I’ve complained about this many times in the past, as recently as the Detroit series, but one thing that never fails to draw my ire is an inconsistent strike zone. The Yankees always seem to be on the wrong end of these discrepancies, though I realize that because I’m a Yankee fan that I am more apt to notice calls that don’t go the Yankee’s way.
That said, I refuse to buy into this idea that inconsistent umpiring is somehow a part of the game. Some umpires are known as “pitcher’s umps” or “batter’s umps.” This is an absurd notion. The strike zone is not some malleable idea. It is an area over the plate that has a definite definition in the rulebook.
When MLB tried to regulate it, by making the Questec (I’m not positive on the spelling) system, people actually complained about it to the point where it is no longer used. Let me get this straight: MLB comes up with a way to use technology to determine the accuracy of umpires and that’s somehow a bad thing?
Don’t we have the technology now that we could have balls and strikes determined automatically? If it crosses the zone, it gets recorded as a strike. If not, it doesn’t.
The whole thing makes me think of playing wiffle ball with my friends. We had the infallable chair system. You put a lawn chair behind home plate. If it hit any part of the chair that wasn’t the legs, it was a strike. If you tried to call balls and strikes by watching, you would get endless arguments and bad calls. Sure, sometimes balls that wouldn’t hit the chair were probably strikes and vice versa. But it was consistent and you couldn’t argue: either it hit or it didn’t.
Sure, baseball is only a game, but it’s a billion dollar a year game. Why are we allowing one umpire to completely control a game? When I buy game tickets and merchandise and sit through commericials on YES, that revenue I am providing is for my team to put the best product on the field for my enjoyment. I want that product to decide what happens. I’m not interested in watching one man’s interpretation of the strike zone.
Obviously, this ties into last night’s game, which had some of the worst balls and strikes calls I’ve ever seen – and that’s saying something. In the first four innings, Phil Hughes could not get a called strike to save his life. At one point in an at-bat against JD Drew, he threw drew 5 strikes. Three of them were not even close to being debatable. YES showed us the angles on them. They weren’t “on the black.” They were right over the plate.
What’s really frustating is that these calls led to Hughes getting pulled relatively early and definitely had an impact on the game. I was almost hoping the Yankees would get blown out, just so I could be assured that the bad calls didn’t really mean that much. But the Yankees ended up one hit short, and let’s face it: they could have won that game with a consistent strike zone. Would they have? Who knows. But there is a chance.
I don’t want Jerry Meals deciding how my favorite team’s season plays out. Win or lose, succeed or fail, I want to know it’s the players that do it.
What’s funny is we all wring our hands and get upset over steroids, when that is only potentially affecting the competitive balance between players. Bad umpiring affects the competitive balance of the game itself, and it consequently has a much greater impact on the average fan who watches the game to cheer for his or her team to win.
It’s very depressing to know that most fans would actually oppose the use of technology to regulate the strike zone, when they are the ones who stand to gain. Anyways, I’ll end my rant there, and try to look at some positive from last night:
-Despite what ended up being a somewhat ugly box score line, Phil Hughes looked very strong. His fastball had a ton of life and was consistently in the mid 90s. Obviously he couldn’t get any called strikes, which hurt him, but he also would have benefited from varying his pitches more I think, particularly to Ortiz. Why keep hammering Ortiz with cutters inside when he has a slow bat? Give him the heat.
– Again, I am impressed with the Yankees ability to come back. They fell one hit short last night, but even though things looked dire in the 4th inning, they made a game of it. I think things like that will eventually start to pay dividends.
– Aceves also looked very strong and you have to be pleased, at least at the moment, with the Yankees’ starting pitching depth.
– Those were big homeruns for Teixiera; getting him on track is crucial for the offense, especially if Posada is going to have to spend a large amount of time on the DL.