally, at all levels, those who play the game are marginally or awfully ignorant of the playing rules – that’s why there is an assumption among everybody that the umps know best almost all of the time.
On top of that, and at least two times recently that umpires have not been able, even with instant replay, to come up with a correct home run/not home run call, are the countless times umpires have started and/or ended up in the wrong position to optimize their chances of getting rulings right.
The local guys attend, and pay for, clinics every season to optimize their ability to facilitate fair contests.
If the big league guys are attending such seminars (for which they are surely not out of pocket), they obviously are not paying attention during them. This, and poor administration, means they are lazier and less fundamentally sound in the performance of their duties.
Couple such sloth with the arrogance of ignorance and you have a recipe for bad calls, and bad feelings among players, coaches and spectators, that are damaging to the game’s reputation and prosperity. The arrogance comes out most strongly when umpires initiate confrontations rather than handling them with aplomb, although that may also come from the belated and embarassing knowledge that they have, in the moment, sucked.
Baseball is the greatest game ever devised, for so many reasons I will not enumerate them here, but requires quality officiating to be at its best for all involved. Major league umpires are not providing that lately, to the game’s detriment as both sport and entertainment.
Fortunately for us, the local guys put in the work, and do the fundamental things, that lets them let the game be what it should, most of the time. So, every once in a while, tip your hat to their efforts – and appreciate the difficulties of doing the job with limited manpower. You might even consider learning how to do the job yourself and joining their ranks.
It is a fulfilling endeavour when it is done right.