Across major sports, being a referee, umpire or official is usually the toughest job out there. You’re constantly being ridiculed, booed and judged with every call you make. If you do your job well, there’s no trophy; you simply don’t get noticed if you do a good job. However, flip the coin and you make a mistake, and you’re the center of thousands of people’s attention, and not in a good way.
I refereed intramurals basketball last year, and I will never do it again. Not because there were thousands of fans shouting at me, but because I couldn’t deal with all the players complaining and the abuse that was put on me. At the end of the day, the players thought they were NBA stars, when really, we’re just out here to have fun. Why should I bother taking this crap? Have fun playing without a ref.
With that in mind, I understand why some refs and umpires can be a little cranky at times. However, MLB umpires are, by far, the most thin-skinned officials on planet earth. Referring to when I said that officials usually go unnoticed, it seems like umpires want to be the center of attention. They want thousands of fans yelling at them. And, usually the only time they will do that, is if you mess up. I’m positive that if you took the number of ejections from the NHL, NBA and NFL, and then crunched them all together, they still wouldn’t stack up to how many players and managers are thrown out over the course of a 162 game MLB season. Is it because they want attention? Power trip? thin skin? I would say it’s all of the above.
Just in the past few days we’ve seen multiple ejections across the MLB on, for the most part, horrible officiating. Whether it’s an inconsistent strike zone, or just being stubborn, Umpires take zero shits from anybody. Just an example, here’s what came up on Thursday night in Toronto:
With both teams complaining about the strike zone all game, Marcus Stroman walked a batter on a pretty close call. Might’ve been a bit outside, but a nice framing from Russell Martin behind the plate probably should’ve moved the count full. Stroman is always very expressive on the mound, and swore after the pitch, and mumbled something under his breath while the ball came back to him. That’s when home plate umpire Will Little decided to throw out Stroman, then Martin and then manager John Gibbons from the game, all in under a minute.
Then you have the Adrian Beltre incident from Wednesday night:
— Baseball Express ⚾ (@BB_Express) July 27, 2017
Beltre was told to warm up in the on-deck circle, which was mere feet away from him, so, Beltre decided to be cheeky (as we all probably would) and moved the circle to where he was standing at the time. Then umpire Gerry Davis, who obviously was upset that Beltre didn’t follow orders, tossed him from the game.
These are two prime examples that umpires need to be held responsible for their actions. In some cases, they’re taking away a team’s best player for the remainder of the game for almost no reason. Every official is going to be criticized for a call, but you don’t see NHL referees ejecting players left and right just because they can.
I umpired minor baseball and softball when I was younger, and to make sure that I wasn’t being too ridiculed before the game, during the managers meetings I’d tell both coaches that their kids better be ready to get the bats off their shoulders, because I’d expand the strikezone to make the players determine the game. It’s a bit of a moot point to my argument, but I just remember avoiding a lot of confrontations by establishing my zone before the game, and sticking to it.
Whether it’s a fine, suspension or demotion, the MLB needs to keep better tabs on their umpires. We’ve seen time and time again that they can be ridiculous with their rulings and ejections, and the league needs to step up and hold these umpires accountable for their actions.