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Brian Fuentes: The umpires are scared to make calls in Fenway Park

Sep 17, 2009, 10:51 AM EST

Mike Scioscia’s little quip was couched in enough respectful language and humor that he can probably avoid a fine for badmouthing the umps.  Brian Fuentes, however? Not so much:

“Especially here and some other places, they seem timid to make calls. I’ve heard it from other guys that come in here and say that. That’s either because it’s a mistake, or they’re scared.”

I think it’s reasonable to assume that, on occasion, the umpires get caught up in the moment.  They’re human, and it’s understandable that thousands of screaming fans can disrupt one’s judgment on occasion.  I don’t think it’s a situation where the umpires consciously alter their approach for fear of a hostile crowd.  It’s just an environmental thing. I bet they make bad calls when it’s too hot or too cold or the they’re tired or whatever, just like you or I do whenever we’re trying to exercise judgment in sub-optimal conditions.

I don’t buy the “timid” charge, however. If anything, we have crop of umpires these days that err on the side of belligerence as opposed to timidity. There are a lot of guys who want to make themselves part of the game.  A lot of guys who stubbornly adhere to their interpretation of the rules instead of the rules themselves.  If anything, I could see an ump going out of his way to piss off a home crowd before I could see him caving to one.

Of course, you and I can talk about that kind of thing all day if we want.  Brian Fuentes can’t, however, so Fuentes, can probably expect a call from Mr. Watson today.

  1. jeff - Sep 17, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    I agree. I didn’t see the alleged strikes but you see close pitches in every single game in every ballpark that make you think – I would have called that a strike. Fuentes allegations are absurd and he will be fined I suspect. If anything I agree that the umps this year are more on the I am the Ump and I say what goes and I don’t care who you are train of thought – not timid at all.

  2. Malcohm McGregor - Sep 17, 2009 at 11:44 AM

    Close calls are part of the game. Baseball is a game of inches. Sometimes calls don’t go the way we want to see them. To blame umpires for costing a team a victory is just childlike. Fuentes should be fined for his remarks after the game. Face the fact, Fuentes walked Green. When Rivera decided not to go all out on the bloop single by Gonzales, it was Rivera that decided the final outcome of the game.

  3. Marty Foster - Sep 17, 2009 at 12:32 PM

    There are a lot of guys who want to make themselves part of the game. A lot of guys who stubbornly adhere to their interpretation of the rules instead of the rules themselves. If anything, I could see an ump going out of his way to piss off a home crowd before I could see him caving to one.
    This the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read :)

  4. John F - Sep 17, 2009 at 12:59 PM

    Fuentes does come across like a crybaby, but a couple of things; first Green had already fanned once in the at bat…his face told you so after the check swing. No umpire in any park in any game should let a major league take a pitch that close in a one run bases loaded game in the bottom of the ninth. Some have said Green was too hurt to swing, but if that were true he should have told somebody. Either way it doesn’t excuse the umpire from missing the call. Fenway or no Fenway. Pitchtrack, or whatever they call that worthless square they try to judge arbitrary strike zones with even called it a strike. But Scoscia should have substituted Reggie Willits or someone for the lumbering Rivera with a one run lead in the 9th. Rivera didn’t not hustle so much as misjudge the swing Gonzalez took. I thought the ball might hit the wall myself when it left the bat so I can see why he took a step back and failed to catch the ball. The speedy Willits would not have been playing as deep and could have made up that ground in my opinion. Either way Fuentes is an NL closer and the umpire blew the call.

  5. Joe N - Sep 17, 2009 at 1:41 PM

    It happens more then baseball wants to admit. NY and Boston get the calls at home because the Umps fear for their safety. Just go back a few years when some kid during a play-off game reached over into the field of play. Should have been fan interference. Because it was NY, it was a home run. Gutless Ump’s.

  6. Sam - Sep 17, 2009 at 2:21 PM

    Quit whining…..Green’s leg right leg was injured and kept collapsing on him during his at-bat. It collapsed again as he was taking off for first base.
    The Angels have no one but themselves to blame for last night’s loss. Rivera should be questioned as to why he failed to hustle to catch Gonzalez’ game winning hit in the 9th, and as to why he was playing one-step away from the Monster in the first place. Anything hit over his head would bounce off the wall anyway. Stupid move on his part.
    Fuentes has a horrible ERA this past month, something like 5.40 and 16.20 in the last 7 days. I don’t think Fenway Park is his problem.

