The MLB’s umpires are really milking their last few minutes of relevance, and in the process aren’t doing themselves any favors in the argument against robot umpires taking their jobs. No, Triple A isn’t testing out a robo-ump at the moment, but maybe they should be because what happened to Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday was the epitome of entitled behavior.
Only an inning into his start, first-base umpire Dan Bellino felt the need to inspect Bumgarner’s palm for a foreign substance. Regardless of whether jalapeño juice or sunscreen or silly putty was found, Bellino ran Bumgarner for taking issue with the inspection that looked more like a staring contest.
Not only is Bellino trying to lock eyes with Bumgarner during the entire inspection, he’s not even looking at the pitcher’s hand. Bellino has a head-tilted, annoyed vibe to him that’s reminiscent of a teacher who caught a student plagiarizing a term paper.
It certainly seems like the ejection was preordained, and whatever reaction/reason for disqualification that the first-base umpire was looking for, he got it. Little did Bumgarner know that the fans who showed up for the matinee games between the Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks didn’t come to the ballpark hoping to see the four-time All-Star, three-time World Series winner pitch, but rather arrived with the hopes of seeing him booted after 13 pitches.
There’s no overseer of rules as thirsty for the limelight as an MLB umpire. (Scott Foster is the reigning winner of the Joey Crawford award, which gets handed out annually to the most self-serving NBA ref, and he would like an honorable mention. Done. Keep ruining Chris Paul’s chances at an NBA title, Scott, and maybe one day they’ll create an award in your dishonor.)
Bumgarner’s ejection was the most egregious of the week and, yes, I’m factoring in Max Scherzer getting tossed for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. It wasn’t the first time he’s been kicked out of a game while being an outspoken spectator as it happened in 2013 when he was a member of the Detroit Tigers. He was arguing strikes and balls in that case, as well.
In the minors, the new pitch clock is working, it’s cutting down the length of the games. Be that as it may, it still gives umpires another rule to interpret… or misinterpret. There was an automatic strikeout because a batter didn’t get back in the box fast enough.
Hitters also are timed under the new rule, and I guess the home plate umpire wasn’t satisfied with the readiness of Midland RockHounds infielder Jordan Diaz. He called strike 3 on a 2-2 count despite Diaz having two feet in the box and settling in for a pitch he never saw. You can be lenient with the strike zone, but not if a guy’s bat is still twirling? Good lord.
If we’ve learned anything from endless reviews and challenges, it’s that fusing referees and umpires with technology isn’t seamless or even smart.
Oh, no, no, no. I’m not advocating to rid sports of tech. Quite the opposite. Just let the revolution begin. At least a computer won’t throw anyone out of a game for getting mad at it.