Joe Girardi and the Yankees
weren't always happy with CB Bucknor on Thursday. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
This has been a rough season for Major League Baseball's umpires, as has been well documented in this space, from the David Prince-Tom Hallion name-calling incident to Angel Hernandez botching a replay, to Fieldin Culbreth's crew forgetting the rules governing pitching changes. So the men in blue (or black, as is more often the case these days) didn't need another bit of video that makes them look incompetent, but they got it anyway as CB Bucknor, widely regarded as one of the worst umpires in baseball along with Hernandez, lost track of the count in the 11th inning of Wednesday's A's-Yankees marathon and punched out Seth Smith on strike two:
There was no harm done there. Bucknor quickly realized his mistake and flashed an embarrassed smile (the only thing worse than making so public an error is doing it with such enthusiasm). Smith's at-bat continued and he grounded out.
Bucknor is not the first umpire to make that mistake this season. Paul Emmel did it in an Indians-Royals game, causing far more confusion:
Far worse was the situation in the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game that erupted in a brawl Tuesday night in which rookie umpire Clint Fagan botched the count forcing Arizona starter Ian Kennedy get four strikes to strikeout hot-hitting Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig:
There was no harm done there, either, because Puig did ultimately strike out, but it's alarming that Fagan consulted the rest of his crew and none of them could provide him with the correct count.
Umpires are human and they make mistakes in a job that is very public and in which no mistakes are tolerated. As someone whose every typo prompts an angry tweet or comment, I empathize. Umpires also make hundreds of split-second calls that are difficult to discern even on slow-motion replays and get the vast majority of them right in the heat of the moment, often getting screamed at anyway by players, coaches and fans who didn't see the play as well and won't realize for hours, if ever, that the umpire was right. That goes left unsaid far too often. However, when four umpires working together can't get the call right on something that unfolded slowly, or, as in the Hernandez incident, on a replay, one does wonder if Major League Baseball can't do better.