  7. HOTROD - Sep 17, 2009 at 2:54 PM

    Joe, a few weeks back a ump called Jeter out at third when he was safe, his reason was the ball was there first even though the tag was late , Jeter said he wasn’t aware of the rule change, neither was BASEBALL.Also, the same ump ran A-Rod and Girardi after a questionable strike call.I question that New York and Boston are favored because ” umpires fear their safety”, I do however believe umpires give Veterans calls many Rookies may not get, but I won’t say they are intimidated because of bodily harm- UNLESS YOU ARE A BLUEJAY-. Also, the play you referenced occured in 1996 and yes the ball was not over the fence, as Jeter calls it ” the atta boy play “

  8. Neuro - Sep 17, 2009 at 3:29 PM

    I don’t buy that “too timid to make good calls” line. Occasional bad calls on both sides are part of the game. You just need to deal with it. If the ump was biased then please explain why he didn’t move out of Varitek’s way when the ball got away from him on a strike-3 call. That should have been the 3rd out but instead resulted in two more runs by the Angels.

  9. bh0673 - Sep 17, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    Hotrod you are correct, I have seen many calls go against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium so I don’t feel there is any truth there. I did watch the replay of the Boston/Angels and the first questionable call was the check swing, it does appear Green went too far around so he got the benefit of the call there. The second one was a strike but borderline I can’t blame the UMP there at all.
    The Jeter and A-Rod incident though was one Umpire for both and I do have to question the validity of Marty Foster’s decisions on both. If in fact he is biased against the Yankees then that does need to be addressed, MLB owes the fans at least clarification there. Then there is Angel Hernandez with the fastest ejection call in the world and he has done that too in YAnkee Stadium so I don’t think there is a fear problem but bias or power trips can happen.

  10. Bubber - Sep 17, 2009 at 3:38 PM

    Fuentes comes in to the game with a one run lead. The single at-bat by Nick Green does not explain the other walk and the three hits. It must be nice for Fuentes to be able to blame loaded bases and a game-winning single all on two pitches…

  11. Sam - Sep 17, 2009 at 3:52 PM

    Fuentes just made it harder for himself by blaming umpires for the loss. The next blown save, who is going to get blamed?
    Remember, there is no crying in baseball, Brian.

  12. theobjectiveone - Sep 17, 2009 at 4:11 PM

    They should just implement an electronic balls and strikes system and leave the subjective human interpretation of the strike zone out altogether.

  13. Joey B - Sep 17, 2009 at 4:14 PM

    Neither call was a slamdunk. I think Green went past mid-point on the swing, but I’ve seen 100s of far worse calls than that. Check swing calls might be missed 50% of the time, and this was closer than most. The strike call was a coinflip, more open to the intepretation of an umps strike zone than anything else.
    The idea that an ump is afraid of the crowd is preposterously stupid. Has an ump ever been attacked in modern history? Maybe it was just a very loud crowd that caused him to lose concentration, which might be the same reason why Fuentes lost his concentration. Did any of the umps suggest that Fuentes was afraid?

  14. R. Kenneth - Sep 17, 2009 at 4:33 PM

    I’ve seen this too many times. Boston gets extra help, especially at home.
    Think of this: what if the shoe was on the other foot at Fenway and Papplebon was facing Reggie Willits. Don’t you pretty much assume that Papplebon would get AT LEAST one of those two very questionable calls? You bet he would.

  15. Sam - Sep 17, 2009 at 5:32 PM

    There is no crying in baseball, and there is no proof Boston gets extra help at home, just whining from the other teams and fans. Paps facing Willits? Willits would have gone down swinging….good morning, good afternoon and good night.

  16. Jack Marshall - Sep 17, 2009 at 6:05 PM

    Waddya mean, no umpire “should let a major league take a pitch that close in a one run bases loaded game in the bottom of the ninth.” The strike zone can’t vary according to the situation—it shouldn’t vary at all. The umpire was calling ridiculous low strikes through the 5th, then suddenly stopped. Yes, the umps blew some calls on Green. And Fuentes was lucky Figgins saved his bacon on Lowrie’s smash dwn the line. So what?

  17. Robert Erlenwein - Sep 17, 2009 at 6:51 PM

    If hitting a pitched ball with a baseball bat is the hardest thing to do in all sports, then calling balls and strikes is the 2nd toughest thing. You see blown calls in every game. That indeed was a strike to Green. Just another blown call. Imagine how hard it is to call 90mph balls & strikes at near-knee level when your eyes are well above that plane. But the dropped ball call at second base was correct. Scioscia is a first class whinner. I lost count of how many times he came out and argued in the past two games.

