Bob Davidson isn't the most popular umpire in any city, but if there's one place where that's especially true, it's Philadelphia. Last year, following his ejection of Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel after a heated argument, Davidson received a rare one-game suspension. On Tuesday night, the 60-year-old ump appeared to botch a call that left the Citizens Bank Park crowd spreading their unique brand of brotherly "love" for a long time.
In the bottom of the eighth inning of a 2-2 game between the Phillies and the Marlins, with nobody out and Ben Revere on first base, Michael Young hit a grounder to Miami third baseman Ed Lucas, who threw to second baseman Derek Dietrich for the out. He in turn threw over to first baseman Casey Kotchman, but Young just barely beat the throw to avoid grounding into his 13th double play of the year.
Or so it appeared, until Davidson, who was working second base, ruled that Revere, who slid into the base head first, had interfered with Dietrich. According to the umpire's ruling, Young was now out as well. The full video isn't up at MLB.com, but here's a GIF courtesy of Bill Baer (@crashburnalley):
Dietrich didn't have to leave his feet or do anything out of the ordinary due to Revere's slide, and it's not even clear there was more than incidental contact between the two players.Thus it's questionable why Davidson would call interference, but what's even more troubling is the umpire's apparent lack of common sense. What player would risk a concussion or a neck injury by using his head for the business end of a takeout slide?
In any event, the Phillies didn't score in that inning, but they did go on to win in 11 innings in exciting fashion. With the score still 2-2 in the top of the 10th, the Marlins pushed across a run via a Juan Pierre walk, a Lucas sacrifice, and a Marcell Ozuna double. The Phillies evened things up when John Mayberry Jr., who had entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, smashed a solo homer off Chad Qualls to lead off the bottom of the 10th. Mayberry topped that by hitting a walkoff grand slam off Edgar Olmos in the 11th, helping the Phillies (29-30) pull back to within one game of .500, a mark they haven't equaled since April 14.
Back to Davidson, who has been a major league umpire since 1982 and was ranked in a 2011 Sports Illustrated poll of players as one of the game's five worst umpires. Along the way, he earned the nickname "Balkin' Bob" for "his propensity for invoking one of the game’s most subjective and contentious rules," as the Washington Post's Dave Sheinin wrote last year, noting "his uncanny ability to take any garden-variety argument and — apparently through some combination of quick temper and thin skin — escalate it into a confrontation."
In 2010, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz detailed numerous questionable episodes in which Davidson had been involved, dating back all the way to the 1992 World Series, as well as his general style:
"Davidson has a history of grandstanding to draw attention to himself, whether it be his incessant balk calls, his meddling into other umpires' calls, his rabbit ears, thin skin, and quick ejections.
…if I listed every call that Davidson got wrong I'd be typing for the next 48 hours at least. He's a disgrace to the game and has been for many, many years. Baseball people laugh at him."
Davidson has had a few high profile incidents involving the Phillies over the years. According to a story in Miklasz's column, after Davidson ejected Darren Daulton in 1993, the Phillies' catcher said, "He's one of those impact umpires. In my opinion the game was on ESPN and he couldn't wait to suit up and make an impact."
In 2010, Davidson blew a call that helped give the Phillies a win over the Marlins. With the score tied in the ninth inning and Hanley Ramirez on second base, Gaby Sanchez laced a shot down the leftfield line that should have produced the game-winning run… except Davidson called it foul. And as AOL News' Marc Lancaster described it, "stuck to his guns even after watching video (like this) that seemed to indicate to everyone else that he had seen it wrong."
Last May, Davidson and Manuel went nose to nose after Phillies catcher Brian Schneider ran into the umpire while attempting to retrieve a wild pitch strike three, with Manuel arguing that the call should have been ruled umpire interference. Manuel was suspended for a game, but so was Davidson, for — as MLB's official release put it — "his repeated violations of the Office of the Commissioner's standards for situation handling." It was the first time since 2008 that any umpire was suspended by the league. Wednesday night's call may not have had a significant impact on the outcome, and Davidson may not be the worst umpire in the game; I'll stick by Angel Hernandez for the moment. Nonetheless, his actions tonight stand provide yet another example of why players, managers and fans have reason to lack confidence in the current state of umpiring. Expanded instant replay slated for 2014 could help, but until MLB and the umpires union weed out the worst of the bunch, business will continue as usual.