MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Surprised At Umpire Protest, Doesn't Agree With Premise
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said he was a "little surprised" by the umpires' protest over the weekend, as it was a "clear violation" of the CBA, according to Chris McCosky of the DETROIT NEWS. Manfred: "We let them know it was a violation of their collective bargaining agreement and that we intended to enforce our rights under that agreement." Manfred said that the situation was "quickly diffused after he agreed to meet with the umpires group and hear their grievances." That meeting has "not yet taken place." But Manfred said that he "didn’t agree with the premise of the umpires’ beef -- that verbal attacks on umpires were happening with unprecedented frequency" (DETROIT NEWS, 8/23). Several umpires wore white wristbands during Saturday’s games to show support for umpire Angel Hernandez after Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler criticized him. In Michigan, Evan Woodbery noted Kinsler was "fined a reported $10,000 for his comments but not suspended." Hernandez is "currently suing MLB alleging that he was discriminated against because of his Cuban heritage." Manfred said that the lawsuit "played no role in Kinsler's punishment" (MLIVE.com, 8/22).
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: MLB Network's Brian Kenny said, "Everyone’s occupying the same baseball world and umpires are in that world. I think they need to be respected as well so hopefully something good comes out of this meeting.” MLB Network’s Jon Heyman: “Everyone’s going to be on edge a little bit. Nothing wrong with listening. Rob’s going to meet with them and I think that’s the right thing to do.” MLB Network’s Dan O’Dowd: “We set an unrealistic expectation for umpires in our game. It should be high because it shows us the crucial role they play in games in the outcomes day in and day out, but we lose perspective at times of how difficult of a job they have to do” (“MLB Now,” MLB Network, 8/21).
HUNKERING DOWN: NBC Sports Bay Area’s Ray Ratto said it is now "remarkably confrontational" between MLB and the umpires (“The Happy Hour,” NBCS Bay Area, 8/21). CBS Sports Network's Adam Schein said MLB umpiring has "never been worse than it is right now." Schein: "I don't want to hear about replay, I don’t want to hear about any of that. They need new umpires, baseball knows that. That was a joke this weekend” (“Time to Schein,” CBSSN, 8/21). The Colorado Springs Gazette's Woody Paige said there "should have been a suspension" for Kinsler because “otherwise the players know that they can just get away with saying whatever they want to.” The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw said the umpires "needed to do this.” The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke: “This was not a good look for the umpires, and even the umpires agree, because all of them didn’t wear the wristbands” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 8/21).
WHAT ABOUT THE HUMAN ELEMENT? ESPN.com's Andrew Marchand reported Manfred "thinks computer umpires accurately calling balls and strikes will be available" to MLB "sooner than later." At that point, the people who run baseball will "have to discuss if they want to eliminate a human element from the game." Manfred said, "When the technology gets there, I'm sure the owners will have a conversation on whether they want to go to make that additional move of taking that human element out of the game. Right now, we don't have technology that in real time can more accurately call balls and strikes than our human umpires, who -- let's not forget -- get it right about 95 percent of the time" (ESPN.com, 8/22).