Injuries may help explain awful postseason umpiring

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FOXSports.com’s Tracy Ringolsby offers a potential explanation for why the postseason umpiring has been so abysmal:

The quality of the umpiring has taken a hit because at least a dozen umpires, including seven crew chiefs, were left out of postseason assignments this year due to injuries.



Sidelined umpires include crew chiefs John Hirschbeck (testicular cancer), Charlie Reliford (back), Jerry Crawford (back), Tim Welke (concussion), Ed Montague (concussion and neck), Gary Darling (ankle and foot) and Rick Reed (stroke).



Other umpires who are sidelined by injuries include Kerwin Danley (concussion), Alfonso Marquez (back), Brian Runge (details unknown), Bill Hohn (back) and Ed Hickok (concussion). Several of them did return from the injuries in September, but given their limited time on the field this year they were not included in the list of postseason candidates.

Ringolsby compares it to the Yankees being “without Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Mariano Rivera and a couple other regulars.” While that may be a stretch, the fact that eight of the 19 umpires with 20-plus years of experience were unavailable for the postseason does help explain some of the odd assignments and less-than-stellar performances. MLB also has workload restrictions that have further limited the pool.
Of course, there’s a big difference between assigning lesser umpires to playoff games and watching as those lesser umpires perform horribly while flat-out blowing obvious calls. In theory even MLB’s non-elite umpires should be capable of doing their job at an acceptable level, so regardless of injuries and workload restrictions Bud Selig and company still need to address the issues that we’ve seen so far.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.