The dog days of summer are here, and the only thing hotter than the weather appears to be the quick triggers and short tempers of Major League Umpires. A lot has been made lately of the flare-ups between players and the umpires, but after what we saw this weekend in Cincinnati and then again last night in Baltimore, the temper of umpires is way down on the list of importance. Umpires have the opportunity and responsibility to deliver the greatest of services to the game and its fans. Make the pitchers pitch and make the hitters stay in the box.
Over the weekend we saw Bronson Arroyo take his time between pitches, grinding the game to a halt at times it felt. It was so obvious what he was doing, Cincinnati TV Broadcasters Thom Brennaman and Jeff Brantley commented on how it was a great strategy to keep the Cardinals from really gaining momentum. They also commented on how hard it was for the players behind the pitcher as well.
Last night in Baltimore, Michael Gonzalez came in for the Orioles in the top of the 7th, IN the 8th he faces Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury eventually walked on an at bat that was over 10 pitches, but also seem like it was about 20 minutes. Yes I’m exaggerating a bit but after each pitch, Ellsbury took a stroll out of the box, adjusted his helmet and gloves then meandered back in the batters box. But on the mound it was happening too. Gonzalez was walking off the mound and strolling behind it after each pitch as well. The night before in Tampa, the Sox/Rays game went 16 innings. It took an hour go get from the top of the 10th through the top of the 11th.
Major League Baseball umpires have the ability to make the hitter stand in the box and make the pitchers pitch. If the pitchers are taking too long, they can force a pitch or penalize them by awarding the batter a ball. If the batter is taking too much time, you tell the pitcher to throw anyway and watch how it gets fixed. Typically, the length of games does not bother me much. I love just being at the ballpark and the fact baseball has no clock. But at the same time, a better pace of the game is better for everyone from players, managers and umpires to fans watching. Umpires have to focus on this and get better moving the game along. It’s something easily in control of the umpires and they need to take control of it. And frankly, if a player or manager does not like it, well then toss ‘em. We know they’ve become good at that.