May 07

Something must be done with the umpires.

Enough is enough.

Major League Baseball has long had an umpire problem. There’s never going to be perfection, and missed calls are part of the game and always will be, but it seems they are happening with more regularity.

WEST: He needs to be ejected.

Bad calls are one thing, but couple that with arrogance and it is an untenable situation, such as the one last night at Fenway Park, which figured a meltdown by Red Sox manager Terry Francona clearly initiated by two of the worst umpires in the game, Angel Hernandez and Joe West.

When Francona went out to discuss a balk call against Tim Wakefield, Hernandez ran him within seconds. The rules, ridiculous as they are, dictated an automatic ejection. Francona wanted an explanation of what Wakefield did wrong, but Hernandez never let him get a word in.

That’s a quick trigger. Umpires are supposed to be composed and show some patience, but that obviously goes against the grain with Hernandez. You must give the player or manager the opportunity to make his point.

Had Hernandez shown discretion there might not have been the subsequent meltdown.

That’s when Francona lost it and went after Hernandez, only to be intercepted by West, who has the reputation of being a hothead and wanting to interject himself into the game.

West clearly butted into a situation that didn’t involve him as Francona would say later. All he did was escalate the confrontation. There was contact made – six times according to the replay – but it was instigated by West.

Francona will obviously be fined, perhaps suspended by Commissioner Bud Selig, but West will get a pass because MLB doesn’t want to antagonize the umpires union, which, if angry enough, will take it out on the game and be confrontational all summer.

However, something needs to be done about West, who has consistently been ranked one of the worst umpires in player polls. He has the reputation of being a loose cannon and putting himself in the middle of things.

West, you might recall threw ejected two cameramen from Shea Stadium when they allowed the Mets to view a replay of a play at the plate. He’s also the one who criticized the Yankees and Red Sox for their slow play.

MLB must do something to improve the quality of umpiring. It could begin with expanded instant replay, because the objective is to get it right.

But, what I want is for each umpire to be wired so we can hear what goes on in the argument. We will be able to tell who did the instigating. Many of these arguments occur when the umps have rabbit ears and seek out the confrontation.

Having the umpires wired, and held accountable with fines and suspensions similar to the ones given the players, will help calm the waters.

The umpires are supposedly graded every year, but what is done with those who are at the bottom? Evidently not much as they return to show us their incompetence the next summer.

In the case of Joe West, he’s been a example of what is wrong with umpires. It is time the sport ejects him.

 

Apr 28

Upon further review; time for more replay in baseball.

Sorry for the late post, but it has been a rough day. I think I might have come down with what’s been going through the Mets’ clubhouse.

REYES: Ump blew call big time last night.

Anyway, like you I saw the play involving Jose Reyes at third base last night. Umpire Marvin Hudson blew it on all levels, from not seeing the play, to falling for the acting of Washington’s third baseman Jerry , to making a bad call, to not asking for help.

I don’t think he was in proper position to make the call in the first place.

Reyes was clearly safe, and his animated protest illustrates to me he knew he was in there and he never left the bag. The Mets were fortunate the blown play didn’t cost them the game. MLB odds were not affected.

Umpires are going to miss calls, that’s part of the game. Nobody is perfect, and that includes umpires. But, to blow it so bad, and not even hear a comment from him later, borders on being reprehensible. I want the umpires to be as accountable as the players. The goal is to get the play right, and last night they didn’t.

Since getting it correct is the goal, it is time to expand the use of instant replay. It is implemented on home runs and it is time for use on the bases. The extra three or four minutes it would add to the game is worth it for the goal of getting it right.

It shouldn’t be too hard because the bases are fixed locations, just like fair and foul, and the walls on homers. Cameras on fixed locations could ascertain in the runner came off the bag, whether the fielder applied the tag and if the tag was on time.

They’ll never have instant replay on balls and strikes, but having it on the bases is the logical next step. The umpiring has been on decline for several years and doesn’t appear to be getting any better. The game is getting faster and faster, and it is expected calls will be missed. But, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse to accept poor performance from the umpires.

