Thursday, September 06, 2007

Chipper Jones Blasts Umps in Braves Loss

Atlanta Braves third baseman, Larry "Chipper" Jones, was none too happy with the way the umpires in last night's 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies called balls and strikes, and he is calling on MLB to do something about it. ESPN News AP wire excerpt:

ATLANTA -- Not long after the Atlanta Braves lost for the 10th time in 14 games, Chipper Jones had some choice words for home plate umpire Rick Reed.

The Braves struck out six times in a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday night, continuing their descent in the NL East.

Jones hit a solo homer in the fourth and accounted for another RBI in the fifth when he walked with the bases loaded. He did not strike out in the game, but his at-bat against Phillies starter Kyle Lohse
in the fifth made him furious.

"The first pitch to me with the bases loaded was in my batter's box, inside," Jones told reporters after the game. "Now you tell me how I'm supposed to hit that. We have to get Questec here in this ballpark. We've got to. Umpires have got to be held accountable. That's Little League World Series stuff right there."

"It's a joke," Jones said. "I'm tired of it. And baseball can fine me whatever they want. I do not care. Somebody's got to say something. I've got more walks than strikeouts in my career -- I know what a strike looks like."

What Larry is referring to is the Questec camera system that was installed in about a dozen major league ballparks beginning about five or six years ago. This brings up the question of instant replay. I don't think instant replay is a good idea, or even a necessary one as far as calling balls and strikes is concerned. Games are, in most people's minds, far too long as they are, and to stop the game over a questionable pitch a dozen or so times a game would drive fans away.

The people who manage the umpires should be analyzing the Questec logs, and adopt that system in all the ballparks, then use that information to grade the umps and, if necessary, get the bad umps additional training (by way of demotion to the minors or fire them for their incompetence. Too harsh? Players make their living, in large part, based on how the umps call the games. If a player slips, is he not subject to demotion, trade or release? Then why not have the same arrangement for umpires?

Now, as far as using instant replay on situations like fan interference, fair or foul, home run or wall scraper, tag or missed tag, etc., I am all for that. There are dozens of instances in which championships were decided because of shitty calls. The St. Louis Cardinals lost the 1985 World Series because of a lousy call at first base in the ninth inning of Game Six. The Baltimore Orioles lost a game in the 1997 ALCS to the Yankees because of the Jeffrey Maier "home run" ball that Derek Jeter hit, which everyone watching the game knew was interference but the right field ump, Richie Garcia, who laughed about his mistake afterwards (Not to mention the way the Red Sox got ripped off in the 1999 ALCS with the Yankees when Jose Offerman was called out on a tag play in which Chuck Knoblauch missed Offerman by five feet. Not that I'm bitter about that...). We don't need that type of arrogance. Instant replay should not be viewed as a tool to show up the umps, but rather an assistant to help them make difficult calls, and to get those calls right. Omissioner Bud Selig must wake up and get this vital 20th century technology into the game before the 21st century gets much older.

As for Larry and his complaint, hey man, I hear ya, especially after Josh Beckett got stiffed in his start in Yankee Stadium last weekend. At one point Beckett threw five straight strikes to Melky Cabrera and walked him. The next batter, Johnny Damon hit a single for an RBI, so yeah, I can see where you are coming from. Still, it seems a bit ironic that, after having been part of a team that got away with the type of shit about which you now choose to complain, what with Javy Lopez setting up in the opposite batters box for Tom Glavine, and Eddie Perez doing the same for Greg Maddux and getting ridiculous strike calls for ten years, you now want the umps to call the strike zone fairly. Well, good luck with that, Larry.

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