Alright, this has gotten way past ridiculous. MLB umpires have gotten out of control. They’ve, at best, blurred the lines between officiating and playing the game. At worst, they’ve made a concerted effort to make the game more about them than about the teams playing it.
Recently, during the Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia Phillies game, Major League Baseball umpire Chad Fairchild, who leads the league in ejections, became the most recent example of a serious issue plaguing the game; officials abusing their power and overstepping their boundaries. But why not, since umpires have little to no accountability for their actions? They don’t have to answer questions. They are rarely penalized.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning at Comerica Park, the first place Tigers managed to load the bases with nobody out. Don Kelly popped up to third to make the first out, but few Tigers fans were worried, considering that reigning Triple Crown winner and 2012 most valuable player Miguel Cabrera was next to bat. The perennial all-star stepped in to face pitcher Jonathan Pettibone of the Phillies. What happened next was nothing short of absurd.
Cabrera took a borderline strike that he felt was high and outside to fall into an 0-1 count. No big deal, considering the Tigers 3rd basemen is batting .360 and is perhaps the best the game has ever seen hitting behind in the count. Cabrera appeared to mutter a few words in a semi-silent protest, but stayed in the batter’s box and didn’t make a show of anything. The next pitch was nearly identical to the first. Again, it was called a strike. Again, Cabrera didn’t like it, but was not demonstrative in his protest. He looked back to Fairchild and appeared to mutter “horrible pitch”. In clearly an over-the-top reaction, Fairchild wasted no time in yelling “GONE” and giving him the boot. Tiger fans were first stunned, and then angry, hammering the umpire with a loud chorus of boos. Manager Jim Leyland was the next to get tossed, shortly after he vacated the bench to voice his disapproval with the call.
In a matter of moments, Detroit went from one out, bases loaded, with the best hitter in the game at the dish, to an 0-2 count with Cabrera and manager Leyland out of the game. Replacement Matt Tuiasosopo struck out and Prince Fielder popped up to end the inning. The Tigers failed to score.
There are certain umpires in the game who seemingly enjoy ejecting professional ballplayers from Major League games. They love ripping off the mask and having fans in attendance and those watching on television see them getting in the face of the player or manager involved. I am aware of the fact that umpires have a difficult job and are going to make errors, just like highly paid players do. I also understand that they are charged with maintaining control of a game where superstar egos and attitudes do indeed exist. That said, there are limits.
Tigers television broadcaster Rod Allen said it best, expressing at once both his bewilderment and frustration with the umpire’s behavior: “Chad Fairchild, we did not come here to watch you today”.
Tom Verducci addressed the lack of accountability for umpires back in May, stating: “A bad year for umpiring keeps getting worse” – and that was barely a month into the 2013 season! The trend has not reversed.
It’s time for some changes. There needs to be a better system of checks and balances, as well as true accountability for those MLB umpires who overstep their authority. Let’s get back to the game being about the teams playing it, and not the officials calling it.