Aug 272010


MLB umpires are terrible

August 26 Philadelphia Inquirer

“Paul Dehel wore a Phillies jersey and carried a two-sided, autographed sign praising a visiting player and mocking an umpire.

The 17-year-old from Jenkintown summed up a strange night at Citizens Bank Park.

To many in the 106th consecutive sellout crowd, the bad guys in the building weren’t so much the players in rust-colored jerseys – after all, popular former Phillie J.A. Happ was the Astros’ starting pitcher – as the arbiters in gray slacks and black hats.

“After the last two nights, I had to,” Dehel said of his decision to display a sign that took umpire Scott Barry to task for his work in the 14th inning of the Phillies’ 4-2 loss to the Astros on Tuesday night.

“Em-Barry-Sing,” read the sign, with “Scott” written below “Barry.”

Dehel’s friend, 19-year-old Mike Wisnewski of Philadelphia, had a sign that read, “Tas the Ump.”

“We were watching the game [Tuesday night] and we said, ‘We’ve got to do something,’ ” Dehel said.

The umpiring crew of Sam Holbrook, Brian Knight, Greg Gibson and Barry slipped quietly onto the field while the Phillies’ starting lineup was being announced at 7:01 p.m. But when the umpires were introduced, boos resounded through the stadium.

Earlier, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was careful not to criticize the umpires after questionable calls the previous two nights cost his team in losses to the Astros.

“I never blame the umps,” Manuel said. “If they make a bad call, you’ve got to play over it. . . . You don’t want the umps laying for you or talking about you with other crews.”

The umpires were in the spotlight because of the events of the previous two nights.

On Monday night, Gibson made a controversial call when he ruled Michael Bourn – another former Phillie and the player who autographed the other side of Dehel’s sign – safe on a bunt attempt in the eighth inning.

Manuel argued the call, insisting Bourn ran out of the base path, and was ejected by Gibson. The bunt was a key play in the Astros’ two-run rally in a 3-2 win.

“It’s not an easy job,” Manuel said of umpiring.

Things ratcheted to another level in the 14th inning on Tuesday night, when third-base umpire Barry called strikes on two checked swings by Ryan Howard, including the third strike for the third out with runners on second and third with the score tied, 2-2.

It was Howard’s fifth strikeout of the game, tying a franchise record.

After the first strike call on a checked swing, Howard put his hands on his hips in apparent frustration. Barry did the same and appeared to glare at Howard.

After the second, Howard tossed his bat and Barry immediately ejected the player. Howard raced up the third-base line, yelling at Barry while the Phillies’ Placido Polanco and others tried to restrain the livid first baseman.

“I’ve never see Ryan that upset,” Manuel said.

Barry is a triple-A replacement umpire, as is Knight, who worked home plate Wednesday night. Major League Baseball has 17 umpiring crews and the crew that is working the Phillies-Astros series is the only one with just three permanent major-league umpires. Chuck Meriwether is normally a part of the crew but is injured.

This week, there are two fill-ins on the crew because crew chief Gerry Davis is on vacation.

Knight got involved in a brief dustup in the sixth when he ruled that the Phillies’ Shane Victorino did not make an effort to avoid a pitch that hit him on the left arm.”

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