Updated Aug. 26
I realize that nobody was paying attention, what with the Little League World Series finale, 32,000 Chinese children uniting in song at the closing ceremonies, Denver getting acknowledged for something that doesn't involve John Elway, and the looming post-Labor Day ban on white pants. But last week was one of baseball's dumbest in some time, and for this we can blame the umps.
Umpiring, I'm told, is hard. You're asked to make snap decisions, then defend them as a 62-year-old man wearing stretchy pants expresses his disagreement by spraying you with spittle. Nobody knows your name, except when you screw up. I get this.
There is no excuse, however, for failing to keep track of the ball-and-strike count. This happened twice last week, with Coco Crisp awarded a three-ball walk against the Orioles and Andre Ethier awarded a five-ball pass against the Sillies. In addition, no fewer than five games I saw during the last few days featured a strike zone about the size of a 50-inch flat-panel TV. The called third strike that ended the Yankees-Orioles contest on Sunday was so far outside that Nick Markakis might not have been able to hit it if he tried.
It's an epidemic, I tells ya. So, before my brain starts to leak at the prospect of reading 3,200 semiliterate columns about the need for instant replay, let's just get on with this week's Power Rankings.