It is bad enough there’s no consistency behind the plate, but Major League Baseball shouldn’t have to endure the same on the bases, especially when that would be an easy one to fix.

The sport is making a pile of money and there should be a fifth umpire located in the press box with a monitor to evaluate the replay. Enough is enough, get it right.

Mar 02

Impact of Wilpon’s financial problems already being felt.

F. WILPON: There's a Ponzi connection to the field.

Some have suggested the product on the field has not yet been impacted by the Ponzi scheme, but that is hardly close to the truth. In fact, much of what the Mets are doing with their team is directly resulted in the fallout from the Madoff situation.

There were rumblings of the Wilpons being in financial straits for over a year now, with a clear sign last July at the trade deadline when the Mets, within striking distance of the wild card, stood pat and did nothing to improve their club. It takes money to win and the Mets added no significant payroll at a time when they could have improved their team and made a change in the attitude at Citi Field.

A second clear sign – although we didn’t learn of this until recently – was receiving a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball at the end of last season. This is a team, despite a new stadium, that was beginning to swim in debt. If we had known it then, we could have been spared the off-season angst of them not doing anything in the winter.

Sign three, and very significant, was the hiring of general manager Sandy Alderson at MLB’s urging. Commissioner Bud Selig took a proactive approach in getting Alderson hired by the Wilpon’s, perhaps in large part, to be a caretaker for the franchise as it explores minority ownership investors and later a possible sale.

Continue reading

Feb 16

Don’t get excited about ownership news

Bernie Madoff’s confession that the Wilpons “knew nothing,” about his Ponzi scheme coupled with the news Fred Wilpon talking with Donald Trump about purchasing a portion of the Mets makes for interesting copy, but don’t put too much stock into it turning the franchise around.

Translation: Still no big spending.

Madoff is in jail for fraud, lying and stealing so what is his word worth anyway? Madoff’s confession certainly won’t get the lawyers off the Wilpon’s back so the lawsuit will go on as planned.

As for Trump, well, his money would indeed help and he’s indicated a willingness to help the Wilpons. However, his reputation is not for playing second string so I don’t see him, or any other investor for that matter, spending millions and not getting a say in the way things are handled. That’s just not his style.

It is also not the Wilpons’ style to give up control. Today in Port St. Lucie, Jeff Wilpon insisted to reporters that controlling interest in the team is not for sale.

“We’re not selling controlling interest in the team. It’s not on the table,” said.

Perhaps more importantly, Major League Baseball won’t allow Trump to invest in any percentage of the team as long as he owns casinos. MLB has hard rules on gambling and there will be no allowing him to own part of a team if he’s connected with gambling. At one time, MLB banned both Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays from baseball while they were employed after their careers at casinos.

Oct 27

Mets to name Alderson

He was the favorite from the moment he announced his interest in the job, and a formality after being endorsed by commissioner Bud Selig. Although the Mets have not officially done so, the announcement of Sandy Alderson for the organization’s GM position is forthcoming – Friday during the World Series travel day.

ALDERSON: It's a new day.

Alderson beat out Josh Byrnes for the job, so it was a win-win for the Mets regardless. The Mets ran a thorough search, interviewing a long list of qualified candidates. It’s hard to think any of the choices would have been bad, but Alderson is off the charts.

Alderson has a sterling reputation in the sport having brought winning to Oakland and San Diego, and with his work in MLB and in Latin America. Alderson brings credibility to an organization that has long needed it; he brings decisiveness and toughness which has long been lacking.

Perhaps, above all, he brings with him the tools for change and the knowledge it won’t come overnight. Rebuilding the Mets will be a long process as several bulky contracts will weigh the team down for any immediate influx of talent in 2011.

Alderson is 62, but that’s a number. He’s a progressive thinker who has done it. His reputation is such that he’ll bring in quality people and implement a system that works.

I really like this move because it is no a quick fix. He isn’t the flavor-of-the-month the way Omar Minaya was when he took over.

The Mets are immediately better today because they sent the message they are serious and the rest of baseball believes them.