Baseball has been back in our lives less than a week and we already have umpire drama.
The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) demoted an entire crew of umpires to the minors on Friday after several players involved in the SK Wyverns-Hanwha Eagles series complained about an “inconsistent strike zone.”
#KBO umpiring controversy: league will demote an entire crew of umpires that worked Thurday's SK Wyverns-Hanwha Eagles game to the minors. One Hanwha player said in his post-game interview that he and many other players aren't too happy with ball-strike calls this season
— Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1) May 8, 2020
That’s right. The whole five-umpire crew will be sent to the Futures League beginning on Saturday for what KBO officials term "retraining."
Try to picture this scenario. MLB officials approach Joe West. MLB officials then inform Joe West that his entire crew is headed back to rookie ball for retraining.
As much as fans and even players call for that to happen in MLB, it never will. Once the league sets its umpiring crews before the season, those crews are locked in. Regardless of how many calls are blown, no individual umpire or crew can be demoted at any point during the season.
Of course, nothing stops the league from making changes during the offseason. But that has never seemed to be a high priority. For that, MLB umpires can be thankful about where they work.
Players band together
As for the KBO, it’s an entirely different process. While the league does discourage public criticism of its umpires, it’s also not hesitant to take action when deemed to be necessary.
It was deemed necessary this week after players from the SK Wyverns and Hanwha Eagles came together to criticize the now demoted crew following Thursday’s series finale.
According to Yonhap News' Jeeho Yoo, Hanwha outfielder Lee Yong-kyu asked for more consideration from the umpires while speaking on the players’ behalf.
"Even though it's only been three games this season, a lot of players are really unhappy with the lack of consistency on ball-strike calls. I'd like to ask all the umpires to please be more considerate of the players. We're all very confused [with the inconsistent zone]. I know the umpires are doing their best out there, but I just hope they should start seeing things from the players' perspective, too."
At least he was polite about it?
Needless to say, the KBO is already making quite an impression.
The 10-team league based out of South Korea opened its season on Tuesday and even debuted on ESPN. The league will now have an extended opportunity to win over fans with MLB still shutdown by the coronavirus pandemic. We’re guessing stories like this won’t hurt their cause.
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