Even if this is a Giants-oriented blog, I’m not including this weekend’s umpiring blunders that occurred against them, mostly because it didn’t affect much more than the length of the game in the end.  I just cherry-picked three of the biggest and most ridiculous ones.

Seriously, why do umpires have the job safety of, essentially, a tenured professor?  Umpires seemingly can’t be fired for anything less than a felony (an actual felony, not perceived crimes against a fan base).  They pretty much have their jobs until they retire or die.  Sure, there are some disciplinary actions…and more have happened in the last ten years than I can remember…but they seem relatively small comparatively.

I get that umpires have a hard job.  Mistakes will always happen.  But it seems like, especially in the last decade, such mistakes are happening more often, getting more prominent, and more blatantly egregious.  Just about anyone else in the world who does their job badly suffers some form of reaction/prevention.  Why not umpires?

If MLB wants to fix the problem, it’s got to come down to two things: Give umpires the tools to do their job, and give them motivation to get it right.  So, here’s my suggestions on what to do:

• Give the umpires the right tools to do their job.  Maybe you’ve seen this image around.


That’s the equipment that MLB gives (in at least some stadiums) the umpires when they want to view an instant replay.  That 19” screen doesn’t even offer high-definition because of some deal that Sharp made with MLB to use their equipment.  Do what you need to do with that agreement to get the right TVs to the umps.  I’m not saying to give them leather couches and mini-fridges, but a better TV than many kids in my dorm had a dozen years ago would be good.

• Give each crew a designated review umpire.  This is a suggestion that’s been around for a while, but for some reason the umpire union is against it and for the life of me I don’t know why.  Someone went to that union and said “We want to start offering 20% more jobs in your field” and this was somehow a no-go.  But an ump in the booth would be ideal.  Replays will happen faster, and that ump will know the system to get access to the best camera angles.  Hell, it’s a perfect job for older umpires who aren’t able to be in the sun or kneel behind a catcher, but still are sharp in terms of the game to stay involved.  Even if you don’t give the replay ump the ability to veto any call, you can combine this with the above suggestion to give the replay ump the ability to quickly show the crew chief the best angles and help him make a decision.

• Allow anything that is not a ball/strike call to be instant replayable.  Give managers two challenges a game, and they don’t lose one if a call gets overturned.  Allow a replay ump to be able to make challenges to calls on the field on his own.  You’ve heard all these before.

• Make umpires publicly accountable.  The press gets access to pretty much everyone else as much as they want, the umps should be around, too, to answer questions about what choices they made.  No one wants to be embarrassed, and the fear of shame is a surprisingly effective motivational tool.

• Take “Judgement Calls” off the list of things that can’t be challenged.  First of all, there are too many things labeled judgement calls.  We can questec the strike zone these days, for goodness sake.  There’s less need for all these judgement calls.  Not everything can or should be challenged, but judgement calls are exactly what should be the thing that can be challenged.  The whole point of them is that they are objects of discussion.  So let them get challenged.

• Send bad umps to the farm…or the unemployment line.  It should take a lot to fire someone.  A lot.  But why not demote someone who’s doing a very bad job?  Can’t get calls right?  Well, the players who can’t do their job go to Fresno…and now, so do the umps!  That should provide enough motivation to care about getting things right.

Not every ump seems as undignified about his blown calls as Angel Hernandez was at the home run earlier this year.  When Jim Joyce blew the Perfect Game call against Armando Galarraga, he admitted it publicly, and apologized to Galarraga directly.  While fans were appalled at the call, there weren’t as many calls for Joyce’s head just because he made it clear he knew what he did was wrong, and bad.

Now, I know someone is going to reply to this and say that if it weren’t for the blown calls, we wouldn’t have gotten Angel Pagan’s inside-the-park walkoff (runoff?) home run.  And that’s true, it wouldn’t have happened.  But that’s not going to be any comfort to Armando Galarraga, or the Oakland A’s, or the Atlanta Braves.  Just because the human error element might allow for an exciting ending doesn’t mean those can’t happen with instant replay.

We need to get this game right, and it’s taken far too long for someone to do something to make that happen.