Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Joe Torre must go

I've complained previously about Joe Torre's stubbornness in not even looking into changing the rules for base runners and catchers when there is the potential for collision at home plate:  he said that it's how it's always been done, so he sees no reason to change.  He echoes that stance in the latest quote that I found while reading my latest copy of SI: 
MLB executive Joe Torre suggested replay will expand, but one aspect of the game is off-limits:  "Balls and strikes.  From the time I started playing this game - and the game was alive long before me - that's always been something that the umpire's eye sees."
ogc thoughts

And for a long time, the spitball was OK, gloves that barely covered the hand and was thin was OK, spiking base runners were OK, keeping non-whites out of the game was OK, and pitchers had to hit in the AL.  And the game was alive for a long time when those changes were brought into baseball.  Is he suggesting that these, and many other rules that has come into the game over the years, were wrong?

In some cases, the technology was not there yet.  Glove manufacturing got better over time.  Batting helmets (then coaches' helmets, and soon pitchers' helmets, followed) probably was hard to manufacture in the early days, but eventually the MLB saw that protecting the talent was a better route to take.  But if the technology is there, why not use it?

Everyone is aware of the PitchF/X technology and how that system calls balls and strikes just as well as any umpire.  While I agree that I would prefer to keep umpires around to call balls and strikes, I would much rather prefer that players - the talent - are not frustrated by the humanness of the umpires, which often come out of their inability to call strikes as defined by the rules of baseball. 

And I'm not even saying that homogeniety in strike zones is necessarily the goal, but even umpires have bad days where they can't keep it straight calling strikes, with the zone changing batter to batter, or worse, pitcher/team to pitcher/team.  Maybe the MLB can modify the PitchF/X system to learn how any particular umpire calls his strikes, and duplicate that zone in the game?  Or mabye if they call too many balls as strikes or vice-versa, they have to take remedial training with a PitchF/X system designed to tell him whether a pitch is really a strike or not?  But unless there are consequences for them when they are not compliant with the rules of baseball, they will do whatever the hell they feel like doing.  It's like the tail wagging the dog.

For a long time, I've been sick and tired of umpires taking over games and thinking that they are the talent.  That might have been true during World War II and before that they were part of the entertainment and ambiance of the game, but the game has changed a lot since those days and umpires do not need to be part of the entertainment anymore.   We just need the calls to be called correctly.  And they have certainly never been the talent that we fans go to see.

The way some of them act reminds me of that Stanford experiment in the 60's where student volunteers were split into two groups, prisoners and guards, and the guards exposed the dark side of their nature because they were the authorities, they were in charge, much like the worse of the umpires.   Most of them are OK, I think, but in this case, the bad apple does ruin the whole barrel. 

Games and wins are precious.  You never know until the last day of the season what importance that game and win might have.  In 2010, the Giants should have won a game against the Mets when Ishikawa scored the winning run.  Only he was called out by the umpire, who said that the catcher made a good move to make the tag, so he called the runner out.  And not because, as the rules of baseball states, the catcher tagged the runner before he scored, which photos showed without a doubt. 

Had the umpire called that Mets game correctly in the first place, the Giants would have won the division even before that last series against the Padres.  Had the Giants lost that last game to the Padres, the Giants would not have made the playoffs, the Padres would have.  That was how huge that one game in that one season was.  Yet he had no inkling of that possibility when he spoke after the game.

And he said this with no regret nor understanding of how that felt for Giants fans.  You know, the people who pay his salary.  It is almost like he's never played a game of baseball and experienced the trauma of a call going against his team.  Just from the few years that I helped keep the boxscore for my son's PONY League team, I regularly and often felt that calls were not done right, and while I felt a lot of sympathy for the umpire, mostly because they were young teenagers themselves and learning, I don't feel much sympathy for the MLB umpires as this is their paid job, and they have lifetime job security too.

There has to be some accountability on the umpire's part at some point.  Sandy Alderson understood that and I thought he was our best hope of changing the situation with umpires.  Unfortunately, he got pushed out at some point, probably because he was so good at his job.  Torre does not understand that, he just a stick in the mud, heck, he's no better than a stick in the mud. 

If his feelings are basically that things should not change because that's the way it's always have been done, doesn't that mean that his job should not even exist?  Because if everything should stay the same, at least in his opinion with regards to a lot of issues in baseball, then we don't need him around.

3 comments:

  1. Fully agree.

    Balls & strikes are the very heart of the game. The effect on an AB of a call on a 1 and 1 count is massive. What 9 billion dollar industry allows that determination to be made wrong even 5% of the time?

    Calling them correctly and consistently is beyond the physical capability of our species. Fix it.

    The only 'human element' I want deciding the game is that of the players.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Balls and strikes is one issue for sure. The issue I want is catcher safety. Torre is way too old school on this one as well. It would be really nice to take the blow up the catcher out of the equation.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree. Technology has radically changed job descriptions in many industries. It's eliminated some jobs while creating other new ones. Heck, it's ELIMINATED whole industries! Just think of how the iPod and MP3 players changed the music industry. Barnes and Noble is about the only bookstore chain in business and it's hanging on by the skin of it's teeth. No reason at all why baseball should be immune from progress.

    If it makes the game more dangerous, like aluminum bats, then ban them. If it makes the game better, like better gloves, embrace it.

    Torre just seems like a kneejerk reactionary. Not that I want to lose Bruce Bochy as a manager, he's a highly intelligent guy who respects the game, but is willing to think progressively. He'd be perfect for that job!

    ReplyDelete

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