Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Houston Astros

Earlier this week, there was great outrage directed towards baseball umpires and their inability to properly overturn a difficult but incorrect call made on the field. They had the advantage of video replay but, for whatever reason, did not change their call from “wrong” to “correct.” It was an odd, ugly chapter that even the league office acknowledged was handled incorrectly.

They had the tools at their disposal, we believed. They have high-definition video feeds from both the home and away trucks, according to MLB executive vice president Joe Torre. As you see below, they aren’t exactly staring at a tiny monitor or camera viewfinder to make their call, yet they still got it wrong.

This image comes courtesy of Cork Gaines and @Mleatherb, showing the 19″ screen Hernandez and his crew used to make their non-call. They have the tools, however unfamiliar they might be with how they work.

Last night in Houston, represents a very different situation. With two out and two on in the sixth inning, his team nursing a 5-3 lead, Astros manager Bo Porter called in left-handed reliever Wesley Wright, as the Angels had a left-handed batter due up. When Halos manager Mike Scioscia replaced his lefty in the on-deck circle with a right-hand hitting pinch hitter, Porter marched back out and removed Wright, without the lefty having thrown a pitch.

The problem is you can’t quite do that, as per the rules of baseball. Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com relays rule 3.05 (b) which clearly states:

If the pitcher is replaced, the substitute pitcher shall pitch to the batter then at-bat, or any substitute batter, until such batter is put out or reaches first base, or until the offensive team is put out, unless the substitute pitcher sustains injury or illness which, in the umpire-in-chief’s judgment, incapacitates him for further play as a pitcher.

So the umps had to step in to either prevent this illegal substitution or penalize the Astros for breaking the rules, right?

No. They allowed the switch like it was no big deal.

Scioscia, quite rightly, blew his top and announced his team would play the rest of the game under protest. The Angels came back to win the game so the Angels dropped their protest. Had they lost the game and their protest was upheld, the two teams would be required to play the game from the time of the incident at a later date.

Thankfully the Angels won and dropped their protest as this is the kind of black eye the umpires don’t need. A first-year manager not knowing the rules is one thing (one barely defensible thing) but the umpires? The crew chief doesn’t know the rules of the game over which he and his team are overseeing? Inexcusable.

After the game, the umpire crew all but refused to answer any questions, insisting any comments regarding a protest game are to go through the league office. Which, unsurprisingly, is horseshit.

I mean, what was the umpire going to say “we don’t know the rules and we’ll be damned if you think we’re going to pull out the rule book on the field in front of all those people.” Delightfully refreshing as it would be, that wasn’t going to happen. And that’s a two-fold problem. The “not knowing the rules of the game” part overrules the “didn’t want to chat frankly about it after the fact” part, in my mind.

As a rule, I tend to lean towards the umpires almost every time. Their job is difficult as the action unfolds in front of them at unbelievable speeds. But for two straight days, we see umpires more concerned with…God knows what rather than doing their jobs correctly. Last night is particularly galling as “ignorance of the law” is not an excuse for anyone, let alone those expected to uphold the law as their sole reason for existing.

Learn the rules. Know the rules. If you aren’t sure of a rule, CHECK THE RULEBOOK. A moment of embarrassment on the field sure beats having your ass hauled in front of the board (should such a thing exist) or missing out on desirable umpiring assignments because you were too stubborn or too dumb to admit you don’t know the rules.

Seriously, Fieldin Culbreth, you aren’t making it easy to defend you are your cronies. I don’t know what scenario is worse: that all four umps on the field couldn’t get the call right or at least one of the crew knew the right call but didn’t want to make the crew chief look like an idiot for butchering a call explicitly written in the rule book! Get your act(s) together.

And the rest

Speaking of sick, perverse, so bad it isn’t funny anymore jokes: the Astros! [Astros County]

Concerns about Craig Kimbrel are massively overblown. [Capitol Avenue Club]

Fernando Tatis, former Expo and master of MS Paint [Inside STL]

Paul Goldschmidt – killing it. [Piecoro]

Inside Luke Scott‘s tough at bat which earned him a shrimpy walk. [The Process Report]

That walkoff walk came against the Blue Jays so it hardly counts. [DJF]

The Marlins “Ultimate Fan” contest went exactly as you think [Big League Stew]