NEW YORK -- Well, at least the umpires have to be feeling a tiny bit better today. Turns out they aren't the only ones who are human in this mistake-filled October.
The Angels did their best Minnesota Twins impersonation in Game 1 of their Division Series matchup with the Yankees. The team that allegedly doesn't beat itself did just that (though they clearly had help from
Meanwhile, the Phillies wasted
To be fair, there is no reason to single out Utley, as he is far from alone. Whether it is the players or umpires, this has been the October of the miscue.
The umpires actually have taken most of the heat, and it's true that as a group in the Division Series they were dreadful.
Port also pointed out that there were probably only "six to eight'' missed calls that caused all the negative attention. But Port also acknowledged that this wasn't the umpires' finest hour. "We can do better,'' Port said. "It's not to the standard any of us desires. However, misses though they were, one has to realize how many opinions are made on replay as opposed to live action, as umpires have to handle them.''
The live action has lacked something at times, as well. Respected baseball writer
Even if I give a pass to the trio of closers who blew games (maybe good hitting had something to do with all those blowups), there were plenty of problems. The ousted Twins are always a scrappy and tough bunch, but they didn't play too smart, running themselves out of the derby with glaring baserunning mistakes by
Turns out the Angel player was right but his own team was no better in Game 1 of the Division Series. The night was frigid, their play less than lukewarm, as well.
The Angels, famous for forcing the opposition into mistakes, made two huge ones of their own, sealing their fate early. The Angels dug themselves a 2-0 hole when left fielder
The NLCS Game 2 had its moments, too, and that game was decided when Phillies pitcher
They tell us that umpires are picked on "merit'' for the postseason. But the reality is that because of umpiring attrition (six crew chiefs are on the umpiring disabled list), rules that hamstring the selectors and what seems to be too much selectivity (and maybe a little favoritism), the merit system has been sabotaged.
Based on what we've seen so far, Major League Baseball may want to take a look at how the umpires are selected for the postseason. There's nothing that can be done about the injuries. But office politics needs to be removed from the process altogether.
Port said that there is some "subjectivity'' to the selection process, and that doesn't sound too bad on the surface. But subjectivity is only one step away from favoritism and two from office politics. Baseball needs a serious scoring system, and it needs to stick to it.
MLB does use data to rate umpires. But apparently they have so little faith in their own numbers they wind up sitting around and picking up the umpires. Maybe it's time to just line them up, one through 36, for the postseason.
Another issue is that the umpiring supervisors, who were all once umpires themselves (and who Port says have 200 years of umpiring experience between them), may have their own favorites and may not necessarily be the greatest graders. But why compound that issue by taking their subjectivity and adding some more subjectivity.
So, how is the overall grade looking after the Division Series?
Most players and serious fans could tell you, without looking at any paperwork, that certain umpires aren't among the best in baseball. And they'd probably be close to right about that. As Port conceded, "There's got to be some merit to perception.'' But Port also noted that there are a variety of skills (11, actually) that the umpires are graded on, that some are better on some things than others and they needed to form cxrews that highlighted the best of their skills. That may be so. But that shouldn't change the fact that they need to use the best umps, and there's considerable question as to whether they are doing that. Is it possible that Bucknor,
With 36 umpires used in the postseason out of 68 major league umpires, even if the top 36 are identified a few who are deemed slightly below average would make the postseason crews. Then there are baseball's rules that move the line lower. Umpires are disallowed by regulation from working consecutives series or consecutive World Series. The last thing that killed them this year is that six crew chiefs suffered injuries and were unavailable this postseason.
While even the worst umpire in major league baseball is still presumably one of the best 68 in the world at what he does, the result of all these issues and problems is that several below average major league umpires are working this postseason. And it's showing so far.
While Bobby Abreu didn't accept the Angels' $16 million, two-year offer to him, he remains positive about his experience there and he answered "I think so,'' when asked whether he'll be back with the team next season.
"I want to,'' Abreu added. "I feel happy. I want to come back. I'm here with the Angels. Let's see what's going to happen. They play the game the way I like it.''
Of course, many of the Angels' players have tailored their games to fit Abreu's. They have become much more patient at the plate.
Abreu will be patient in negotiations, as the Angels' first offer may reflect their knowledge that he'd like to return. They are apparently trying to apply a hometown discount to the first-time Angel, who played his entire career on the East Coast before the Yankees decided not to pick up his $16 million option for 2009.
Abreu was booed in his playoff return to the Bronx. But that really wasn't right, as he was made to leave. He didn't want to. It was the Yankees' call not to exercise that option.
• Big mistake by young Angels shortstop Erick Aybar. "He just wasn't ready, or was too preoccupied with the cold weather,'' one scout said. Aybar let Matsui's popup drop while just staring at third baseman Figgins. Angels manager Mike Scioscia talked to Aybar afterward. Matsui was awarded a gift single.
• The scouting report on
• The Dodgers' strategy was to avoid pitching to
• Incredible performance by Pedro Martinez. And remember, only four teams really pursued him hard this summer: the Phillies, Rangers, Rays and Cubs (and Cubs couldn't do anything with their ownership situation in limbo at the time). The Brewers were also interested, but their scout left when Martinez arrived characteristically late for his workout. Big mistake
• According to the
• One scout said
• I still think
• Astros media outlets are saying
• Where's the buzz? The Yankees didn't sell out for Game 1, even with prices reduced for the playoffs.
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