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Comment of the Day: blown calls are part of the game

Apr 6, 2010, 11:15 AM EDT

Our friend Old Gator has made a disturbing (or refereshing, depending on your point of view) transition into lucidity since the season started. This morning he had some interesting things to say about the whole replay thing. The upshot: bad calls by umpires are plays that happen in games just like groundouts and unassisted triple plays. And that baseball is better for it:

In short, the blown call transforms the game from some boring and invariable Newtonian process to a Heisenbergian quantum universe wherein anything can and does happen, sometimes simultaneously. God doesn’t play dice with the universe? Well, it’s been proven that he does. Umpires should inflect our cutting edge knowledge of the universe and play dice with the game.

That quote is a bit cute, sure, but I think Gator is serious in his umpires-are-part-of-the-fabric-of-the-game argument and the couple of paragraphs before the blockquote actually make a pretty good case for it. Not sure if I buy it, but I think what Gator is on about is what people are really referring to when they talk about “the human element.” I usually dismiss that argument, but I think I do that mostly because it’s not a typically well-constructed argument. Gator does better with it.

  1. YX - Apr 6, 2010 at 11:38 AM

    Human elements are fine.
    Excuses against trying to improve are not.
    “the maleness”

  2. YankeesfanLen - Apr 6, 2010 at 11:55 AM

    I, as well, appreciated blown calls as long as they weren’t from the “wasn’t watching” variety.
    Of course any that go against the Universe are always suspect.

  3. Charles Gates - Apr 6, 2010 at 12:02 PM

    This is an issue where I haven’t yet picked a side. Not in the strategic Switzerland way, but moreso in the ‘I just haven’t quite made up my mind yet’ sort of way.
    Old Gator seems to say, ‘If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it.’ The umpires are part of the game, and therefore, any judgement showing variance from what actuaually happened is to be expected, if not cherished. I can’t say I buy into this. Jeffrey Maier’s gift to Derek Jeter, above Tony Tarasco’s I-was-going-to-catch-it bewildered eyes demonstrates that it can break. And that happened with an extra two umpires on the field.
    Perhaps it’s a product of my generation, shorter in the teeth than Old Gator’s, but technology usage isn’t a bad thing. When Old Gator was Young Gator and learning to love baseball, we didn’t have the ability to remedy an umpire’s error. Now we do. Why shouldn’t we? The easiest way to spot a bad person is business is when you ask them why they do something a certain way, they respond, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it.’
    Now, I hate the slippery slope argument. But I find it applicable to instant replay in baseball. Now it’s fair/foul and homerun/off the top of the wall. Next maybe it’ll be short-hop or clean catch, safe on the stolen base attempt or out? After that, maybe Quest-Tec will replace the homeplate umpire in his (or hopefully her, someday) entirety. I believe Old Gator would say that baseball would have lost the something that makes it magical if this were to happen. But I, for the life of me, can’t figure out what that something is. Is it a nuance that makes the game truely interesting? Or a tradition, one that we’ve evolved from and should be retired. I’m not sure. I fear, though, that we won’t find out until we’ve taken one too many steps implementing instant replay, and that the damage will be irreversible.
    Perhaps this also comes down to your mindset regarding baseball. If you see baseball as ‘a game grown men play,’ then you might be more inclined to accept more of the human element in regards to umpiring. If you see baseball as an entertainment based business, then it’s hard to rationalize the financial risk associated with blown calls. When a World Series berth gives your team millions in revenue, how can you just throw your hands in the air and say, ‘Oh well, blown calls are part of the game?’

  4. Megary - Apr 6, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    Craig, frankly I wish you would stop feeding the animals…
    I’ve also come to believe that there really isn’t any such “Old Gator”, but rather this persona is just your made up alter ego used in times of low traffic. That you even went so far as to make up a “Chance Meeting” with yourself and post it here for all to believe only solidifies my theory.
    But to the point, for one to argue that blown calls add to the fabric of the game is to further suggest that baseball is not a game of reality but simply a different version of Vince McMahon’s wrestling. Henceforth, future Spring Training drills will not only consist of PFP’s and infield, but players practicing the art of throwing salt in the umpire’s eyes, Mr. Fuji style, whenever appropriate.

