Umpire Fieldin Culbreth suspended two games for misapplication of rules in Angels-Astros game

Mark Townsend
May 10, 2013

You say you wanted more accountability for the umpires and more transparency from Major League Baseball in terms of how their umpires are disciplined?

Good news. The league made a lot of progress in both areas on Friday as they announced that veteran umpire Fieldin Culbreth, the crew chief during Thursday's night's controversial Angels-Astros game in Houston, has been suspended two games for his crew's misapplication of Rule 3.05(b), which allowed Houston manager Bo Porter to make an illegal pitching change during the seventh inning.

MLB also announced that Culbreth’s other crew members — Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson — have received undisclosed fines stemming from their roles in the incorrect ruling.

This really is ground-breaking news on some levels considering MLB's long, frustrating history of playing it close to the vest when it comes to disciplining their umpires. We know it's happened in the past for various misapplications and misinterpretations, but the public acknowledgement of said mistakes is quite a welcomed change. We know the umpires will take notice, which is something that absolutely needs to happen.

It's also an acknowledgement from MLB that had the Astros held on to win the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia would have filed the first successful protest in the league since 1986. That means the game would have been restarted at the spot of the misapplication, which means reliever Wesley Wright, whom Porter illegally replaced before he faced a single batter, would have been on the hill facing pinch-hitter Scott Cousins with Houston leading 5-3.

I'm a little disappointed it didn't come to that, honestly. But that's just me being selfish.

It should also be noted that Porter was in no way trying to pull a fast one on the umpires or Scioscia. He simply didn't understand the rules, either, and apologized for his own role in the messy situation.

Classy move. But yikes, that's a little scary when the man calling the shots for your team isn't aware that rule exists.

Also, in case you're wondering why there was no protest or suspensions coming out of Wednesday's A's-Indians game, where Angel Hernandez and his crew completely botched a home run replay and cost Oakland a chance at a victory, the difference is simple. Culbreth's crew misapplied a rule, which is inexcusable. Hernandez's crew blew a judgment call, which is annoying and maddening but not quite on the same level of offenses.

As for Culbreth's suspension, it will be served at a date to be determined by the Office of the Commissioner. He will handle his duties on Friday night and presumably the weekend as MLB's umpiring schedules are already locked in.

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