Baseball umpire ineptitude: Look for the Union Label

Ralph Alter
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand. 
 -
Casey at the Bat, by Ernest Thayer

As Major League Baseball's postseason wends its way to the World Series, fans are being subjected to a travesty of game-mismanagement by the umpiring crew:

"... in what has become a painful daily ritual in this year's postseason, all of America tuned into a playoff game and watched replays of umpires blowing a call -- or, on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, call after call after call." 

The best umpires and referees in sport remain largely invisible to the fans: they stay out of the way and let the players play the game.  Unfortunately, the umpiring crews are becoming the story in the MLB postseason championships.  Now no one is questioning the integrity of the umpires.  It seems clear that they are doing their best.  What remains in question is the ability of the crews assigned to this year's championships.

Bill Shaikin, perhaps being a bit of a homer for the Dodgers, recognizes the problem in his L.A. Times article:

"[Mike] Port, [baseball's vice-president in charge of umpires] and his staff rate the umpires. We should have the 24 highest-rated umpires in the division series, the 12 highest-rated umpires in the league championship series, the six highest-rated umpires in the World Series.

"We do not." 

What could possibly prevent the league from providing the most capable umpires to the most important games of the season?  Simply the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the umpires' union:

"Baseball's collective bargaining agreement forbids Port from assigning an umpire to work consecutive rounds in the playoffs, or working the World Series in consecutive years.

"That would be like Selig forbidding the Angels from representing the American League West in the playoffs for a third consecutive year because the Texas Rangers ought to have a chance." (

It's kind of like a seniority or tenure system.  You know, the kind of organized labor agreement that enabled the American auto industry to step into the dust-bin of history while leaving the American taxpayer to pay the legacy costs for the United Auto Workers.  The kind of labor agreement that allows pot-smoking, steriod using athletes to continue to draw multi-million dollar paychecks across the spectrum of professional sports. The kind of labor agreement that allows government employees to retire at the age of 55 with 75 % of their highest annual income without having ever been subject to dismissal for gross negligence or the inability to perform their jobs.

No wonder there's so little joy left here in Mudville. The mighty Unions continue to strike paydirt.  Will the rest of us ever wake up?

Ralph Alter blogs at Right on Target
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And its likely they'd a-killed him had not Casey raised his hand. 
 -
Casey at the Bat, by Ernest Thayer

As Major League Baseball's postseason wends its way to the World Series, fans are being subjected to a travesty of game-mismanagement by the umpiring crew:

"... in what has become a painful daily ritual in this year's postseason, all of America tuned into a playoff game and watched replays of umpires blowing a call -- or, on Tuesday night at Angel Stadium, call after call after call." 

The best umpires and referees in sport remain largely invisible to the fans: they stay out of the way and let the players play the game.  Unfortunately, the umpiring crews are becoming the story in the MLB postseason championships.  Now no one is questioning the integrity of the umpires.  It seems clear that they are doing their best.  What remains in question is the ability of the crews assigned to this year's championships.

Bill Shaikin, perhaps being a bit of a homer for the Dodgers, recognizes the problem in his L.A. Times article:

"[Mike] Port, [baseball's vice-president in charge of umpires] and his staff rate the umpires. We should have the 24 highest-rated umpires in the division series, the 12 highest-rated umpires in the league championship series, the six highest-rated umpires in the World Series.

"We do not." 

What could possibly prevent the league from providing the most capable umpires to the most important games of the season?  Simply the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the umpires' union:

"Baseball's collective bargaining agreement forbids Port from assigning an umpire to work consecutive rounds in the playoffs, or working the World Series in consecutive years.

"That would be like Selig forbidding the Angels from representing the American League West in the playoffs for a third consecutive year because the Texas Rangers ought to have a chance." (

It's kind of like a seniority or tenure system.  You know, the kind of organized labor agreement that enabled the American auto industry to step into the dust-bin of history while leaving the American taxpayer to pay the legacy costs for the United Auto Workers.  The kind of labor agreement that allows pot-smoking, steriod using athletes to continue to draw multi-million dollar paychecks across the spectrum of professional sports. The kind of labor agreement that allows government employees to retire at the age of 55 with 75 % of their highest annual income without having ever been subject to dismissal for gross negligence or the inability to perform their jobs.

No wonder there's so little joy left here in Mudville. The mighty Unions continue to strike paydirt.  Will the rest of us ever wake up?

Ralph Alter blogs at Right on Target