Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An Umpire has never cost a team a game

Now that I have your attention, let me end the year with a controversial post that I hope will generate some comments.   This post may be lengthy, but can be summed up in one sentence:  I have never seen a game that a team lost due to an Official’s call.   I’m not only limiting this to baseball games that I've seen live.  I’m including other sports such as football and basketball, and any baseball games at any level.   But it’s human nature to blame any failure (whether a group result such as a team loss or an individual failure such as an error or strike out.) on something else  --  “we were  tired from the long bus trip”, “the ball took a bad hop”,” the sun was in my eyes”, “the umpire blew the call”.   You never hear a player say “I have lousy skills”, “I can’t field a ground ball properly”, “I don’t have good command of the strike zone”.
It’s not only players.  I hear complaints all the time from friends that I’m watching games with.  “The ref just cost them the game with that call”.  (Sometimes I think they pile it on a bit thicker because they know I’m an Umpire, but I’ve listened to enough sports talk radio to realize that this attitude is common). 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Base awards

I'm taking a slight break today... I've been writing articles for The Full Windup, and my latest article is published.   Instead of repeating myself, here is the link to an article I wrote on awarding bases.  Please take a look at let me know what you think.   Some good tips there for players on how to take advantage of certain situations, and what to do and not do.

Coaches - a quick tip:  I know most Coaches don't know most of the rules, and I don't expect you guys to memorize how many bases are awarded on each time of overthrown.  But, if nothing else, just remember there is NO SUCH THING AS 1+1!    As long as you never utter those words to an umpire, you'll be thought of as smarter than the majority of the Coaches we have to put up with: :P

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coach tries to enforce rules

Wow - it's been over a month.  Sorry, I'll try to update more frequently, but I've been busy updating the main Baseball Rulebook Edge site and in the offseason it's hard to think of a lot of content.  Since I'm not on the field seeing situations to give me inspiration to write about them, I'll dig into my mental archives and talk about a situation that occurred a few years ago that ended with justice being served.

I'm the plate ump and I have no partner in a little league game of 9-10 year olds.  Early season game, a lot of these players hadn't played a lot and it showed.   Head coach of one of the teams is being really annoying - subtly questioning every call, and being somewhat verbally abusive to his players - never saying an encouraging word, just constant criticism, even when they made a play.   I can hear his own parents in the bleachers complaining about him.   Anyhow, as his team is batting and they get a runner on 2nd base, he starts yelling(!) at the shortstop of the other team to get off the base line.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

When is a foul tip not a foul tip?

As I was reviewing some pages on the rulebook edge site, I came across the page I had written on foul tips and it reminded me of one of the knottier situation I got into when I was umpiring with a new Junior Umpire.
13 year old rep team.  Home team is at bat, and the runner on 1st base is stealing on the first pitch to the batter, who checks his swing, and the ball tips off the bat, and loops into the catcher's glove.   I call the batter out.   Fans all start yelling at me, and the coach comes running out,

Friday, October 15, 2010

How to get the Umpire to give you an edge - Conclusion

In my last post, I said the way to not get the Umpire to give you an edge is to be a jackass.   So how do you get him on your side?  Easy.  Don't be a jackass.  Seriously.  A lot of Coaches do not treat  Umpires with respect, are constantly complaining (even if subtly ... by telling their pitchers "that pitch looked good from here", the Umpire knows that is just the Coach's way of saying "Hey Ump - you screwed up again" without getting tossed), and will argue rule points they don't understand (I can't tell you how many times Coaches tried telling me I placed a runner on a wrong base on an overthrow because he should get  "one and one").   So if the opposing Coach is making himself heard, your best course of action is to

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to get the Umpire to give you an edge - Part 2

So yesterday I started talking about how to get an Umpire to give you an edge, and I went off on a tangent and ran out of time before getting to my point.  Let me start by warning you that I’m not going to tell you in today’s column either.  Instead, I’m going to start by showing you how to get an Umpire to NOT give you any breaks.  It’s simple really.   All you have to do is act like a jackass all game.   As I said in yesterday’s column, Umpires don’t cheat, but they can look closer for things which they may otherwise ignore.   Here’s an example I had witnessed first hand as assistant Coach.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to get the Umpire to give you an edge

