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Umpire Marty Foster owns up to his awful strike call in the Rays-Rangers game

Apr 9, 2013, 8:22 AM EDT

Joe Nathan strike 2

This is the best you can hope for when a call is totally bungled. Evan Grant reports the postgame comments of umpire Marty Foster:

“I saw the pitch and, of course I don’t have the chance to do it again, but if I did, I wouldn’t call that pitch a strike,” Foster said after the game. “Joe was not violent. Joe was very professional. He was frustrated and I understand. He acted probably the best he can under that situation.”

Bad calls suck, but at least these days the guys who make them tend to own up after the fact.

  1. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    You know what’s better than owning up to a bad call? Correcting it with the help of 3 seconds worth or replay. I doubt replay will ever extend to balls and strikes, but the state of umpiring tech vs. the technology the average fan has at home is making these guys look like fools. I am not blaming the umpires. MLB has failed to provide them with the tools they need to succeed, then left them as the lightening rods to draw all of the criticism.

    • indaburg - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:42 AM

      He didn’t even have to check with the other umps. He could’ve just asked Nathan. If he had noticed Nathan mouthing “wow” and laughing after that at bat, the ump would have known he missed the call. The pitcher has the best view and the most vested interesting in getting that called a strike, and even he couldn’t keep a poker face.

      • stex52 - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:49 AM

        I’ll bet last night is as mad as I will see you get all season, Inda. Bummer that a bad call clinches a game. All these cameras on every play is what is going to drive the change to technology-assisted umping. Everybody gets to see every mistake.

      • indaburg - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM

        I went to bed angry. I woke up angry. I think I even dreamt angry. I’ll get over it. Just not today.

    • heyblueyoustink - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:51 AM

      “Correcting it with the help of 3 seconds worth or replay.”

      It would never be as simple as 3 seconds, many strike zones are judgement calls. Enough people complain about four hour games as it is. could you imagine what this would do to the pace?

      “MLB has failed to provide them with the tools they need to succeed”

      Maybe they should replace them with some sort of robotic tracking system then? No umpire behind the plate whatsoever?

      Balls and strikes are a part of then game, as is the human element of borderline calls and bad calls. They have them in every sport, but at what point are we overanalyzing these sorts of things? Or, like I said, would you replace the umps with a technological ball/strike system? Sensors in the catcher’s mitt in relation to a programmed strike zone adjusted for each player’s stature as they came to the plate?

      Personally, i’d rather ole blue back there, so I can razz the hell out of them when I percieve they are in error. Over a hundred years of baseball and ultimately, isn’t that one of the finer points of the game?

      • alang3131982 - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:02 AM

        Do you watch tennis? How does the technology they use for line (in/out) calls not exist for a strike zone? Maybe it wont be the five seconds that it is in tennis, but if it takes 1 minute, it’ll still be faster than arguing managers. The only reason tehre wasnt a lengthy delay after this call was that it ended teh game. had it come in the middle of the game, Madden would have been thrown out and the game would have run longer than had their been replay.

      • Francisco (FC) - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:28 AM

        Maybe some form of replay could apply to a ball four or a strike 3 call that has the potential to end the game.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:51 AM

        I don’t know/ Let’s ask Armando Galarraga how awesome the “human element” is. The problem is that the fan at home can see 7 replays before the manager walks across the field to argue with the ump. We are not saving time. We only ensure that correctable mistakes are not corrected.

        I would say that getting potentially significant calls correct is more important than you getting to razz ol’ blue. In fact, you can still razz him all you want; maybe even more so when many calls are reversed.

        Yes, mistakes happen in all sports, and most have allowed technology into the game to fix the mistakes and get the calls right.

      • heyblueyoustink - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:56 AM

        See, FC, you make a good point there. I could get behind something like that. But, to have replay available carte blanche available on every close ball and strike would extend the game and interrupt the tempo, all in a time where they are trying to speed the game up.

        Alan, bad calls are made every game but you don’t see managers arguing every game, at least not from outside the griping that comes from inside the dugout.

        One minute for every questionalble ball and strike, I can’t imagine players and or managers taking advantage of that one! /s

    • cur68 - Apr 9, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      Its as simple as a cell phone, really. Something the ump holds in his hand. These guys have clickers for balls and strikes, right? Replace that with a big screen type cell phone (a Galaxy, maybe). Still works like a clicker but its also fed the pitch track data. A quick glance, they see what we see: where the ball crossed the plate, if it did at all, each pitch numbered. The end. No more arguing. Everyone wins. Manager comes to argue, is shown the pitch track, sits down. Batter starts to bitch, and repeat: sits down. Umpire wins every argument. Why? Because he’s always right because he CAN be always right. Same rules apply as the appeal to the base ump on a check swing: HP ump doesn’t HAVE to consult the pitch track, or show it to anyone, but he has the means, right there in his hand, to prove his case IF he’s right. If he’s unsure he can give the screen a quick glance and get it right. Balls on the corners are still his judgement, but all else, he need never be wrong like this again.

