MLB Week in Review (April 14-20)
It is a constant excuse for fans and players throughout the MLB as umpires are often blamed for everything.
It isn’t something unique to the MLB but in the MLB the umpires can have a much bigger effect.
That largely due to the fact that the umpires are the ones that can control the outcome of a game simply by calling balls and strikes.
One umpire making one missed call can make the difference between a batter walking to the dugout to end an inning or walking in a run.
Balls and strikes are a simple part of the game and they are subject to human error much like calls in other sports but balls and strikes are a massive part of the game.
Beyond the plate, the umpires have control over the outs in any game while also trying to enforce the other more obscure rules and new ones.
It is far from an easy job for the umpires as the games may be considered slow but the calls that these umpires need to make are extremely close.
They can happen in a split second and the umpire only has his eyes to make a decision quite often without the best view.
Yet they continue to get hate for making a wrong call or missing a strike despite the fact that most people aren’t seeing what they see.
Most people also have the advantage of seeing instant replay in slow motion that can show split seconds of time.
It is pretty easy to make the call when there is technology at hand but unless a manager challenges a call that technology is not available for them.
The ability of the umpires comes under fire in every game and over the course of every season and they do make mistakes.
In fact, from game to game the strike zone can change depending on the umpire behind the plate.
They can be slightly off of what is considered the strike zone but often as long as they are consistent in the game it is acceptable.
There will be constant crying about strikes and balls and certain outs but the reality is there will always be an element of human error.
The MLB has attempted to kerb that influence with the introduction of replay in hopes that fewer calls will be missed in important plays.
They have also looked to change rules to make them simpler to call for the umpire and reduce the amount of judgement from the umpire.
It doesn’t mean that they are perfect and nobody should expect them to be but there are still some issues with the umpiring in the MLB.
That was never more evident than this week when the Nationals took on the Braves in Atlanta.
That was because this game featured an umpire that is widely considered the worst in the league behind home plate.
CB Bucknor brought a pretty terrible reputation to the game as he was voted the worst umpire in the league three times by the players in polls held by Sports Illustrated and ESPN.
The reputation of being the worst in the league proved to still be correct throughout this game.
Most umpires miss calls and screw up but not many missed the calls that he missed throughout the game.
He called Jayson Werth out when he called two strikes far on the outside of the strike zone.
There may not be a consistent strike zone but there is at least an area where strikes can be called.
Bucknor was far off of this and everyone knew it but Werth simply had to sit down and end his at-bat despite the clear missed calls.
His bad calls continued throughout the game up until the final pitch where the Nationals ended the game with a strikeout starting the postgame show.
That was until the game had to continue because Bucknor had called the last strike a foul tip and therefore there was no out to end the game.
Eventually, the out was scored and the Nationals made sure they announced their displeasure going after Bucknor after the game.
It wasn’t his only screw up throughout the week though as he also called Bryce Harper out on a fly ball that was at least a foot from being caught.
Luckily that last call was overturned by the other umpires but it was yet another knock against one of the worst in the league.
He continues to umpire games though and there seems to be little that the league can or will do about umpires that so blatantly misses calls.
Whether or not there is some type of discipline or action taken against Bucknor is a big question for the league.
If nothing is done it will show that umpires have little repercussions when it comes to their jobs and with the headlines he is creating that storyline will only get bigger.
Suspicions in is Return
The steroid era is essentially over the in the league but it has left scars that are still around for fans and players. There is little to no trust among fans or players as any sign of big performances from little-known players becomes a story about steroids. That has been the case this year with Eric Thames who left the MLB for Korea three years ago where he lit up the league and now he is doing the same in his second stint in the MLB but under the suspicion that the once middling player who looks like the most built player in the league is using PEDs.
Although the steroid era is essentially over there are still plenty of issues within the league as players are still caught regularly. Starling Marte is the latest in that group as the Pittsburgh outfielder tested positive this week for a banned substance. He will receive an 80-game suspension for his failed drug test and the test only proved that the league is not finished with performance enhancing drugs.
No Season for Pagan
Angel Pagan has been one of the most sought after free agents this year with plenty of teams offering him good contracts to play for them. The outfielder can play great defence and brings a bat that a lot of teams need right now. Despite the multiple offers that he has received throughout the off-season and into the first few weeks of the season, Pagan has decided to reject all of them and take the season off in order to spend more time with his family.