First of all, let me start by saying that Umpires do not cheat.  Let me be clear about this:  UMPIRES DO NOT CHEAT. Period.  And it's not necessarily because they all follow a strict set of ethical guidelines.  It's because they just can't.   Even if they want to.  What do I mean?   We've been conditioned to "call them as we see them", and it's almost a reflex, and we cannot call something different.
Let me give you an example:  I once was put in the unenviable position of having to umpire a game my son was participating in.  To avoid any perception of bias, I had it clear in my mind that if he was involved in any close play, I was going to call it against him.  As luck would have it, he was involved in 2 close plays.  Both at home plate.  In play #1, he was the catcher, and on a wild throw to 3rd base, the runner tried to score.   I was ready for a close play and had it in my mind that I was going to call him safe.  The runner could have probably scored easily standing up. But he decided to slide.  And a few seconds later the ball reached the catcher at the plate.  Who tagged the runner.  Whose slide had stopped about 3 inches short of the plate.  I instinctively called him "OUT!".   Which drew lots of groans from the crowd... and a visit from the Coach.  Couple of innings later had a similar play, with my son the runner on 3rd base.  He's in a rundown, and it's obvious he's going to be put out unless the defense throws the ball away.  He finally commits to run home, and the catcher is standing there with the ball, blocking most of the plate.  My son slides in, getting his legs around the part of the plate the catcher had blocked, and the catcher tags him high.   Throw has him beat by 10 feet, but the catcher took his time tagging him and he was safe.  Again, even though in my mind I was going to call him out because it would be a lot easier and avoid any argument, by reflex I called him "SAFE!".  I tried to cheat and I couldn't.  
Anyhow, I got off on a bit of a tangent there... I was going to talk about how you CAN get the Umpire to be on your side and give you some breaks, without cheating, but that's going to have to wait until my next post tomorrow.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why you can’t win even when you’re right

As a Coach I have had a few situations where I've wanted to pull out the rulebook, wave it in an umpire’s face and show him that he is wrong, but as you know if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll never get away with that. My approach as a Coach, and the one I prefer as an Umpire, is to calmly discuss the rule and the interpretation of it. I know if I back the ump into a corner, he’ll become defensive and may change his explanation of the rule, to a judgement call... something like this:
Coach: the batter doesn’t get a base if he is hit by a pitch that he swings at.
Ump: Yes he can.
Coach: No, look it up, it’s rule 6.08 (b).
Ump: Well, it doesn’t matter because in my judgement he didn’t swing the bat anyways.
Coach: (walk back to dugout)
As a Coach I have learned that the way to avoid the above situation, is to approach the Umpire in a polite soft-spoken manner, and always give him a chance to save face. If he doesn’t change the ruling, then you can calmly quote the rule number and suggest that you may play the game under protest. Sometimes umpires will mumble something about if they had a copy of the rulebook they could quickly look it up, but without that their call stands. At that point, you can offer the fact that you have one in your dugout (ALWAYS have the book in your dugout. NEVER bring it out into plain sight). I have encountered this situation a few times and everytime the umpire ended up agreeing with me amicably. Only once did an Umpire actually come towards my dugout and look at my rulebook. In that instance he reluctantly changed his call. As you might expect no close plays were called our way the rest of that game. :(

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When should you pull the rule book out?

Never.  Let me clarify that for you:  NEVER.  There is an unwritten rule that a Baseball Coach should never come out of the dugout waving a rule book, as he is likely to be ejected before even getting to have his say.   As a Coach I have had a few situations where I thought an Umpire misinterpreted a rule.  What should you do?  By all means, go out and discuss the situation, but keep your book in the dugout.  In one game, the other team had runners on 1st and 3rd, and the batter hit a ground ball that hit the runner going to 2nd.  The Umpire immediately called runner interference, called the runner out, and placed the batter on 1st base.  So far, so good, but the runner on 3rd scored on that play, and nobody was sending him back.   I called time, pointed that out to the ump, he said “you might be right”, he conferred with his partner, and quickly put the runner back on 3rd base.  Nice and easy, without anybody raising their voices.   This was a best case scenario.   I’ll have some follow-up posts where the discussion wasn’t as smooth. :)

What to do when an umpire screws up a rule?

You've been there.  An ump calls time and enforces a rule that you know is clearly wrong.  An outfielder throws the ball out of the play and the runners are awarded the wrong number of bases.  Or a batter swings at a pitch that hits him and is awarded first base.  Or....... What should you do?

Call time and calmly discuss it with him.   Always give him an opportunity to save face.  Tell him what you think the rule is and have him explain why he thinks it’s different.  If you are convinced you are correct, suggest that he check with his partner just to be sure.  If he refuses, then, and only then you can suggest that you may ask to play the game under protest, and at the same time quote the rule number that he is violating.  In many cases, the ump may think you may know what you are talking about and he may confer with the other umpires, and hopefully get it right.   And if he doesn’t, should you bring out the rule book and show him the rule?   I’ll discuss this in my next post.