The front office of Major League Baseball does not like postseason distractions. That is why there are no trades during the playoffs, why announcements on managerial changes are put off if possible and why teams rarely make major announcements.
MLB will not be happy at the public announcement Friday that there will be a Dec. 3 meeting among MLB executives, players and umpires at the request of the MLB Players Association, to discuss player concerns with umpires.
This is important. The action signifies the depth of concern the players have regarding umpiring.
“There is no question that over the course of this year that I and other people on staff heard a lot from players about umpires,” said Michael Weiner, head of the MLBPA, this week.
Unfortunately, much of the buildup to this meeting is going to endlessly replay the blown call during the regular season that denied Armando Galarraga a perfect game.
That call is the least of the problems. In fact, the handling of the matter by umpire Jim Joyce and Galarraga was probably the most gentlemanly handling of any player/umpire dispute ever.
Video replay discussions are going to come fast and furious in regard to this meeting. However, the majority of players do not want replay used any more than it is now.
So what’s the problem?
The problem is a growing lack of respect by the players for the umpires and a resulting surliness back at the players.
Primary among the players’ concerns is the belief there are too many umpires at the major league level who don’t deserve to be there. Players want umpires to be accountable for their performance in the same way players are held accountable.
Most players would probably like to see a ratings system resulting in the lowest ranked of the umpires being sent back to the minors, at least for retraining.
“It’d be nice if they were rated and those who didn’t pass, they get a week vacation, they get sent down,” Jimmy Rollins, the Phillies’ player rep, told ESPN.com on Friday. “It’s not that they’re trying to be bad. Some players just can’t make it; some umpires just can’t make it. That’s just the way it is. As long as they don’t have to answer to anybody and they have that job security, that pressure of having to be good to stay here — they don’t have to worry about that.”
Who does the ratings? MLB handles that, but the ratings are kept private and the players don’t like that. Punishments handed out to umpires are not disclosed and the players don’t like that either.
As for the game-by-game reviews that umpires receive from MLB, most players scoff at that. Some players have said those reviews go directly into the garbage bin. That is a matter the parties need to address.
Umpires are human and there will always be mistakes. When the errors are compounded by what the players see as no accountability, no communication between players and umpires and a growing genuine dislike and disrespect by the sides toward one another, there is a problem.
If the parties to these meetings try to keep the discussions private, they will only add to the problem.
The fans have an interest here as well and a little accountability by all sides toward informing the fans of what transpires will only help the game.