  18. Bruce Driggers - Sep 17, 2009 at 9:53 PM

    Television has changed the way the game is called. Over a period of many years from the mid 1800’s to the 1970’s the flow of the game evolved into a nuanced “understanding” among the participants as to “how things were done”. 30 years ago Jeter was out and NOTHING would have been said. Kellog was correct when he said that that was how things used to be.
    The beauty of baseball is that there are so many unwritten rules that only the true initiate understands. Most fans are unsophisticated about the way the game is supposed to be played and called. They see everything in black and white when baseball is all pretty much shades of gray. For instance, the strike zone should be a little bigger with an 0-2 or 1-2 count. The batter needs to protect and if the umpire thinks that batter is sitting back and waiting for a pitch instead of protecting the plate then he should just go ahead and take a seat on the bench. Another “understanding” used to be that if the ball clearly beats a player to the base and the fielder makes a good effort to lay down the tag, then he’s out. He was for 120 years and the only thing that’s changed is the advent of television and the 24 hour news cycle.
    Why do you think that it takes years and years in the minors to be a MLB ump? The unwritten rules are learned through experience ONLY.
    I know I’ll probably get some grief for this post and thats OK. I’m pretty sure I’m right.

  19. hop - Sep 17, 2009 at 10:14 PM

    Malcohm when Rivera go all out on the bloop single by gonzo? What the heck are you talking about? That might be the dumbest thing i ever heard! Get a clue!

  20. Motherscratcher - Sep 17, 2009 at 11:48 PM

    You should try to read more.

  21. TheDeuce27 - Sep 18, 2009 at 1:55 AM

    Yes, there were horrible calls against the Angels. First with the ump ruling Aybar juggled the ball at second, then with the check swing call, and finally that 3-2 pitch that was strike three. Most batters get rung up on that check swing, and the ump had been calling low strikes all day, so why the change? There was definitely some home-town favoritism there, But to be honest, it’s really just the home field advantage. The Angels get the same advantages in their ballpark.
    All that being said, the Angels can only blame themselves in the loss. You cant let a few bad calls get to you. They are part of baseball. The Angels had the bases loaded a couple times and didn’t score. Fuentes got a ground ball that would have ended the game if it was just one foot more to the second base side. Lowry’s smash to third was misplayed by Figgins. It seems like he was lucky to knock it down, but any Angel fan has seen Figgins make this play in his sleep. If he makes that play, game over. I don’t think either team is too thrilled with that game. seeing as how they both blew late-inning leads.

  22. TheDeuce27 - Sep 18, 2009 at 1:56 AM

    Yes, there were horrible calls against the Angels. First with the ump ruling Aybar juggled the ball at second, then with the check swing call, and finally that 3-2 pitch that was strike three. Most batters get rung up on that check swing, and the ump had been calling low strikes all day, so why the change? There was definitely some home-town favoritism there, But to be honest, it’s really just the home field advantage. The Angels get the same advantages in their ballpark.
    All that being said, the Angels can only blame themselves in the loss. You cant let a few bad calls get to you. They are part of baseball. The Angels had the bases loaded a couple times and didn’t score. Fuentes got a ground ball that would have ended the game if it was just one foot more to the second base side. Lowry’s smash to third was misplayed by Figgins. It seems like he was lucky to knock it down, but any Angel fan has seen Figgins make this play in his sleep. If he makes that play, game over. I don’t think either team is too thrilled with that game. seeing as how they both blew late-inning leads.

  23. TheDeuce27 - Sep 18, 2009 at 2:11 AM

    I have to also add that in the case of balls and strikes, it has something to do with how the pitcher has performed in the recent past. Fuentes has struggled lately, so he’s less likely to get the call. Pappelbon, for instance has been lights out. There’s no way he DOESN”T get that call. And Beckett, one of the leagues premiere pitchers, was getting that call throughout the game.

  24. TheDeuce27 - Sep 18, 2009 at 2:16 AM

    I have to also add that in the case of balls and strikes, it has something to do with how the pitcher has performed in the recent past. Fuentes has struggled lately, so he’s less likely to get the call. Pappelbon, for instance has been lights out. There’s no way he DOESN”T get that call. And Beckett, one of the leagues premiere pitchers, was getting that call throughout the game.

  25. Bobby Townsend - Sep 18, 2009 at 3:03 PM

    The umpire made the correct call at 2nd base ruling that Aybar never had possession of the ball.

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