We used to call this…the pot calling the kettle black. Former player and manager Joe Torre has issued a decree: No more arguing balls and strikes. The “pot” has spoken!
ENGLEWOOD, OH. — A memo emanating from the MLB offices in New York City landed on the desks of managers, general manager and assistant general managers last Friday, but they might as well have arrived from Comedy Central.
The message was humorous, mainly because it came from MLB executive Joe Torre, a former major league manager and MVP player.
Torre is in charge of umpires and in charge of doling out fines and suspensions.
What makes this memo so tummy-tickling is that it orders managers to desist from arguing balls and strikes from the dugout, to stop shouting at the home plate umpire that he missed the last call by six inches and he missed the call before that by six feet.
And here is where it gets funny. Torre managed in St. Louis, Atlanta, New York (Mets and Yankees) and Los Angeles, and his reputation was one of a manager who spent considerable time judging and misjudging an umpire’s balls and strikes calls from the dugout. He earned plenty of ejection slips for his expletives-not-deleted.
Old-line umpires like Eddie Vargo, Satch Davidson, Dick Stello, Lee Weyer, Gerry Crawford and Spanky Froemming remember having their ears singed by Torre’s disquieting bleatings from the dugout.
And what prompted this latest edict to further extract entertainment value from the Grand Ol’ Game?
Torre and MLB believe that managers are using clubhouse video to check every pitch and then bark at the umpires about it. Clubhouse video is watched, every pitch, by somebody employed by the team in case there is a play that can be challenged for review.
MLB and Torre say that using video to grade an umpire’s every ball and strike call, and then gripe and grouse about it, is illegal, if not unconstitutional.
Torre calls the use of video to check balls and strikes “an express violation of the Replay Regulations, which state that on-field personnel in the dugout may not discuss any issue with individuals in their video review room using the dugout phone other than whether to challenge a play subject to video replay review.”
In other words, guys, watch that video for calls at first base and second base but don’t you dare check to see if that fastball or change-up was within the parameters of the strike zone. And if it’s not and the umpire calls strike three against your hitter with the winning run on third base to end the game, just grin and bear it. There is not shouting from the dugout.
Torre’s memo continued with, “Although disagreements over ball and strike calls are natural, the prevalence of manager ejections simply cannot continue. This conduct not only delays the game, but it also has the propensity to undermine the integrity of the umpires on the field.”
What? Undermine an umpire’s integrity by questioning balls and strikes? If so, what does replay/review do when a call is challenged and overturned, which happens about 50 per cent of the time. How about the integrity of the arbiters in those cases?
Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price has been ejected three times this year and 10 times during his managerial career. But none have been for arguing balls and strikes.
“We don’t use the video to check balls and strikes and then use it to complain to the umpires,” he said. “I respect the umpires. Their job is difficult and there is no way they can get every call right. They have a very difficult job and I respect that.”
Torre is so adamant about this edict that he has promised heavy fines to managers who are ejected for overly disputing balls and strikes. And because managers have no union and can’t file appeals and get their fines and suspensions reduced, Torre said he plans to hit them hard in the wallet.
That should work. Baseball personnel listen more through their wallets than they do their ears.