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A lot of drama over a foul tip in Kansas City yesterday

May 27, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Kansas City Royals Getty Images

Many are talking about this as the latest act in the season long run of The Umpire Follies, but I think it’s something more fundamental.

The upshot: in the ninth inning of yesterday’s Royals-Angels game, Jeff Francoeur swung at a pitch with two strikes on him. Home plate umpire Marty Foster called him out on strikes. But wait! Francoeur argued that he fouled the ball off and should live to take another hack. Foster, eventually, consulted second base umpire Tim Welke who backed Francoeur, saying he saw the ball tipped. Foster reversed himself.

This set off an argument from Mike Scioscia, who claimed that Foster wasn’t allowed to consult another ump on that call for a second opinion. Scioscia — who had multiple run-ins with Foster all weekend — was ejected. After the game, Ned Yost actually agreed with Scioscia that Foster couldn’t consult Welke:

Royals manager Ned Yost had a different angle on the play, but believed that Foster shouldn’t have been able to check with Welke on the play.

“It was a foul ball,” Yost said. “I told Marty, he said he didn’t hear it. I said I heard it; he goes ‘Well I’ll check.’ You’re not allowed to check, so Mike was right in a sense. But one of the umpires did see it.”

Know what? Any rules of umpiring which prevent calls from being made properly, be it due to the lack of replay or the lack of what umpires are allowed to do with replay or situations like this one where umpires are allowed to ask for help from other umps on some calls but not others is stupid.

“You’re not allowed to check?” Christ, man, get the calls right. That’s all fans want. If one umpire sees something and another one doesn’t, what possible justification is there for us to ignore the right call? I’m GLAD Foster consulted Welke. I don’t care what the rules say. Get the calls right.

  1. normcash - May 27, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    There is no rule that says an ump can’t ask a colleague for help!

  2. e5tolife - May 27, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Common sense isn’t very common these days

    • lyon810 - May 27, 2013 at 12:10 PM

      Will you marry me <3

    • bigharold - May 27, 2013 at 12:58 PM

      Common sense is so rare it’s practically a super power.

    • paperlions - May 27, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      Yet, still more common now than ever in the history of man.

  3. echech88 - May 27, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    Only the replay made it look like the noise that sounded like it was tipped came from Iannetta’s shin guard as there wasn’t any change in trajectory of the ball off the bat. So…they may have actually reversed the correct call.

  4. ditto65 - May 27, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Oh, Craig. You are forgetting about the much cherished (and assininely antiquated) human element.

  5. flamethrower101 - May 27, 2013 at 12:08 PM

    Bud Selig is laughing in his office

    • albertmn - May 27, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      Why? Selig doesn’t want replay and wishes the umps would get stuff right so he didn’t have to add replay (likely because his bosses don’t want the extra cost).

      I get that Selig has “made” some unpopular decisions. But, if any of you think he isn’t doing exactly what the majority of owners want, you are fooling yourselves. The argument can be made that Selig is currently the “best” commissioner in the four major US sports. It isn’t Bettman or Stern, and nearly as many people hate Goodell as hate Selig. I think too many people just like to pile on Selig without actually looking at the heart of the matter and realizing that most of his “decisions” aren’t his. If nothing else, he has done a marvelous job of protecting the owners from criticism, so I can see why the owners love him.

  6. danfrommv - May 27, 2013 at 12:13 PM

    That wasn’t even the worst call in the last 2 innnings. In the 8th, Mark Trumbo grabbed a ground ball and stepped on 1st for the 3rd out of the innning…except that the 1st base umpire ruled he missed the bag (even though it wasn’t a big race to get to first). Replays showed he indeed stepped on the bag. Another case of umpires getting something wrong and reversing a play for no reason.

    I think MLB should seriously expand replay. They should also do away with human ball & strike calls and let the same mechanism that shows where the pitch is relative to the strike zone call the balls and strikes. It is a LOT more consistent and doesn’t sway to home-team pressure, like the umps do. I know it won’t happen, but it should. Baseball needs to get into the 21st century.

    • clydeserra - May 27, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      yup, and the mike trout steal on fiday that was called incorrectly leading to 3 angel runs

  7. randygnyc - May 27, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    Agreed. Get it right, AT ALL COSTS, every time. Institute replay, Bud, NOW!!!!

  8. billybawl - May 27, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    I agree that asking for help should be encouraged, but understand Scioscia getting heated. The problem is that the outcome here turned on a particular umpire (or crew) agreeing not to follow the letter of the law — “no consultation on strike calls” — when other umps would not bend the rule. Even if the rule isn’t perfect, the application shouldn’t be arbitrary.

    • bankboy2012 - May 27, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      “no consultation on strike calls”

      Good, I hate botched check swing calls too. If this means no more appeals on those I’m OK with it.


    • albertmn - May 27, 2013 at 4:44 PM

      Well, technically was it a strike call or a foul ball call? Can you check with the other umps on a foul ball call?

    • crackersnap - May 27, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      The funniest part of Scioscia getting ejected was that he got ejected by Marty Foster for committing the crime of arguing in favor of Marty Foster.