  5. Andy L - Apr 6, 2010 at 12:55 PM

    I have difficulty believing that Old Gator can really exist as a person. His comments are well-crafted and funny, but I rarely read all of them because they are LOOOOONG. What type of person spends the time necessary to make a poignant, well-articulated point on a subject in 500 words or more when practically no one will read it? Surely someone who liked writing to that degree would want to have a blog to talk about it rather than putting it in a comment where Craig Calcaterra and 10 other people might ever see it.
    I come not to make fun, but to try and understand.

  6. MrMagoo - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:04 PM

    Isn’t it interesting to say that baseball is better because of blown calls, very odd. For me personally, I hate blown calls. I want to jump out on the field or into the TV set and grab the umpire by the neck. It makes me think that the umpires have something else on their minds other than making the right decision. What could that be. The umpires are supposed to be professionals and get paid a lot of money. If someone can’t get enough enjoyment out of watching a well officiated game then maybe he should take up watching something else, such as wrestling. In order to get pissed off about blown calls and other mistakes that are made a fan has to have a genuine passion for the game. If you are looking for comic relief, try watching the mascots or some other place.

  7. Young Croc - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    Everything evolves. I believe Old Gator is correct, for himself. He’s chosen a version of the game that is perfect for himself. That game seems to be the pre-1970’s version. Or maybe there are parts that Old Gator likes from the more recent version, the Wild Card or interleague play. The point is, sorry to tell you, there is no perfect version of the game for everyone.
    The sport is going to change, and with each change, some will say it’s great and others will hate it.
    I think the perfect Darwinian change to baseball is the DH. When there is something so useless, such as a pitcher attempting to hit, extinction is the answer.
    I, for one, want to see the version of baseball that no longer uses umpires. Maybe when it happens, I won’t like it. But that may be because blown calls aren’t expected and the absence of them isn’t tangible enough to appreciate the fact that they’re not there.
    I think I will like it because the people playing the game get exactly what the deserve based on what they actually did on the field.
    My perfect evolutionary scenario for yesterday would be that Nate McClouth would want to and be allowed to say, “Hey Blue, I dropped that one, he’s safe”, and that would be that.

  8. Charles Gates - Apr 6, 2010 at 1:07 PM

    His comments are well-crafted and funny, but I rarely read all of them because they are LOOOOONG.
    Says more about you than him.

  9. Horatio - Apr 6, 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Yeah, I’m not sure what it is I’m supposed to be getting out of “the human element” as it relates to umpires. There’s plenty of humanity on display – the players are human and they’re the ones doing the things on the field that I care about. The umpires are there only to keep things moving (we need something to be making decisions as things happen). I still haven’t heard a good argument as to why we should accept not using the technology we have available to get things closer to right. Blown calls suck, we can obviously do better, and that MLB hasn’t been more aggressive about addressing this is a real shame.

  10. Curious George - Apr 6, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    I agree. The “human element” on display by the players introduces enough variability to adequately spice things up. Blown calls do not further enhance matters. To me, a perfect umpire would be 100% correct (hah!) and operate with the uncharismatic efficiency of a Swiss watch.

  11. Ross - Apr 6, 2010 at 3:04 PM

    Think of how awesome that Buerhle play was yesterday. That one will stand as one of the great defensive plays in all of baseball. Now think of what happens to it if the 1st base ump blew the call.
    (Seeking Glenmore)

  12. JoeK - Apr 6, 2010 at 3:31 PM

    Terrible argument. Dying of a bacterial infection is just part of the fabric of life…..unless man discovers antibiotics. As a Twins fan who watched Joe Mauer’s clear double against the Yankees get called foul in the ALDS this argument is especially stupid. I think some calls are judgment calls that replays don’t always clear up. However, obvious blown calls do ruin the game when the rest of us can see plain as day a mistake on the field. If we can eliminate those obvious calls, we should.

