Posted May 12, 2013

MLB admits umpires fouled up, suspends one, fines three others

Bad umpiring, Bud Selig, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Umpires
Mike Scioscia questions an Astros pitching change that the umpires mistakenly allowed Thursday night. (AP)

Mike Scioscia questions an Astros pitching change that the umpires mistakenly allowed Thursday night. (AP)

For the second day in a row, Major League Baseball officially conceded that its umpires screwed up. MLB vice president of communications Pat Courtney said that the rule covering pitching changes was not properly applied in the seventh inning of Thursday night’s Angels-Astros game. Angels manager Mike Scioscia protested the game, but dropped the protest after the Angels prevailed 6-5.

Courtney also said that the matter was still under review, which leaves open the possibility that the umpiring crew of Culbreth, Adrian Johnson, Brian O’Nora and Bill Welke will be disciplined for failing to uphold one of the most basic rules, which reads:

“If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.”

Update: Shortly after this was published, MLB announced that it is suspending Fieldin Culbreth for two games and fining him for “misapplication of Official Baseball Rule 3.05(b),”  with the other three members of the umpiring crew also fined.

Crew chief Culbreth and his cohorts should not have allowed Astros manager Bo Porter to remove Wesley Wright (a lefty) from the game during his warmup tosses in favor of Hector Ambriz (a righty) once Scioscia opted to replace pinch-hitter Luis Jimenez (a righty) with another pinch-hitter, Scott Cousins (a lefty). Somehow, Porter — a rookie manager — convinced the umps that the rule had been changed. He told reporters after the game:

“My understanding of the rule, and I was fortunate enough last year to sit in with [Nationals manager] Davey [Johnson] when they changed the rule of a pitcher having to face a batter. But at the same time, if you have to pinch-hit for that batter, you now have the right to bring in another pitcher. Technically, Wesley came in to pitch the batter that was scheduled to hit [Shuck] but he pinch-hit for the batter that was scheduled to hit. Which, from my understanding of the rule, you can bring in another pitcher to face the pinch-hitter.”

Here’s how the crew should have responded:

Apart from umpires not knowing a fundamental rule of the game, what’s particularly galling — again — is their lack of accountability. When approached by a pool reporter designated to represent the rest of the media, Culbreth offered even less of an explanation than Angel Hernandez had the night before with regards to the blown instant replay call, saying, “The only thing I can tell you is that all matters concerning protests are handled through the league office, and that’s all I can tell you.”

It’s rare that disciplinary action against umpires is reported, but not unprecedented. In 2003, Bruce Froemming and John Hirschbeck were each suspended 10 days for separate off-field incidents involving comments made to senior officials. In 2007, Mike Winters was suspended for the final week of the season for escalating an argument with the Padres’ Milton Bradley. In 2010, Joe West was fined for his handling of an ejection of the White Sox Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buehrle.

Last May, Bob Davidson was suspended one game “for his repeated violations of the Office of the Commissioner’s standards for situation handling,” according to MLB; his handling of an ejection of Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is what triggered it, but apparently the league had seen enough other instances of his conduct to send a message publicly. Earlier this month, umpire Tom Hallon was fined for his part in an argument with the Rays’ David Price.

If those last two incidents reflect the start of a trend, it’s a welcome one. Eleven months ago in this space, I called for more accountability from umpires and more transparency when discipline against them is meted out. The two aren’t unrelated, and if umpires such as Hernandez and Culbreth were more open about explaining their decisions and admitting their mistakes, controversies like those of the last two nights would be extinguished much more quickly.

For more than half the year, baseball is an everyday activity, and games are lost when players and managers make mistakes. They generally own up to those mistakes and move on. If umpires did the same, the game would be better for it.

19 comments
reed
reed

Joe Torre had a perfect opportunity to hold Angel Hernandez accountable considering his call influenced the outcome of the game I still do not understand why Joe didn't count the HR and call it a 4-4 game. Since Oakland was still in Cleveland, they could have started Thursday with a 4-4 game, 2 outs in the top of 9th and gone from there. It would have been a mini double header for the fans and a nightmare for the managers to figure out how to handle the rotation and bullpen - but fun nevertheless. 