  9. ndnut - May 27, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Maybe the umps ARE in favor of expanded replay and they are blowing these calls ON PURPOSE so that pressure will mount on MLB until they do. In that case, I applaud this year’s umpiring, as it is for the greater good of the game.

    • flamethrower101 - May 27, 2013 at 1:43 PM

      If they are really doing that, you know Bud Selig and Joe Torre would fire them in an instant and then say they resigned on their own just to sweep it under the rug. You know, like they’ve been doing for years.

    • Walk - May 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM

      If they were blowing calls on purpose they would be getting the replay calls right. I am not sure of the percent but most of the replays I have seen this year were either wrong or the umpire used some nfl criteria so he would not need to make a decision.

  10. deaninajijic - May 27, 2013 at 1:13 PM

    On the Trumbo call the ump was behind the play and couldn’t possibly have seen whether his toe touched the bag, which it did. And how the hell could Welke see a foul tip from 100 feet away. Welke was in position for a great call at home plate one game so he was the best of a horrible group. Marty Foster was consistent, he called balls 3 or 4 inches off the plate strikes all game. Saturdays ump only called one pitch at the knees a strike all game.. The article about Faye Vincent really brings the problem to light. The umpires aren’t trained the same, aren’t supervised by MLB in the minors and so thir strike zones and positioning is all over the place. Torre and Selig need to get this fixed now. Put Vincent in charge to set up a new program for the umps. Too many games are being affeted by bad calls.

  11. banger60 - May 27, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    It seems bad calls are rampant in all sports these days what’s going on, I know that can’t get them all right but this year it’s an epidemic.

  12. Senor Cardgage - May 27, 2013 at 5:21 PM

    First, I wish broadcasters and writers would stop saying “foul tip” when they mean “foul ball.” A foul tip is caught by the catcher and is always a strike. It’s not any ball that just happens to be nicked.

    Second, I’m having trouble finding anything in the rules that specifically disallows an umpire from getting help on this kind of play.

    • seeinred87 - May 28, 2013 at 4:33 AM

      Agreed on both counts. He may have tipped the ball foul, but that was not a foul tip.

      And the only rule I’m aware of that prevents a consultation with another umpire just says that you can’t get a check swing appeal if the HP ump calls it a strike.

  13. jimatkins - May 27, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Saw all three of those blown calls. The Trout call I can forgive- Trout’s body blocked the ump’s view, it seemed to me. The foul tip call, that was kind of weird. I agree, why can’t an ump ask for help? The one that really set off the ejection, the Trumbo call, was just plain stupid. Like the Angel postgame guy said, how often do you see umps give the “neighborhood call” at second to start a double play? The replay showed, clearly, no doubt, the bending of the toe of Trumbo’s shoe in contact with the bag. We need two things- a mechanism to dump lousy umps (Angel Hernandez, hit now) and a fifth ump in the press box to review the replays, now that replays are ubiquitous.

  14. garryjercia - May 27, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    Robots. Now.

  15. Walk - May 28, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    Just be fair to both teams, but get the calls right if you can.

  16. cubanxsenators - May 28, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Am I reading that long qualified sentence correctly? I’m pretty sure it boils downs to, “Any rules . . . is stupid.” Brilliant!

  17. thehakko936 - May 28, 2013 at 12:28 PM

    The one “ask for help” call that always gets me is the check swing. A better tries to check his swing and the umpire says no swing. Catcher asks the umpire to get help down the baseline and it is almost always done. Batter checks swing and umpire says he swung, too bad. The batter can’t get the umpire to ask for help. Always makes me scratch my head.

  18. brentsalish - May 28, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    A player (or manager) may not ask an ump to have another ump provide info on a judgment call, not can another ump volunteer such info. The ump who made the call, however, can ask for assistance, which is what happened. The manager can complain, which is similar to asking, and the ump who make the call might listen. Most good managers know how to do this – e.g., “What did you see (or hear)?” @jimatkins, the reason the umps allow neighborhood calls on double plays (and on first basemen getting off the bag just as they catch the ball) is to minimize collisions and injuries. Given how much teams have invested in these players, that seems like a good idea.

  19. erniebrs - May 29, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    I agree completely with Calceterra’s point. I take issue with him invoking the name of Jesus Christ in expressing his displeasure. It is not necessary to take Christ’s name in vain. That is demeaning and disrepectful Christ and those who truly follow Him. It is offensive and undermines the point you are making.

  20. brentsalish - Oct 23, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    For a group of commenters who profess to know a lot about this great game, you are out in left field here. Please try umping a game or two before commenting.

    DeMuth, doing his job properly, was looking at the base while listening for the smack of the ball into the glove. He heard it and ascertained correctly that the ball beat the runner and that the fielder was on the base. Then he looked up to watch the transfer and saw the hand pulling away and the ball flying free. He had to determine whether the error was on the transfer or the catch. With little to go on at this point, he made a choice, obviously the incorrect choice. Then he huddled with the other umps and got the play right. I can’t see the full video, but the chances are that he or one of the umpires made a subtle point of thumb to chest, meaning “I have (or need) some other information; let’s huddle.”

    They got the play right exactly the way they’re supposed to.

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