You'd hate to suggest that today's umpires are taking the field each night without knowing baseball's rulebook inside and out.
But they're certainly not doing much this season to dispel our doubts.
With one out in the top of the first inning and runners on first and second, Pittsburgh's Garrett Jones(notes) hit a short popup that catcher Yadier Molina(notes) tried to camp under. The call should have been a simple one because — by virtue of Rule 6.05e ("the infield fly rule") — Jones should have immediately been called out and the force play at second and third should have been removed.
It's a rule that every Little Leaguer learns when the tees are taken away.
But, of course, it wasn't that easy. On Saturday, Molina dropped the ball and then threw down to second because Jose Tabata(notes) and Neil Walker(notes) had started advancing because they hadn't heard the infield fly rule called by any of the umpires. Molina's throw was caught by Skip Schumaker(notes), who quickly stepped on second for what he thought would be a force.
And that's where things really got crazy.
Second base umpire Mike Everitt initially ruled Walker safe, which would have been the correct call seeing as how Schumaker had not tagged the runner, who was advancing at his own risk.
But Everitt — for some unknown reason — then reversed the call after the Cardinals protested.
Meanwhile, all four umpires were also apparently in agreement that Jones had hit into an infield fly and was also out. The Cardinals ran off the field, happy to get starter Jeff Suppan(notes) out of a first-inning jam in what would end up being an easy 11-1 Cardinals victory.
So exactly what happened out there, Pirates manager John Russell? From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"They called infield fly. I didn't really understand it. They tried to explain. I still didn't understand. I'm told not to make comments about the umpires in the paper, so I'll leave it at that."
Russell and the rest of the downtrodden Pirates — who wouldn't go on record with their clubhouse criticism — have to worry about fines hitting their pocketbooks.
But I don't, so I have no problem in saying that this situation is the worst non-judgment performance (think Jim Joyce) we've seen from an umpiring crew yet this season. All four umpires are at fault, because while it was Everitt who screwed up the call at second and home plate umpire Tim McClelland was at fault for not loudly calling the infield fly rule, the two others didn't have a big enough backbone to stop the Cards from leaving the field while the call was correctly reversed.
What's more, if Major League Baseball hasn't yet called in crew chief McClelland for a conversation, it's about time as this is the fifth Big League Stew post he's been involved with over the past year.
OK, so McClelland was recently named one of the game's best umps, but the only place you really want to show up five times is on the set of "Saturday Night Live" as an Alec Baldwin-level host. And by our unofficial count, McClelland has also played a key part in recent blown rulings on Don Mattingly, A.J. Pierzynski, Astros-Royals, and during last year's ALCS.
With him being in charge of one of the fists that is regularly giving baseball a black eye, it's time that he gets a talking to. There's simply no excuse for Saturday's ruling.