      • bigharold - Apr 9, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        “Its as simple as a cell phone, really.”

        I don’t think it would be that simple and it would usher in the era of 4+ hour baseball games as the norm. Rather than argue the call they’d argue the calibration of the pitch tracker. Not to mention if they did go that way you might as well do away with umpires on the field altogether. Just put the umps in a booth and put pitch tracking on the “jumbotrons” and let the calls at all the bases be called by that as well.

        Last night was a grievous example but in general pitch calling isn’t that bad. In fact it’s part of the game. The technology to prove them wrong is just better. If technology is to be used it should be introduced as judiciously and sparingly as possible. It’s vital to recognize that the human element in umpiring is a part of the game that is important. I understand the need to get things right but grievous and or extreme examples of things is not what usually generates good policy, .. usually in politics and legislatures but even in baseball.

        I don’t for one minute think that umpiring today is any better or worse than it was 50-60 or 100 years ago. Baseball has done pretty well for itself so far and they should be careful before making the kind of fundamental change that you are suggesting.

      • larrytsg - Apr 9, 2013 at 6:11 PM

        It’s not a clicker, it’s a ball strike indicator.

        And don’t add technology to the ball strike indicator. It’s like those stupid single cup coffee machines. My wife bought one for $200, makes 2 cups of coffee each day (I do not partake, as I am a tea drinker), and less than 2 years in the stupid thing cannot figure out how to pump out hot water into the pod. That’s what happens when you add technology to something simple……

      • cur68 - Apr 9, 2013 at 7:01 PM

        Fellas, just because its different and might take some tweaking doesn’t mean its worse than whats happening right now. SURE you can argue the calibration, but its no worse than arguing the umps vision and at least the calibration is far more likely to remain the same throughout the game. That’s what bigs hitters the most: the changing strike zone from call to call.

        I understand that technology takes time to get right. Remember the first “cell phones”? What about those new fangled “VCRs”? Did they improve, and rapidly, and make things better?

        Same thing here. This would work. This would work well.

      • bigharold - Apr 9, 2013 at 10:21 PM

        “Same thing here. This would work. This would work well.”

        I’m not so sure. And, if you are gong that route why have umps on the field at all? Mandate specific camera shots, specific super slow mo technology for every stadium and put one or two guys in a both and get the umps off the field.

        If you can use pitch trackers for balls/strikes then you don’t need Umpires for anything. It makes umpires completely superfluous. Frankly, at he risk of sounding like the old, “back in my day” guy, I’d rather have the umps with all their failings.

    • deaninajijic - Apr 9, 2013 at 3:52 PM

      How about we just go to flag system like football. 2 flags on whatever. Balls and Strikes, fair/foul, safe at the base. Use em up no recourse. Seems pretty simple.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:32 PM

        Tennis is better. No silly flag necessary. I am told in hockey there does not need to be a challenge by the manager. The league watches games and lets the officials know if they blew it. (I can’t verify this as I have not watched hockey since the strike some years ago)

  2. skeleteeth - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:29 AM

    Bob Davidson wouldn’t.

  3. bmfc1 - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    Maybe Marty Foster will write a book and profit off his bad call like Jim Joyce did.

  4. chacochicken - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:48 AM

    Umpiring is one of the few jobs that gives the impression that a cleaned up hobo could easily meet or exceed the occupational expectations immediately.

    • jarathen - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:50 AM

      I think you’re selling umps far short, by and large.

      But an electronic strike zone would take care of this.

      • chacochicken - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:11 AM

        I’m not actually suggesting that umpires are that bad but they give the impression to the average fan that they could easily be replaced.

      • jdouble777 - Apr 9, 2013 at 10:31 AM

        Is that so much to ask!? Could it be worse? What about an electronic strike zone would be less ideal than a older man smothered in gear with a massive Hannibal Lector mask trying to determine where a 90mph pitch is within one inch?

      • cur68 - Apr 9, 2013 at 11:41 AM

        Chicken, you are so right. I pay no attention to them when the pitch tracker is up. I can see the balls & strikes easily. They could be replaced and doubt they’d be missed.

  5. indaburg - Apr 9, 2013 at 8:51 AM

    Oh, he said he’s sorry? That’s nice.

    This is the second bad rally killing call the Rays have received in as many weeks. It’s getting tough not to feel frustrated.

    This article made me feel a little better in that the pitch was actually better than it appeared to the naked eye, although the call was still wrong:

    • paperlions - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:17 AM

      Nah, it was really that bad….the plate is only 18″ wide and the pitch was about 9″ outside….what is even worse….called strike 1 in that same PA, was about 7-8″ outside. Both were horrible calls.

      • indaburg - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:24 AM

        You’re trying to get me all worked up again, aren’t you, ‘lions? It’s working.

      • paperlions - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:34 AM

        If it makes you feel better (I know, it won’t)….those types of calls aren’t that uncommon….they just don’t usually occur in the game ending AB in a close game.

        It would be nice if the umpire realized that the problem derives from perspective, and that it is better to stay directly behind the plate….but I doubt that’ll happen.

