Joe Torre, Major League Baseball tell us all to embrace “the human element”

70 Comments

Major League Baseball just released its official statement on the blown call in last night’s Pirates-Braves game.  It’s from Joe Torre — Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations — and it’s reproduced in its entirety below.  Here’s the short version, though:

“Blahblahblah we don’t care at all if games are blown because of crappy umpiring and we’re never going to give you a good reason why.”

OK, that may be a rather loose summary of it, but really, that’s the substance.

Fine, Torre admits the mistake and notes that Jerry Meals both admitted it and feels bad about it.  Which I’m sure he does.  People screw up from time to time and Meals did too.  He should be faulted for that, but not ostracized for it (and especially not threatened for it).  The real fault here is a system that has the ability to easily correct these very human mistakes and chooses not to.

But Torre and Major League Baseball claim that people love that system, and that “most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires.”

What kind of baloney is that?  Who are these deluded and easily-manipulated people? Who blithely accepts that easily-corrected bad calls will always be a part of the game and dares not question why? Torre and Bud Selig have the ability to change these rules in less time than it takes for you to say “boo,” but people — most people, if you believe Torre — believe it’s inevitable that that never happen?  What’s next, baseball? Will Oceania always be at war with Eastasia?

This is unacceptable.  These kinds of calls can and should be corrected via instant replay. Torre provides no rational reason, let alone a compelling reason why that can’t be so.  Just because we can’t obtain perfection doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for improvement.

This is a cop out, pure and simple. Just ridiculous.  Here’s the statement.

Major League Baseball Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre issued the following statement today regarding the game-ending play in the 19th inning of last night’s game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field:

“Unfortunately, it appears that the call was missed, as Jerry Meals acknowledged after the game.  Many swipe tags are not applied to the runner with solid contact, but the tag was applied and the game should have remained tied.  I have spoken with Jerry, who is a hard-working, respected umpire, and no one feels worse than him.  We know that this is not a product of a lack of effort.

“Having been the beneficiary of calls like this and having been on the other end in my experience as a player and as a manager, I have felt that this has always been a part of our game.  As a member of the Commissioner’s Special Committee for On-Field Matters, I have heard many discussions on umpiring and technology over the past two years, including both the pros and the cons of expanding replay.  However, most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires. Obviously, a play like this is going to spark a lot of conversation, and we will continue to consider all viewpoints in our ongoing discussions regarding officiating in baseball.

“We expect the best from our umpires, and an umpire would tell you he expects the best of himself.  We have to continue to strive for accuracy, consistency and professionalism day in and day out.”

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

Getty Images
6 Comments

With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.