With the news that MLB commissioner Bud Selig dressed down White Sox announcer "Hawk" Harrelson this past week for a tirade against umpires, much of the focus seems to be on two things: 1. Hawk is a homer; 2. Some sort of judgment on umpires, whether this specific incident or poor calls in general.
Instead, I just can't shake this question: Why is Bud Selig telling an announcer what he can or can't say? Or maybe he didn't tell him anything, in which case I'd ask why he even cares what an announcer says.
Put aside any ill feelings toward the homerific Hawk Harrelson. Just think in general. I can think of, only off the top of my head, Bob Brenly (Cubs' color), Thom Brennaman (Reds play-by-play) and many others who take umpires to task via TV. There was a horrifying call against the Dodgers in Colorado where Todd Helton was a country mile off first base and Dodgers' color man Steve Lyons was pretty upset about the call. Brandon McCarthy got screwed in Texas and the Oakland broadcasters let the crew have it over the airwaves.
It's not like criticism of umpiring is new. It happens every season in every medium and has since long before I was born. We hear the lament of many media and fans alike about the likes of Joe West, Angel Hernandez, Rob Drake, Bob Davidson and a few others. I've done it myself.
So why was Hawk's tirade special? Well, we don't know that it was. It's entirely possible Commissioner Selig reaches out every time he hears about someone attacking one of his umpires. What a colossal waste of time that would be, so let's hope he only wasted his time on this occasion.
Even if that is true, this was not the best use of Selig's time.
In thinking about the umpiring, maybe more instant replay? I know I constantly preach this, but look at the Helton play, for example. You mean to tell me that can't be solved with 15 seconds of replay usage?
A Yahoo Sports report by Jeff Passan Friday noted the following:
A football source said the NFL spends about $4 million a year on instant replay. With almost 10 times as many games, new equipment and a fifth umpire with each crew to monitor the replay booth, MLB's annual costs could go well into eight figures.First of all, I know that might sound awfully costly if we put it in personal perspective, but let me point out that $4 million is chump change to Major League Baseball. Jason Bartlett is making $5.5 million from the small-market Padres this season. The small-market Royals got Jonathan Broxton off the scrap heap for $4 million for this season. The small-market Pirates are paying Clint Barmes $5 million this season. And on and on ... but you get the point there.
Secondly, instead of worrying about what announcers are saying about his umpires, why doesn't Selig actually help his umpires by finding a way of implementing instant replay that helps the umpires avoid the negative spotlight? Maybe there are more cost efficient ways to do it than the NFL does. Screaming at a broadcaster might look like getting an ump's back, but Selig is avoiding helping them in the replay department by only sticking to home run calls.
If you are one of those firmly against replay, maybe you'd rather Selig be focusing on better ways to find and train younger umpires. Whatever. But calling an announcer to berate him doesn't improve the product, so the focus is misguided.
Regardless, it doesn't have to be replay or umpiring that takes all Selig's focus. I'm not going to be one of those dissenters that says something like "baseball has a lot of problems," because it really doesn't. Every professional sport has issues, and baseball isn't immune. Overall, I love the game as much as ever, but there are always improvements that can be made.
If not replay, maybe Selig can worry about the Rays' and A's dire stadium situations? Or perhaps finding a way to reverse the demographics' shift -- which shows baseball fans are getting older quite quickly? Some of the payroll disparity could be solved by finding ways to force owners into actually spending money on player salaries instead of pocketing revenue sharing profits, as SI.com broached this past offseason. Smaller-scale, there is that absurd manner of suspending starting pitchers where they don't even miss a turn in the rotation. Maybe Selig could even get nuts and set a retirement date. He's 77 after all.
While it's easy to focus the attention on Hawk Harrelson's unprofessional and over-the-top rant -- or the umpire's possibly-quick ejection -- perhaps more attention should be paid to the fact that baseball's commissioner is more worried about protecting his umpires verbally -- to a local announcer, mind you -- than helping them get the correct call made on the field.
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