It was unofficially announced last night that Major League Baseball will only be using umpires with previous World Series experience for the Fall Classic this season.
The move comes as a result of numerous botched calls throughout the first two rounds of the postseason.
With those errant calls has come an increased push for Major League Baseball to expand its use of instant replay. Currently MLB only uses instant replay to determine boundary calls in the case of home runs.
Commissioner Bud Selig has been hesitant to expand the use of instant replay, so much so that he’s gone on record stating that he believes the system is working well.
“This goes on every time there’s a controversial call,” Selig said. “But frankly, I’m quite satisfied with the way things are.”
As it stands “the way things are” includes a smattering of blown calls in nearly every series this postseason.
Notable mistakes include: Phil Cuzzi’s foul call on a drive by Joe Mauer that was fair by a foot, Jerry Meals’ error on a ball that bounced off Chase Utley’s leg, Dale Scott’s miss on a pickoff and Tim McClelland’s call on a tag play, just about anything done by C.B. Bucknor and a host of other blunders.
Bucknor was actually in line to work in his first World Series this year.
However, the combination of blown calls in the Angels/Red Sox series and the fact that he is consistently ranked—by the players—as one of the worst umpires in the majors probably did nothing to help his cause.
“I don’t really have any desire to increase the amount of replay — period,” Selig said.
What Selig does have is a desire to decrease the amount of bad PR that MLB and its umpiring crews are receiving this postseason.
As a result, for just the second time in a quarter century, baseball will break tradition and the six-man crew will consist entirely of umpires who have previously worked in the World Series.
The crew currently figures to be comprised of longtime crew chiefs Joe West, Dana DeMuth and Gerry Davis, along with Brian Gorman, Jeff Nelson and Mike Everitt.
The rumored crew will undoubtedly be experienced.
West, DeMuth and Davis each have worked three World Series and have been major league umpires for more than 25 years.
Gorman, Nelson and Everitt all have called one World Series, and have been on the big league staff for at least 11 years.
The World Series crew has generally included at least one umpire working the event for the first time. In each of the previous two Series, there were three new umpires on the crew.
If Major League Baseball wants to use this as a bandage for the problem, that’s fine.
This can’t, however, be a permanent solution as the pool of available umpires for the World Series figures to continue shrinking each year as experienced umps retire.
The ideal situation would be for MLB to ramp up its efforts to improve umpiring across the board this offseason.
If that doesn’t happen—and the atrocious umpiring continues—Selig may have to move on from “the way things are” and finally listen to the calls for expanded replay.
Unfortunately for some teams on the wrong end of botched calls in this year’s playoffs, no matter what happens it will be too little, too late.