We don’t hate umpires. We know, we’re supposed to hate umpires. They’re arrogant, they’re clueless, they’re not the perfect robots we want them to be. The esteemed Joe Sheehan introduced us to the #humanelement hash tag on Twitter, which chronicles every missed call with Bud Selig’s famous anti-instant-replay retort. Everyone wants to kill every umpire right now. We need cyborgs, immediately.
The evidence is stacking up: Already, just two games into the playoffs, there have been three major missed calls. Greg Golson’s non-trap trip at the end of Game 1 against the Twins; the third-strike miss before Lance Berkman’s tie-breaking double last night; and the wrong safe call on Buster Posey late last night in the Giants’$2 1-0 win over the Braves. These were all bad calls, one of which had no outcome on the result of the game, and two of which might have. (Ed. Note: Oh, we just realized we forgot Michael Young’s check swing call that helped him hit a three-run homer. That one too.)
The baseball intelligentsia — and by that we mean the smart ilk of people who write about baseball, rather than the ones who run it or play it — have taken this as more evidence of the next great cause in baseball, which is instant replay. Bud Selig is resistant to it, but the consensus is coming, whether he likes it or not. The players are angry about it, the managers are angry about it, and it’s all anyone wants to talk about. It is worth noting that the day after a full day of playoff games, the time when the spotlight is brightest on the baseball season, the columns are dominated with umpire takedowns.
We do not believe that umpires are worse than they’ve ever been; in fact, we suspect they’re better. But cameras and slow motion are definitely better than they’ve ever been, as are the outlets for fans and media to vent their frustration, in real time. It’s likely that the anger will ultimately coagulate — why, yes, anger can coagulate — into the instant replay that everyone wants. The change is coming. Bud Selig and MLB can’t ignore progress forever.
So, until that point … can we stop pretending like every bad call is somehow a disgrace on the face of the game? There have been bad calls throughout history, every game, sometimes every inning. Somehow the game has found a way to survive this long. We suspect that one or two Yankees World Series teams might have benefited from a bad call or two one of those 27 years, and no one considers them lesser champions. Every postseason has had several bad calls, yet we still note that baseball history happened and is not 100 percent a fraud. We are letting our annoyance that baseball hasn’t adopted the technology we want to stand in the way of the enjoyment of the most exciting time of the season. Take it easy, everybody. Someday, there will be fewer bad calls. The game’s still pretty awesome now, anyway.