I don’t know about you, but I have been noticing an interesting trend occurring in baseball this year. More and more players and managers are complaining about the strike zones. And, subsequently, more and more players and managers are getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes.
Last night, during a game against the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter had a magnificent ejection after arguing balls are strikes. Watching the video, it’s pretty funny. Not only is he yelling, but he strips off his jersey, gloves, and pads and throws them across the field. It’s quite a spectacle considering how mild-mannered Hunter usually is. Because he is so mild-mannered, that’s what makes his ejection so interesting and makes the issue of balls and strikes more pressing. If calm players like Hunter are getting worked up, maybe the problem is bigger than we realize.
A few days ago, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, another usually cool and calm player, got ejected for the same thing. He was upset because the Yankees batters kept getting rung up on a low pitch, but the Angels were not. He was ejected after jawing with the ump and his manager Joe Girardi was also tossed (after completing what might be the smoothest jump over a dugout railing I have ever seen). It’s quite a sight to see. And, in an earlier series against the Mariners, their manager Lloyd McClendon was ejected after defending his catcher, who thought my homie A-Rod took a checked-swing a little too far. A-Rod was awarded first base instead of getting called out on strikes. McClendon got his money’s worth, though. And even the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday was ejected for arguing pitches.
One thing I have noticed is that players are becoming more aware of the strike zone and the inconsistencies that go along with it. If I had to guess, it’s probably because of all the video that is available to players now. Every single pitch can be looked at and every single call can be questioned. With replay now in effect, you can review almost any call…except balls and strikes. I agree with this because can you imagine how ridiculous it would be having to pause the game every time a player disagreed with a call?
Not only can you review video after the games, but a lot of the TV broadcasts are now showing the strike zones during the broadcast. You can see exactly where the ball hit in the strike zone. Of course, it’s the networks that create the strike zone, but it’s still a good way to gauge consistency in the umpire’s calls. It’s a situation that needs to be resolved, but that’s tricky thing to do. I have a feeling new commissioner Rob Manfred will take a look at this, since he has proven to be a man who will take action on issues quickly.
I don’t know how we can change the strike zone since we have so many different umpires, but I do think we can work on consistency throughout the game. If you’re going to call a low pitch a strike, call it that throughout the whole game. If you’re going to have a wide strike zone, keep it wide. It’s hard being an umpire behind the dish, but making small improvements like this during the game could be really beneficial.