Sometimes, the only thing worse than getting bad news is getting no news at all, particularly when you’re talking about a controversial call in a sporting event. Like in the 2012 NL Wild Card game that saw Braves fans go from perplexed to incensed as what looked like a huge hit/error in the 8th inning turned into an inexplicable infield fly call by left field umpire Sam Holbrook.
While those of us watching on television got the skinny from the broadcast, the folks at the ballpark had no clue what was going on. A buddy of mine from college was there and had to text people on the outside to learn what was happening, all the while dodging the trash being hurled onto the field. The guy next to him literally took off his shoes and chucked them in anger.
Though Holbrook’s call was not reviewable, plenty of other dubious calls before and since have been upheld on the basis of…well, no one really knows. Unlike in the NFL, where the lead referee uses a microphone to explain the ruling on the field and the result of a replay review, MLB umps simply remove a headset and signal safe or out. No explanation of why, which can be maddening.
But if Monday’s report from Pedro Gomez of ESPN proves accurate, Cowboy Joe West is going to have the chance to croon into a new kind of mic. According to Gomez’s tweet, “umpires will be mic’d up and tell fans in attendance and those watching on television and listening on radio if reviewed calls are upheld or overturned.” He added that they may explain rules in some cases and clarified in a subsequent tweet that only crew chiefs would have the mic.
New for the 2020 MLB season: Much like NFL referees have done for years, umpires will be mic’d up and tell fans in attendance and those watching on television and listening on radio if reviewed calls are upheld or overturned. They may also explain rules, if necessary.
— Pedro Gomez (@pedrogomezESPN) January 27, 2020
I am very much in favor of this change, even more so than anything involving the DH, roster rules, or even eliminating the sham of awarding the Cardinals with competitive balance draft picks. Actually, that last part would be a far better change. Still, having umps explain the calls made by the folks back in New York — the location of MLB’s review center — is a step in the right direction.
Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but it’s possible that having to speak about the calls they made will force umps to step up their collective game. After all, it’s a little easier to sweep something under the rug when you’ve just got to make a hand signal. It’s borderline shocking that Rob Manfred would okay anything that might conceivably add time to the game, so I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop on this. Like finding out that each explanation comes at the cost of a minor-league team losing its MLB affiliation.
In the meantime, let’s just revel in this small victory.