Jump to content
  • Welcome to AngelsWin.com

    AngelsWin.com - THE Internet Home for Angels fans! Unraveling Angels Baseball ... One Thread at a Time.

    Register today to comment and join the most interactive online Angels community on the net!

    Once you're a member you'll see less advertisements. Become a Premium Member today for an ad-free experience. 



OC Register: Hoornstra: Major league umpires, minus a few veterans, get a crash course in new baseball

Recommended Posts

On the cusp of baseball’s noble but wobbly 60-game experiment, one team is losing 14 percent of its workforce. Eleven of the 76 men on its roster have opted out a week before Opening Day. The replacements are already lined up.

This news should have made a whopping thud when it dropped Tuesday morning. Maybe it did, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has made us numb to the usual intonations of the news cycle. Maybe it will, when the idea of “replacement level” comes into sharp focus.

The team? Major League Baseball umpires.

If this were a team of players, the sudden rash of opt-outs would be impossible to ignore. It would be the talk of the game, now and perhaps for the season. We’ll surely notice the home plate umpire standing over the catcher’s shoulder, hopefully wearing extra protection around his mouth and nose, but maybe not. We might notice the men in blue wearing masks while minding the bases. If everything goes according to plan, we won’t notice the umpires at all. That’s the goal every season.

As with many things in 2020, it’s no longer reasonable to expect everything to go according to plan. Umpires were issued their own list of precautions in the 2020 Operations Manual prepared by MLB. Some are more intriguing than others:

  • Temperature checks and an oral questionnaire to check for symptoms of COVID-19 within two hours of arrival at the ballpark.
  • A minimum distance of six feet between lockers in the umpires’ room.
  • Personal protective equipment, education, and access to regular testing to umpires and their families, provided by the MLB.
  • When necessary (as determined by the league), umpires may be permitted to travel with teams.
  • For this season only, a fifth umpire will be added to each four-man crew “when temperatures reach certain levels.” The fifth ump will allow one ump to rotate off the field into a cooling station near the field, “consisting of fan(s), shade, and water that umpires can use between innings or when rotating off.”

Who said no fans wouldn’t be allowed in a ballpark this season?

In many ways, umpires are afforded the same level of protection as players. (Or, as they’re known in the COVID-19 era, “Tier 1 individuals.”) Teams are limiting their regular-season schedule to divisional play – West vs. West, Central vs. Central, East vs. East. Umpire crews are reportedly being assigned to one of three regions, too. That ought to reduce the need for air travel, if not eliminate it altogether.

No one will be tuning in to watch the umpires, but they deserve better protection than players. They’re older on average, and age holds more risk for those exposed to the novel coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control is recording COVID-19 deaths by age group. Through Wednesday, deaths within each group (15-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65-74) followed a straight line upward. It came as little surprise when Gerry Davis, 67, told USA Today he’s among the umpires opting out of the season.

“Familiar faces that we’re used to seeing are choosing to opt out,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s a personal decision that we all in baseball respect.”

More often than not, a familiar face is a welcome sight when a game begins to veer off the rails. Experience helps. The 2020 season comes with some unique rules, so that potential seems high.

For one thing, there will be no pregame lineup card exchange. That requires umpires and managers to stand in close proximity, a physical distancing no-no. Instead, according to the 2020 Operations Manual, each team will input its lineup card into a mobile application provided by the league. Umpires then must print the lineup cards for both teams and confirm the printouts with both managers prior to first pitch.

Enforcing the new extra-innings tiebreaker rule seems easy enough, so long as teams don’t sneak their fastest runner onto second base when they aren’t allowed. Checking for foreign substances on a pitcher’s hand will be trickier.

The league practically invited pitchers to bend the rules when it allowed them to carry a “wet rag” in their back pocket this season. It’s the more hygienic alternative to licking one’s fingers to grip a baseball. Hiding a foreign substance on a pocket rag is more clandestine than rubbing pine tar on your skin. And the temptation will be great. “It’s a bigger advantage than steroids ever were, if you know how to manipulate it,” Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer told HBO’s Real Sports in February.

So, who gets to enforce these rules?

The 11 replacements will be culled from a list of minor league umpires designated before each season to fill in as needed. Eighteen fill-in umps were designated prior to the 2019 season. This year, that number reportedly rose to 20. Some have years of major league experience. Others could be making their debut.

In theory, a shorter season means fewer injuries – and fewer major league umpires who require replacement. Also in theory, an older person could be sidelined longer from COVID-19 than a younger person. What’s the correct amount of faith to place in MLB’s protocols for umpires? We have some idea of how 11 umps answered that question.

For the replacements, the 2020 season amounts to a crash course in a set of rules baseball might never see again, in a game played faster than its Triple-A equivalent.

“The good thing is,” Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway said, “we have replay.”

View the full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...