JoeBellmore
JoeBellmore

I still can't decide if Angel Hernandez is near-sighted or far-sighted...either way this egotist needs glasses. If not, I still maintain that he was embarrassed that he got the call wrong and refused to reverse it.

feboptimus703
feboptimus703

The bad umpires - everybody knows who they are - are eroding the integrity of the game. When one bad decision changes a game's outcome like it did in Cleveland, MLB has a BIG problem.

MichaelSheehy
MichaelSheehy

They should have suspended the ump that went after Harper and ejected him. 

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

With all the people that are out of work in this country you would think that MLB could find some competent umpires. 

Jrodriguez826
Jrodriguez826

My issue is this: I understand that an umpire's call is final. When Angel Hernandez's call was a double, I certainly didn't agree with, but his call is final. Umpires make mistakes, and we (A's fans) were on the short end of the stick. Whatever, I get that. However, nobody was held accountable for that mistake. Sure, MLB releases a statement saying the umps blew the call. In a social media world, they HAVE to acknowledge it and it's the least they could do. But the fact that no action was taken is outrageous.

But when the $127 million dollar Angels get a bogus call, fines and suspensions are across the board. Is this a double standard? Can someone explain why no one is being held accountable for the missed call against the Athletics?

The bigger issue that needs to be addressed is the replay system.


Signed,

An Oakland Athletics Fan

krossbur
krossbur

And where was MLB when it came time to punish Angel Hernandez for his game, season? altering, plain as can be utter stupidity and arrogance. What a name (Angel) for such a vile person.

SephirothDZX
SephirothDZX

So these umps get fined for breaking a rule but Hernandez got off clean for blowing an obvious HR call?

ScottWarren
ScottWarren

@reed exactly right...to those who disagree, I have two words for you:  pine tar.  They could do it then, they can do it now.

For those equating the Hernandez fiasco with the pitching change and seeing conspiracies everywhere, please, just stop.  One was a blind, incompetent idiot missing a call.  The other was an entire umpiring crew misapplying a basic rule of baseball.  The latter deserves serious attention and punishment from the baseball gods; the former deserves only ridicule, a ceremonial presentation of a pair of glasses, and maybe a small fine.

Ohwell
Ohwell

@JoeBellmore 

Angel Hernandez is the ultimate arrogant umpire, nobody tells him anything because he knows everything. Disgusting how these people affect the game in a negative way.

JoeBellmore
JoeBellmore

The other call? Very obvious that the Ump did not know the rules...

Solomon
Solomon

I thought it was hilarious a few years back when a group of umpires- en masse- decided to submit their resignations as a bargaining strategy, and Sandy Alderson said, "OK, resignations accepted." Some of these umpires actually believed the game could not continue without them. I believe it was former umpire Richie Phillips who came up with that brilliant ploy as head of the Union. Unfortunately, the Union went to court to make MLB take them back. MLB did use the opportunity to bring in some new blood though, so kudos to them.

atwood.t
atwood.t

@Jrodriguez826 A home run call is reviewable (and not final) using instant replay and that is what the umpire team did...they reviewed it and still made the same mistake. No one blames them for the original error...what people are upset about is not correcting it after reviewing it.

Solomon
Solomon

While I can appreciate your frustration getting boned on a game deciding call- and I'm sure seeing a hated division rival get seemingly better treatment stinks too- the difference here is the rule broken last night is black and white. The Stros should not have been permitted to make the extra pitching change as a basic rule of play. Disagree, but Hernandez can claim that the HR replay was not 100% proof that the original call had to be reversed- a judgement call. The Angels financial might has nothing to do with it. I would, however, be interested to see if this public umpire shaming would have happened had the Hernandez play not happened just a day ago.

I would also like to take the opportunity to tell the world that I think Joe West is the worst umpire in baseball. Thank you.

pchorosevic
pchorosevic

@SephirothDZX @carnage_2012 Because MLB and Torre are in the pockets of the umpire association.  Angel Hernandez has been voted/rated worst umpire for several seasons yet he continues to climb the ladder.  Diversity? Perversity? Don't know but MLB and its' relationship with umpires and the union sucks.