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Former MLB VP of umpiring rips Bobby Valentine but sounds kinda insane himself

Jun 13, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT

Washington Nationals v Boston Red Sox Getty Images

Bobby Valentine went on the other day about how umpires can’t get ball and strike calls right and suggested that maybe it’s time for the robots to take over. He was particularly mad at Alan Porter, the ump from Sunday’s Nats-Red Sox game.

Today former MLB VP in charge of umpiring Mike Port blasted Valentine, saying that he was blaming the umps for his team’s poor performance:

Is Bobby Valentine whining too much about the umpires?

“Yes. Precisely. I would admit my bias only knowing what I do about umpiring. Bobby’s a good baseball man and he knows the game well and he’s a good manager, but I think we all at one time or another fall prey to looking for others. It’s almost a societal thing — who can we blame? I can promise you that those in the military who are successful in their endeavors don’t go that way. They go on a no excuses basis. When I saw Bobby’s comments about the game Sunday, June 10th and the umpiring, correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t that the game where the Red Sox surrendered a two run lead? Where one player misplayed a ball allowing a run to score? Where they had another player strike out four times and ultimately where they couldn’t score more runs than the opposition. Were all of those guys named Alan Porter?

Kind of a sick burn, I’ll give him that. But it doesn’t change the fact that umpiring could stand to be improved. And Port sounds both retrograde and crazy when he was asked about whether the technology exists that could get the calls correct.

In response to automated ball and strike calls he asks says “perhaps we could go to the robot hitter and the robot pitcher …”  In response to a question about putting chips in balls to allow them to transmit whether they are fair or foul, he suggests that its possible for the home team to jam the freaking signals. Or for home team broadcast trucks to purposefully avoid getting shots of plays that could, on replay, disadvantage the home team.

So, sure, maybe Port is right about Valentine. But he also sounds like a guy who is predisposed to make whatever insane defense of human umpires he can think of if it means not changing the world with which he is familiar.

  1. madtolive5 - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    I heard this live.
    He didn’t come across as crazy at all.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:12 PM

      So you think the suggestion that home teams may jam the radar signals coming from baseballs containing microchips is the first, sane, front-line objection to technology assisting umpires?

      • deathmonkey41 - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:51 PM

        Jesus Christ, Craig. Haven’t you ever seen Terminator? If we start putting chips in baseballs, eventually they’re going to become intelligent and turn on us! You won’t need any old school pitchers to throw at cocky young batters, they will decide themselves who should be hit!

      • myopinionisgarbage - Jun 13, 2012 at 4:24 PM

        Why not? I’m POSITIVE the Astros used to turn on the AC when the other team was hitting (in the Astrodome). I mean, you could just feel it. I don’t know if it helped at all, but it sure doesn’t give me any faith that they wouldn’t do something equally ridiculous with technology. Haven’t teams been reprimanded for stealing signs and been accused of messing up bullpen phones, etc.?

  2. The Dangerous Mabry - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    So he’s suggesting that fans would prefer a situation where they had terrible views of the game, knowing that it meant their team was trying to prevent umpires from making a correct call? Further, how could a team possibly know that getting a good angle would hurt them, but couldn’t help them? Isn’t it just as likely that an umpire could err in either direction, calling a foul ball fair or a fair ball foul? How then, is some television camera operator supposed to know which particular error is about to get made? And if he does, how can I get him to come to Vegas with me?

    This is just insanity. There’s simply no situation where a team could know that preventing a correct call would help them, until after the bad call had been made, and therefore after the “evidence” had already been collected.

    • mcsnide - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:26 PM

      Here’s the relevant quote (yeah, i know, who reads the articles?):

      Let me rephrase it rhetorically can the home team in their broadcast truck not allow to go down the line a view that might be disadvantageous to the home team if it is going to be a home run boundary call?

      While I’m in favor of replay, that’s a very real concern, and one that bit the NHL in the ass: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/breaking/fsn-pittsburgh-employee-suspended-in-goal-replay-flap-228275/ This can obviously be avoided with proper controls, but it’s not as though there’s not precedent for this very thing Port is concerned about.

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:31 PM

        But how does the home team know if the call is going to be right or wrong before they take that view? Or is he saying that once the shots have been recorded, the home team could then doctor the footage to remove it?

      • The Dangerous Mabry - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:37 PM

        It’s probably also worth noting that if the view isn’t available (whether due to poor camerawork or shenanigans in the broadcast truck), you simply end up with what we have without replay.

        Now yes, in a world of perfect corruption, the only calls that would be overturned would be those that were bad calls that hurt the home team, but the NHL example shows pretty clearly that these things can and will be policed. Most people working a broadcast job probably aren’t going to hide footage in hopes of maybe getting a bad call that favored a baseball team to stick when they know their entire career is on the line. The risk/reward is just awful.

