Major League Baseball is doing the right thing (at last!) and expanding instant replay in 2014. The move couldn't have come at a better time because BOY were there some bad calls in 2013. At or near the top of the list of worst umpires in MLB is C.B. Bucknor. The 18-year veteran may have outdone himself this year. From losing track of the count in embarrassing fashion to overselling a blown call, Bucknor's incompetence was on full display this past season.
Exhibit A for Bucknor's ineptitude was June 13 in Oakland. Seth Smith was at the plate in the 11th inning of a 2-2 tie. The A's left fielder faced a 2-1 count with two outs when Yankees reliever Adam Warren tossed an 85 MPH pitch that caught the inside part of the plate for a called strike by Bucknor. The only problem? Bucknor thought it was a 2-2 count and emphatically punched out Smith for taking what Bucknor believed to be a called third strike and the end of the inning. Upon hearing the ump's overly-enthusiastic call behind him, New York catcher Chris Stewart momentarily glanced up at the scoreboard to make sure he had the count right. Bucknor quickly corrected his error and stuck out two fingers to Smith — but the damage was done. The umpire laughed off the embarrassing moment and Oakland eventually won 3-2 in 18 innings. But mistakes like that should not happen at the Major League — let alone Little League — level. Bucknor was just getting warmed up. Fast forward to Exhibit B in Miami on Sept. 25. With the Phillies and Marlins tied 2-2 with two out and runners on the corners, Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich hit a slow grounder down the first-base line. It appeared as if he'd have an infield single — and an RBI along with it. But when Phillies reliever Cesar Jimenez took the toss from first baseman Kevin Frandsen and applied the "tag" to Yelich, Bucknor called Yelich out. The problem? The ball never left Jimenez's glove! And it's debatable Jimenez even tagged Yelich with his bare hand. The Marlins overcame the horrible call and won 3-2 — once again in spite of Buckner's inadequacies as a big league ump.
Two more blind mice
But Bucknor wasn't alone. Who could forget Tony Randazzo's immature move of ejecting Cleveland Indians infielder Mike Aviles — after the game was over? Or Angel Hernandez for STILL getting the call wrong on Adam Rosales' contested home run — even with the benefit of replay?
Yes, there were plenty of bad calls in 2013. Hopefully that will change next year.