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WHEELER: Umps Gone Wild & Blues Moves

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Before I get to some hockey talk, I just have to address what we saw at the end of last night’s game at Wrigley Field.

Nothing in baseball irritates me more than umpires with attitude. I have nothing but respect for the umps who conduct themselves professionally and don’t let their own feelings – or egos – get in the way of the job they’re being paid to do. Far too often, however, umpires thrust themselves into the spotlight for selfish reasons and that’s unacceptable.

Keep in mind, I’m not referring to missed calls. This isn’t about balls and strikes, safe or out. This is about how these offending umpires treat players, managers and coaches.

In the 9th inning of last night’s game, Matt Adams was called out on strikes on a pitch that he thought was out of the zone. He turned and mildly protested the call – there was no screaming, yelling or wild physical gestures – and umpire Dan Bellino (a noted hothead) took off his mask an shooed Adams away as if he was an insect.

That set Mike Matheny off – and I give Mike a lot of credit for waiting until after the game to go after Bellino and not risking his remaining batters being squeezed by the overly sensitive man in blue – and he made it known to Bellino after the game that his behavior was unprofessional.

There are two key  points here:

1) Nobody cares if an umpire feels like he’s been “shown up.” The people in the stands, and those watching at home, don’t tune in to see the men in blue. We don’t care if you feel insulted. Your feelings don’t matter, not even a little bit. If a player becomes belligerent, or his actions obviously merit ejection, that’s fine. Nobody minds that. But when you’re dismissive of professional athletes because they hurt your feelings, you need to be accountable for your actions.

2) That brings me to the next point. There is no public accountability for umpires. Some of them put themselves out there when they are in the wrong – think Jim Joyce in the Armando Galarraga situation where he cost the right-hander a perfect game with a terrible call on a play at first base – and others run and hide after the game.

Major League Baseball needs to take strong action when an umpire like Bellino inserts himself into the game. It is never acceptable for an umpire to be dismissive of a Major League player like he was to Adams. Never.

MLB should have sent a replacement to Chicago last night and given Bellino the next three days off. They should also have made him offer up a public apology for being dismissive toward a player and inserting himself into the action.

But they won’t because that’s not the kind of thing Major League Baseball does. The worst part of that is that the good umps, guys like Joyce and Ron Kulpa, get lumped in with the hotheads like Bellino. You know, you’d think the good guys would take a stronger stance against those in their profession who reflect badly on everyone.

On to the Blues

I hate to see David Perron go because he’s a talented player and he was always good to me. I liked him a lot, both as a player and as good guy, but I think the trade sending him to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi was a smart move.

Perron has the ability to be a high-end scorer but as we all saw, he has his flaws too.  But those flaws weren’t the biggest reason he was deal…his salary was. The Blues needed to create cap space so they moved a player that was a $3.8 million cap hit for the next three seasons and got a player whose cap hit will likely be less than half of that plus a 2nd round draft pick.

Perron is a better offensive player than Paajarvi is right now, no doubt. Paajarvi, however, is bigger and a much better skater. The young Swede has a solid 2-way game and a lot of offensive upside. Plus he’s cheaper than Perron. Toss in the 2nd round pick and it was a really solid, common sense move for the Blues.

In my opinion, we should also count the addition of center Derek Roy as part of the “trade” that involved Perron. His salary and Perron’s were so close – $4 million for Roy, $3.85 million for Perron – that you could argue that trading Perron was directly related to the signing of a new Top 6 center.

Doesn’t the deal look better when you look at it that way? To have room for Roy the Blues had to move someone else. Given the traffic jam at forward, Perron was a logical choice to be moved because of his salary and his uneven performance last season.

At forward the Blues currently have:

David Backes
Patrik Berglund
Adam Cracknell
Max Lapierre
T.J. Oshie
Magnus Paajarvi
Chris Porter
Ryan Reaves
Derek Roy
Jaden Schwartz
Vladimir Sobotka
Alex Steen
Chris Stewart – RFA
Vladimir Tarasenko

That’s 14 guys and it doesn’t even count Keith Aucoin, Dmitrij Jaskin or Ty Rattie.

The Blues needed to change up their mix at forward, with a special need for a playmaking center, and to make that happen someone who would play Top 6 minutes with a good sized cap hit had to go.

In this case, it was Perron.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone else from that group moved before the start of training camp…and that’s without even mentioning the possibility of a goalie being moved.

I like Paajarvi, I’ve heard a lot of good things about him and I think he’ll be a nice player for the Blues. I seem to remember another “underachieving” one-time 1st round pick from Sweden who was acquired by the Blues a few years back. A guy that just couldn’t find a place with his previous team…

That was Alex Steen.

Every player develops at a different pace. Paajarvi has a lot of talent and I think he’ll be an asset for the Blues sooner rather than later.

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