      • mcsnide - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:54 PM

        My reading of his view is that he’s concerned about the type of thing that happened in Pittsburgh (“not allow to go down the line a view that might be disadvantageous”). Any other reading doesn’t really make sense. Unless you seriously think he’s afraid the home team might use ESP to prevent the wrong camera angle. Which, I suppose, considering some of the other nutty stuff he said, is possible. Just seems like there’s plenty of other stuff to take issue with on his comments without jumping on this one. As we’ve both said, this can be fixed, but it is something to be aware of.

      • sabatimus - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:40 PM

        True, but the network for the team that gets disadvantaged by the initial call and wants an official umpire replay powow will probably (assuming corruption) reveal every angle it thinks will help their cause and limit those that don’t. This, when combined with the opposing team’s network’s replays, should ameliorate or eliminate this problem.

  3. brewcitybummer - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    But he cited the troops. You can’t argue with him now unless you hate the troops, Craig.

  4. normcash - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    I don’t know whether umpiring is worse now than in previous years. One problem they have now
    is that every game is televised in HD with super-slow motion replays. What does bother me is
    that so many umps don’t call rule book strikes and balls. They all seem to have “personal
    strike zones”. When was the last time a MLB umpire was not retained after a season? Anybody
    know?

  5. The Dangerous Mabry - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    On another note, I think this guy obviously misses the point when he says things like:

    “But is that what you want the game to be? From there perhaps we could go to the robot hitter and the robot pitcher such as a professor over in Japan has indeed invented and enhance the game by putting the ball in play frequently.”

    To explain what should be obvious to Mr. Port, fans aren’t paying to attend ballgames and watching them on television in order to enjoy the skillful play of an umpire, or see how that new umpire is going to handle his first game at Wrigley Field, or to see if their favorite umpiring crew had a good day. They’re watching baseball to see the players, and the role of the umpire is simply to facilitate play. If there’s another way to facilitate play that enables fans to continue watching their favorite teams of players, and removes discussion of whether the game was properly facilitated, that’s only helpful to the fans.

    In a nutshell: Players are the spectacle. Umpires are not. Replacing players removes the spectacle. Replacing umpires does not.

    • cur68 - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:31 PM

      And that, ultimately, is my problem with Port: he thinks he’s part of the game. Robot upire equals robot baseball to him. And that’s just not so. A video ump would vastly improve things. He needs to get a grip on that.

  6. mullman7675 - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    The umpires days are numbered. So tired of the belt high fastball being called a ball- the zone needs to be consistent, not personal. The umpires are struggling, again.

    • bloodysock - Jun 13, 2012 at 2:49 PM

      Bobby’s days are numbered before the umpires.

  7. Jack Marshall - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    There is no reason in the world not to have an umpire in the booth empowered to over-rule clearly erroneous calls, including ball and strike calls. The Red Sox lost a game on a hit by a batter who had already had 4 strikes….earlier this season, Cody Ross was called out to end the game with the tying runners on, on a pitch about 8 inches outside the strike zone. That other things contributed to such losses is a rationalization. Valentine has a legitimate beef. That’s not acceptable, and nobody should pretend it is.

  8. cjn728 - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:13 PM

    We’re letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. They argue that the computers aren’t 100 percent accurate so we can’t do it. So we get 85 percent accurate rather than 99 percent accurate. If we need tradition, keep the blueshirts back there and put an earpiece in their ear that tells them what to call. It would blow their minds how ofter they are wrong.

    There should also be an umpire in the booth as the official scorer (impartial), working replays and making sure the strike zone machine doesn’t go haywire.

    That said, I hate to agree with Bobby Valentine.

  9. aclassyguyfromaclassytown - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    He kinda comes across as a guy trying to sell VHS tapes outside of a best buy. “VHS isn’t a thing of the past, it’s a thing of the future!”. I kinda look forward to being able to tell my daughter about how there were once umpires that actually made decisions on the field, cause I don’t know how much longer Bud can hold off the inevitable. I’m actually pretty indifferent on whether or not they should stick with Umps or replace them. Just seems like things change with time, so it’s only a matter of time before the change is made.

  10. skids003 - Jun 13, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    Instead of robot umpires to call balls and strikes, how about robot anagers to call the shots. Bet Bobby V screws up more than the umps.

  11. Victor's Secret - Jun 13, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    “Maybe it’s just society,” says former Red Sox GM and MLB VP in charge of umpiring Mike Port.

  12. theskinsman - Jun 14, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    I say use the technology available to call balls and strikes. Umpires have gotten far beyond doing their job, and seem more interested in being part of the entertainment.
    Having balls and strikes called correctly for a change still won’t stop Umps with PMS throwing out managers/players who dare grouse about a bad call from the dugout, or calling a strike on a batter who they deem excessively slow getting back to the batters box.

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