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Sox-Angels ump admits to being fooled; poor judgment; and making makeup calls

Sep 18, 2009, 9:50 AM EDT

Yesterday we debated whether or not umpires react to crowd noise and stuff like that. Today comes evidence that other subjective factors color their calls as well:

Rick Reed acknowledged Thursday that his ball-four call on a
ninth-inning pitch by Angels closer Brian Fuentes to Nick Green on
Wednesday night “very well could have been a strike” . . . Reed said that on that final pitch to Green, Mike Napoli’s actions led
him to call it a ball after the Angels catcher tried to frame the
knee-high pitch . . . “The catcher did a nice job of bringing it up,
and that was a telling blow. If a catcher moves his glove, it’s to
improve the pitch.”

Anyone who has watched a lot of baseball knows this on some level, but it is odd to hear an umpire acknowledge that the catcher’s framing of the pitch and body language actually influences the call so directly.  Here’s some more evidence that the old conventional wisdom regarding umpires is true:

“I called a [strike] earlier in the game that I thought was low, and I
said, ‘I’m not going to let that happen again.’ I wish they were all
waist-high. They’d be a lot easier to judge.”

The old makeup call. Something umps — and football refs — claim never occurs. Again, we all knew it, but it’s quite a thing to hear an umpire admit it.

  1. Leon - Sep 18, 2009 at 11:05 AM

    I saw Wednesday nights game & I thought it ws the correct call. Thursday night I saw the pitch again & if you look at the knees of the gatter you will see from the pitchers mound it ws below the knee line. As an umpire you can only see the top, & inside corners of the strike zone in focus at one time so you have to call the bottom & outside from experience. You should know that when you see two objects at the same time the closest one is in focus untill you look at the other. Which ever one you look at the other is out of focus. These umpires practice continously in a cage with digital screens imiaging to bring their accuracy to a vry hich level. Normally over 90% accuracy! Be my guest to try a 97mph fastball, don’t blink, get blocked out, or influenced by a catcher who constantly frames even good pitches. Easier said than done. How would fans like it if umpires call pitches from their seats?
    I am an offical for Softball, Baseball, Football, & Basketball this is a very unforgiving job at any level.
    Officals make mistakes, but we love the game. Or why take the abuse?
    Loving the Game!!!!

  2. ralphdibny - Sep 18, 2009 at 11:07 AM

    He didn’t admit to a make-up call. A make-up call is when an umpire purposely makes a call he knows is incorrect in order to compensate for an earlier missed call. Reed is saying that he made a mistake earlier in the game, and then tried to learn from that mistake. Isn’t that what he is supposed to do?

  3. ralphdibny - Sep 18, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    He didn’t admit to a make-up call. A make-up call is when an umpire purposely makes a call he knows is incorrect in order to compensate for an earlier missed call. Reed is saying that he made a mistake earlier in the game, and then tried to learn from that mistake. Isn’t that what he is supposed to do?

  4. EDW1935 - Sep 18, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    He did all night on Lowell.

  5. kczsjohnson - Sep 18, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    A strike is determined when the pitch crosses any part of the plate not where the catcher catches the pitch. I work for and view the pitch fx throughout the game. Major league pitches have so much movement that a catcher will catch a pitch at a point thatis well out of the strike zone, but when it crossed the plate it was a strike.

  6. bjackson - Sep 18, 2009 at 12:31 PM

    As a catcher who played ball all the way through college, you dont go 0-2 and watch 5 pitches go by. Its an unwritten rule that your swinging on anything close..especially that late in the game. This guy deserved to be rung up on being a candy ass alone. Not to mention the ball was a clear strike. Im not talking your standard strike zone as defined in the rule book. Im talking your strikezone implemented by MLB umps. Their strike zone is a complete joke, but if your going to use it USE IT.

  7. SK - Sep 18, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    I’ve watched a lot of baseball in my time and after seeing replay after replay of the pitches in question, they should have been called strikes. It should make no difference where the catcher sets up or catches the ball or whether he moves during the wind up and delivery, it’s where the ball crosses the plate. It is up to the umpire to set up so he can see the plate at all times.

  8. Skiddy - Sep 18, 2009 at 1:17 PM

    I am too Leon, and well said. Everyone should try it sometime.

  9. Red Sox fans cry - Sep 18, 2009 at 1:35 PM

    That was so clearly a Red Sox loss!!! you are a homer. I have not heard an honest assessment ever from a Red Sox fan. You guys are a disgrace.

  10. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Sep 18, 2009 at 1:37 PM

    Um, whether the count is 0-0, 0-1 or 0-2, you shouldn’t swing just because the count isn’t in your favor. If the pitcher throws 5 balls (well technically 4), then you should take them.

  11. Johnny - Sep 18, 2009 at 2:12 PM

    LOL @ all the pink hat apologists. It’s so funny reading the comments from these 2004 and up fans. Clearly, the most unintelligent “fans” in the world.