      • Francisco (FC) - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:29 AM

        psst, Paper. don’t make her angry, you don’t want see Sally angry….

      • cur68 - Apr 9, 2013 at 11:20 AM

        The curse words. The foot stompings. The horror….

    • unclemosesgreen - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      It really wasn’t that bad a call. A.J. did a truly terrible job catching it, he made it look a foot outside and like it almost bounced.

      In the pantheon of bad calls, it’s nothing like the Jim Joyce / Armando Galarraga deal. He just missed it.

      • alang3131982 - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:25 AM

        I’d suggest that this call was far worse than the Jim Joyce one. That actually didnt affect the outcome of the game. We know that. This one very well might have affected the outcome of the game and season. Hopefully it wont, but it’s certainly plausible.

        Also, the mere fact that nathan was shocked the ball was called a strike should indicate how wretched of a call that was….

      • unclemosesgreen - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:28 AM

        Pitcher, catcher, and batter knew the call was wrong. But it’s a logical fallacy to say it’s worse because of where it happened in the game. There were two strike calls earlier in the game that were equally as bad, but since they weren’t in a big moment, no one really cared.

        The Jim Joyce was more obviously blown. Can we at least agree to that?

      • indaburg - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:30 AM

        It wasn’t a foot outside. Just 9 inches.

        It’s not blowing a perfect game bad. Just bad. I feel for some umps, the ones who aren’t arrogant pricks. Blowing a call in front of millions of people is humiliating. Making judgments in a split second for things that aren’t perceptible to the human eye–it’s not easy. I get it. I’m just not ready to feel empathy. Still angry.

      • unclemosesgreen - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:33 AM

        I totally feel that – if it happened to the Sox I would have rolled out of bed, wrapped my wrists and hit the bag for a 1/2 hour. (left) “Marty” (right) “effin” (left) “Foster”.

  6. youknowwhatsgoodforshoulderpain - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    Prepare yourself for upcoming makeup call(s) tonight.

  7. yahmule - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    I umpired at the high school and youth league level and I can tell you two things about umpiring. Like just about anything else, it’s tougher than it looks and people who do it well make it appear easy. Second, with few exceptions, nobody feels worse about a blown call than the guy who blew it.

  8. raysfan1 - Apr 9, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    As I posted last night, I’m glad the ump owned up to his mistake, and I respect him for it. However, it was still a horrible call and denied the Rays a decent shot at winning the game.

  9. raysfan1 - Apr 9, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Very well said.

  10. raysfan1 - Apr 9, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Very well said.

  11. jdouble777 - Apr 9, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    First, good for him for owning up to his mistake and being a man.

    Ugh, it drives me crazy, all of us watch tons of baseball games, seen questionable calls, and await the pitch track to give us resolution. Can someone please give me a reason other than the now cliche and irrational excuse “human element out of the game” excuse as to why this middle man a.k.a. umpire is still in existence? I love it when they get emotional and pull the string as much as the next guy, but these erratic strikes zones and blown calls in crucial moments HAS TO go.

    • jarathen - Apr 9, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      I could see having one or two on the field, but most baseball calls are black and white calls. Did the baseball cross the strike zone? Was a player tagged or not? Did the ball hit the glove before the runner? Fair or foul? These are mostly bang-bang yes/no calls. The “human element” is a way to explain why games are gently molded unintentionally by human beings who do not play the game.

  12. onbucky96 - Apr 9, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    Kill the Ump! No, fine. Then suspend the ump.

  13. Sorbet Te Charta Saccus - Apr 9, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    Like the article suggests, this horrible call isn’t much of an outlier for Foster. He is one of the worst ball/strike umpires in baseball. The fact that he is still allowed to sit behind the plate means that somebody is not doing their job…whether that’s Bud’s job, or whoever. Somebody has to get this guy removed from umpiring. He’s terrible.

  14. spudchukar - Apr 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    Kudos to Over at their site, they show the replays, and airing announcers reactions from all four broadcasts, and as you might guess, it gets worse when it is the Rays’ guys, but not by much. At least they aren’t protecting the umps.

  15. triaxfusion - Apr 9, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    I stand firmly that instant replay is ruining sports. The NFL is terrible and i would argue that their refs are worse now with instant replay than they ever were before. MLB umpires are amazing at what they do. Over the course of the season you read about 8-10 blown calls. That’s incredible given the thousands of bang-bang plays that happen. I’ll take my team losing over the human element than constantly stopping to review things any day.

  16. moogro - Apr 10, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    Wow. All these weird human-computer combinations for calling strikes, for what? The answer is so obvious we’ll laugh about it in the future, because we have it now and we don’t implement it. Humans calling balls and strikes from behind a catcher was always an impossible thing to do accurately, but we got used to it. Try it sometime. There is no reason to do it anymore. At-bats would get better, and more exciting, not less exciting, if pitch trackers were calling the balls and strikes completely. The plate umpire could call the plate tag calls and whatnot, that is, if they start positioning themselves better than they do now for those plays.

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