Fay Vincent has some good ideas on improving umpiring

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And it’s not just saying “robot umps now,” no matter how satisfying that is.  Writing over at Murray Chass’s blog, the former Commissioner of Baseball Fay Vincent says that MLB needs to take total control of umpiring:

  • MLB should buy the umpire schools and take over the training and development of all umpires in professional baseball. The recruitment, training and compensation of minor league and major league umpires should be controlled by the commissioner and modern personnel programs instituted to insure proper professional development.
  • Minor league umpires as employees of MLB should be offered the opportunity to become members of the same union as major league umpires to insure all of them are properly represented and protected by Federal law.
  • The use of technology to improve the accuracy of on field decisions should continue to be explored with the full involvement of the umpires. Additional use of replays should be carefully adopted with careful attention to the risks of further delays in the games.

It’s probably shocking to some that Major League Baseball does not train the umpires, but it doesn’t. They hire them from the private umpire schools and these guys are largely on their own until they’re promoted to the bigs. Which probably has a lot more to do with their often adversarial relationship with the league and with players by the time they’ve got the MLB job.

Odds of anyone in MLB’s offices listening to Vincent? About zero, sadly. You tend not to take advice from people you deposed in a coup.  But he’s right.

Pirates looking for outside outfield help

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Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Pirates GM Neal Huntington is looking for outside outfield help in the wake of Starling Marte‘s 80-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. With Marte out of the picture, the club moved Andrew McCutchen back to center field and have played Adam Frazier, John Jaso, and Jose Osuna in right field. But, as Brink points out, Osuna and Jaso — neither an outfielder by trade — misplayed balls over the weekend against the Yankees.

Among available free agents, the pickings are slim. There’s Coco Crisp, Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Kelly Johnson, and Nolan Reimold (who is currently in independent baseball). The Pirates may have to find themselves a trade partner. They could also try to talk Angel Pagan back into action, as the veteran outfielder recently said he’s taking the year off. The Pirates could also look at Leonys Martin, who was recently designated for assignment by the Mariners.

Matt Barnes ejected after throwing at Manny Machado’s head

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On Friday, tension between the Orioles and Red Sox rose when Manny Machado spiked Dustin Pedroia sliding into second base. Although the umpires found no fault with Machado’s slide, third base coach Brian Butterfield was later ejected, still feeling like Machado wronged the Red Sox. Pedroia exited the game and was not in the lineup on Saturday or Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI for his left knee and ankle in Boston on Monday.

For what it’s worth, Pedroia didn’t seem to feel any bitterness towards Machado for his slide. As MLB.com’s Jeff Seidel reported, Pedroia said, “I don’t even know what the rule is. I’ve turned the best double play in the Major Leagues for 11 years. I don’t need a … rule. The rule’s irrelevant. The rule’s for people with bad footwork.”

Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles again on Sunday. In the bottom of the eighth inning with a runner on first base and one out with the Red Sox leading 6-0, reliever Matt Barnes threw a first-pitch fastball up-and-in to Machado. The ball actually hit Machado’s bat, so it counted as a foul ball. Home plate umpire Andy Fletcher ejected Barnes and the Red Sox brought in Joe Kelly. Machado doubled on the first pitch Kelly threw to put the Orioles on the board, but the Orioles ultimately lost 6-2.

MASN’s broadcast later showed Pedroia talking to Machado, seemingly clarifying that Barnes acted of his own volition without encouragement from Pedroia. “You know that,” Pedroia appeared to say. “It wasn’t me. It’s them.”

Update: Pedroia even apologized to Machado and the Orioles, per Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.

Commissioner Rob Manfred will likely look into Sunday’s incident. He could fine and/or suspend Barnes.

The Orioles and Red Sox meet again in Boston for a four-game series May 1-4. It will be interesting to see if the tension still remains then.