  12. Wayne - Sep 18, 2009 at 2:43 PM

    All these boo-hooer’s must be yankee fans. Who by the way get the most home cooking calls of any team in any sport

  13. Paul - Sep 18, 2009 at 2:55 PM

    why dont they put the umpire in press box calling balls n strikes that way he can focus on entire strike zone. otherwise it happens all the time so stop complaining and play the game

  14. Celtic55 - Sep 18, 2009 at 4:07 PM

    The bottom line is that this happens all the time……but the best thing is that the red sox WON…….

  15. Melanie - Sep 18, 2009 at 4:29 PM

    I do realize that you are used to being patted on the bottom by most major news outlets since you are a part of red sox ‘nation’, but the truth is you guys lost. Oh, and not everyone in the world is a Yankee or Red Sox fan, there IS baseball outside of those 2 cities, ya know?

  16. bounty - Sep 18, 2009 at 5:05 PM

    Replay like football. Most calls it will not matter, but on a game changer, we can take 3 min to double check. Give each team 1 or 2 reviews a game.
    Or get over it, and hope you get a better call tomorrow.

  17. Steve - Sep 18, 2009 at 5:18 PM

    Reed clearly did not say it was a make up call. Craig, perhaps you should work on your reading comprehension skills.

  18. Steeeeeev - Sep 18, 2009 at 5:19 PM

    It’s a known fact that in any sport, when you play on the road, you have to devise a way to defeat not only the other team, but their fans, and the definite influence their fans can have on the officiating. There is no question that the majority of calls that drop right square on the fence and really could go either way usually fall the way of the home team. That is part of the home field advantage, and it is tougher to overcome in some venues than others. Every visiting professional should be completely aware that this can and will probably happen at least once before the game even starts, and be emotionally prepared for it. In my opinion, the most important thing for a visitor to do when it happens is to remain professional, demonstrate sportsmanship, and most importantly, not to get rattled and lose composure, to stay focused on the game and performing well. Usually a valid grievance, if aired in a businesslike manner, will indeed be addressed with a “make up call” or, strangely enough, a lucky twist will remedy an unfair situation and swing the momentum towards the visitors. There is definitely karma in sports… I have seen it. But winning on the road is all about composure and professionalism on the part of the visiting team.

  19. neuro - Sep 18, 2009 at 6:42 PM

    Sounds like Leon is the one who is crying. Occasional bad calls on both sides are a part of the game. Pull your diapers up, wipe your eyes and get over it. BTW, I’ll agree the check swing and ball four on Green in the 9th were bad calls but according to you, that’s not an honest assessment because I’m a Red Sox fan.

  20. smsetnor - Sep 18, 2009 at 7:04 PM

    I’ve missed plenty of calls (I mostly do basketball) where I’ve said to myself, alright, bad play. I’m not going to mess that one up again. It’s not a make-up call. It’s getting focused.

  21. Wayne - Sep 19, 2009 at 11:37 AM

    First of all I never said I was a part of Red Sox nation.
    Second; the score board said other wise.
    And finally; these guys, whether they wear blue or stripes have a hard enough job as it it, they certainly don’t need to hear from the other 35,000 or so umpires/referee’s in attendance at these games. And as far as a manager or anyone else seeing it from the dugout, not a one of them can tell location on a pitch, at most the only thing they can determine is the height of the pitch. Bottom line is neither you, I or anyone else in this blog is making money playing these games, unless of course you are wagering on the game. And if so, well that’s another story for another time

  22. Frank - Sep 19, 2009 at 1:49 PM

    I was surprised to see an umpire crew like the one used for such an important series. Timmons and Reed are 2 of the worse among a list of umpires who should not be in the “bigs.” If players can be sent back to the minors to hone their skills, or be released, why not umpires? when was the last time you heard of a major league umpire being fired or sent back to the minors?

  23. Skip - Sep 19, 2009 at 4:29 PM

    If you want to talk about bad ball/strike calling. I’ve been watching a narrow strike zone for both Pedroia and Ortiz for a couple of years. With those two guys, if it ain’t down broadway, it ain’t a strike.

  24. jtbwriter - Sep 19, 2009 at 7:36 PM

    I’m glad it’s finally out there-the Sox crowds indimidate the heck out of the Umpires and they react accordingly. Reed finally admitted the truth about “even-ing calls out”. No way the Angels
    lose that game with objective umpiring. The worst thing-Bob Watson and the MLB office will only get off the duffs and do something if enough of us call for Congress to look at anti-trust
    legislation and how much MLB gets away with bending the law. Maybe then we’ll see some umpires being disciplined!

  25. Mui Nida - Jan 20, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    Your post piqued my interest. Please give us a more indepth post if you get a chance.

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