Manny Acta works for ESPN now and has a column up about technology and umpiring today. It’s Insider-only, so you can’t read it without a subscription, but most of it is spent talking about how technology has changed how players prepare for games and stuff. That’s all good. And really, if you’re going to have a very recent ex-manager writing columns, his behind-the-scenes insight on that stuff is the way to go.
Manny does lose me a bit when he gets down to ranking what he feels are the best umps in the game, though. No real quibble until he gets to number five:
The top 10
1. Jeff Nelson: He averages 0.00 smiles per game, but no one cares more and works harder than this guy. Solid all around and very consistent.
2. Jim Reynolds: Friendly, but professional with a terrific strike zone and very good on the bases.
3. Tim McClelland: He has ended up in the middle of a number of controversial calls in his carer, but he commands respect and deserves it. He still has one of the best strike zones in the game.
4. Ron Kulpa: He really cares and has a good common sense when handling stuff on the field.
5. Joe West: His “I’m here and I’m in charge attitude” makes him unpopular among players and managers, but you can’t ignore how good he is. He’s the guy you want to have behind the plate during a do-or-die game.
Whoa, Dwayne. I think West is probably the second to the last I’d rather have behind the plate before Angel Hernandez and that’s about it.
I’d be curious to see where other managers rank West. I can’t imagine he’d be anywhere near the top five. I question whether he’d make the top 30.
MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that umpires Bob Davidson, Bob Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce, and Tim Welke have retired.
Davidson, 64, was known as “Balkin’ Bob” for his tendency to call pitchers for balks. Davidson has also made a name for himself picking fights with players and managers, as well as unnecessarily escalating situations.
Hirschbeck, 62, didn’t quite have the reputation Davidson had, but he had a couple of notable incidents on his profile as well. Last year, when ejecting Twins slugger Miguel Sano, Hirschbeck said, “Get the [expletive] out of here.” In 2013, he threw a drum of oil on a fire that very easily could’ve been snuffed out with Bryce Harper.
Joyce, 61, was a well-liked and well-respected umpire who will go down in history for one mistake. On June 2, 2010, Tigers starter Armando Galarraga was one out away from a perfect game. Indians second baseman Jason Donald hit a weak grounder about halfway between first and second base. Miguel Cabrera went to his right to field it and flipped to Galarraga covering first base. It was a close call, but Joyce incorrectly ruled Donald safe, ruining Galarraga’s perfect game. To both Joyce’s and Galarraga’s credit, both handled the mistake with the utmost class.
Craig also wrote in detail about Joyce a few years ago. It’s worth a re-read.
Tim Welke, 59, actually announced his retirement last year, but I guess it wasn’t made official until recently. He underwent a left knee replacement procedure in January last year and then had his right knee replaced five months later.
CNBC, citing Reuters, reports that Facebook and Major League Baseball are in discussions to stream one game per week.
Streaming is becoming more and more ubiquitous as it’s a more convenient way for people to access media they like. MLB Advanced Media, which handles MLB’s streaming service, is worth several billions of dollars. Last year, Disney paid $1 billion to purchase a 33 percent stake in BAMTech, the independent company MLBAM launched for its streaming.
Millennials and “Generation Z,” in particular, are driving the streaming trend. Forbes, citing the Digital Democracy Survey in 2015, reported that 56 percent of millennials’ media consumption was done via computer, smartphone, tablet, or gaming device. Those 30 years and older rely on television to watch film and TV shows at a clip higher than 80 percent.
Twitter is already in the sports streaming arena. It streams MLB, NFL, and NHL games as well as the PGA Tour.