  13. Luis - Apr 6, 2010 at 3:45 PM

    It’s still a ridiculous argument, and a fundamentally flawed one (false equivalency, etc.). But I have to admit, the guy dresses it up pretty nicely.
    Seriously though, to echo the sentiments of a previous poster…this is like the 2nd or 3rd time you’ve dedicated a blog post to one of your homeboy’s comments. WTF dude…this crush is really getting out of hand.

  14. Ron Rollins - Apr 6, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    Says right in the rulebook that umpires are part of the playing field. That’s one of the fundamental rules of baseball. So, in the beginning, the powers that be understood that umpires can and will affect game by thier presence.
    Just like a rock on the field causes a bad hop, and wind and rain affect the outcome of a game. Anyone who wants to supress one artifically (instant replay) should also be calling for domes and artificial turf in all stadiums.
    If you’re not doing that, you’re just cherry-picking one element of cause-and-effect on the outcome of the game, and not looking at the entire problem.
    Most likely because you’re a product of the mass-media age, you’ve let ESPN brainwash you into believing whatever they preach is correct, and you think Twitter is a life-style choice, and not an irritating form of communication.
    Bottom-line is, umpires are part of the playing field, always have been, and always should be. If you use instant replay, should the ‘umpires interference’ rule also be taken out? But what do you do then? A do-over?

  15. Luis - Apr 6, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Wow. That’s just terrible. Terrible.
    The umpires’ physical presence and their propensity for human error are two completely different things. You’re using a rule about physical properties to back up an argument about judgment and decision-making. Talk about cherry-picking. Christ.

  16. Ron - Apr 6, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    Whenever someone uses the argument “that’s two completely different things” and can’t provide anything to back it up, that tells me that I’ve made my point.
    You’re just telling me I’m wrong without even providing any evidence to say I’m wrong, which means you are going to turn a blind eye to any other opinion beyond your own.
    By the way, by what defintion do you say that “judgement and decision-making’ are not a physical property. It’s been proven many times that thought is triggered by the firing of snyapes in the brain. Seems like a physical thing to me?

  17. Ron - Apr 6, 2010 at 5:12 PM

    Little misfire there. Go ahead and insert your own joke/insult.

  18. Luis - Apr 6, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    Are you just being facetious? You must be being facetious.
    I really hope you’re being facetious.

  19. CharlieH - Apr 6, 2010 at 8:21 PM

    Yes, umpires are part of the game, unfortunately. I don’t watch the games for the umpires, and if possible, I would like to see them eliminated alltogether. That’s not possible. They make mistakes. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be judged by their mistakes. That doesn’t mean that if their mistakes could be corrected that baseball shouldn’t take advantage of any kind of technology that corrects thoe mistakes. Some of the calls these umpires make are complete !#%*. And some of these umpires are so bad that ^%(* ^$#%.

  20. Old Gator - Apr 6, 2010 at 9:20 PM

    I have mass and extension (not to brag or anything) and, in simple physical terms, that qualifies me as real in three dimensions. I have a certain degree of familiarity with other dimensions as well, but hey, I was a sixties kid.
    FYI I’m well published under the name I was cursed with at birth, and under one or two noms-de-plume as well. Matter of fack Craig’s got one of my books…or at least he had one last time I saw him. For all I know he handed it to the first homeless beggar who came up to his car at an intersection in central Florida a few days later. Might’ve even been Jermaine Dye. Think of these messages as my “cool down” from the heavy lifting of my serious work.
    But here’s something to think about: I save every one of these little tirades for future applications. At the moment I’m collaborating with several colleagues on a book of essays on movies
    about food (a hot dog with mustard? Hey Eddie, my kid is as smart as a whip), with my job writing the introductory essay and then directly tackling Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover and Como agua para chocolat. After that, it’ll be…aww, you know what’s coming, don’t you? Wait’ll you see me discuss steroids, corked bats and pine tar in relation to It Happens Every Spring.

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