COMMENTARY | It was a questionable call, a 0-1 fastball that appeared to be a little high and slightly outside, but nonetheless it was called a strike.
Baseball's best player, Miguel Cabrera, was up with the bases loaded, looking to give his team the lead in a tight 1-0 game. Having seen a nearly identical pitch already called for a strike, Cabrera took a step back and said something to home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild.
Cabrera wasn't animated with his words, and it looked as if he merely expressed his disapproval, but Fairchild took it upon himself to eject Cabrera from the game. The reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner had the bat taken out of his hands by a man whose job it is to have as little impact on the game as possible.
Major League Baseball has a serious problem on its hands and, sadly, steroids isn't it. The umpires in MLB have become as much of an impact on the game as the players and managers themselves -- and that's not a good thing.
The biggest problem with these umpires is a complete lack of accountability. When umpires make a mistake, there are no consequences for their ineptitude. Tigers fans surely remember the Jim Joyce call at first base that cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game on June 2, 2010. But how many remember the bad call three weeks later when umpire Gary Cederstrom called a game-ending third strike on a pitch he admitted was outside? Had he called a ball like he should have, the game would have been tied; he didn't, and the Tigers lost the game.
In neither case were the umpires responsible for the blown call disciplined. Last season, Tigers manager Jim Leyland went on a rant about how poor the umpiring has become, imploring reports to start asking for accountability from umpires.
"You guys [reporters] have to write something and hold people accountable," Leyland said after the May 29, 2012 game against the Boston Red Sox. "You know what, we're all accountable in this business. All of us are accountable, and when I say all of us, I mean everybody that's involved in the game needs to be held accountable, OK? That's exactly what needs to be done. There should not have been a rally in that inning."
The umpiring has become so bad that former Atlanta Braves player and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones said he won't watch games umpired by Angel Hernandez. At some point, the higher-ups in MLB have to work with the umpire's union to find a way to make sure those who call the games are held to a better standard.
Unfortunately, whenever a mistake is made, no matter how glaring it is, MLB is quick to stand behind its umpires and offers to handle the issues internally. That isn't good enough.
Fans pack stadiums across the country to watch the world's top players, not some loudmouth looking for his next 48 minutes of fame. Fans, players and managers deserve better than a system that refuses to acknowledge when mistakes are made.
The fact is, umpires are supposed to be impartial, unbiased officials of the game and yet too many times they take it upon themselves to make the game about them.
Matt Durr is a reporter from Michigan who has followed the Detroit Tigers his entire life. He has covered University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University athletics for Annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @mdurr84.
- Sports & Recreation
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