Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In Washington this week,,,Baseball's Special prosecutors: Umpires

As Washington debates and leverages immigration policy on itself this week, baseball will break out in the nation's capital. And in special prosecuted like fashion, umpires will have carte blanche to prosecute any suspected malfescance by pitchers. Much like the Patrick Fitzgerald-Scooter Libby thing going on now that makes one's hair hurt, the word, "intent" will be on the minds of the umpires as to whether or not to take action if even if a pitch comes inside on a batter. Nevermind whether or not it actually hits him or if he actually even wanted too.

Can you imagine if every time contact occurred in a NASCAR race, someone could be ejected? The problem is that Baseball has put too much pressure on the umpires and asked that they judge on the fly a pitchers intent. Too often, a young umpire gets this wrong and a pitcher and manager are tossed and it alters the manner in which the game is called. Its akin to asking umpires to be the Thought Police. The righteous indignation you see managers put in is much about efforting to influence said Thought Police.

The fact of the matter is that all pitchers pitch inside and all batters are moving toward the plate during a pitch. Both need to do this for success. Occasionally a batter will get hit. There's gamemanship on bothsides as both hitter and pitcher attempt to establish ownership of the inner 1/3 of the plate and off the plate for that manner. Recall visions of body armor.

Baseball has attempted to legislate the intricacies of the dynamics that occur when a pitcher pitches inside.

I recall a memorable staredown that occurred between David Cone and Pedro Guerrero in Dodger Stadium. Guerrero was on top of the plate and Cone pitched him inside during the course of the game. When Cone finally hit Guerrero....with a curve ball.....Guerrero tossed his bat at Coney and stated toward the mound before Barry Lyons grabbed him. Even as intense as the Dodgers and Mets rivalry was during the 1980's, the Dodgers knew what was going on.

This is a subtle give and take part of the game that has always been part of the game. What we've witnessed in recent years, is hitters getting more and more on top of the plate attemping to get more plate coverage and being more aggressive with their strides. The body armor era didn't help. Pitchers are equally entitled to any part of the plate and off the plate inside. The increased role of umpires to eject pitchers has only led to more conflict and controversy and fueled indignation by batters.


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