Umpires have been ingrained in major-league baseball since the inception of the National League in 1876, somewhere approaching 200,000 games ago, and it’s likely that the umps have botched a call or two in every one of them since then. Somehow this has not eroded the fan base or undermined the integrity of the competition, which is something that the players and the owners have periodically done.
That reality, in fact, should tell us something about the nature of baseball, which is the least programmatic, the least technological of games. It doesn’t even have a clock. The fields have widely varying shapes and sizes, and the primary battleground between offense and defense — i.e., the strike zone — is a box of air with dimensions that have proven impossible to specify. There is a lot less science in baseball, a lot more art, than in any other sport you can name. (Golf and soccer nuts, just pipe down.) It’s an irony that only in baseball do there exist perfect games.
This is the main reason that so many baseball fans are so gaga over statistics, because the game’s ambiguities create a hunger for measurement, for exactitude where it doesn’t exist, and it’s the main reason that baseball is the most written about, most discussed, most intellectually parsed game there is.
It’s also the main reason that instant replay feels more like an intrusion in baseball than it does in tennis or football or basketball or hockey, each of which has adopted some form of video review to re-evaluate some officials’ calls. But the prime responsibilities of officials in those other sports have always been to recognize infractions and assign blame, and umpires don’t do that. And it’s worth noting that those responsibilities — calling penalties, faults and fouls — are largely unaffected by instant-replay rules.
The role of umpires in baseball is much more integral. They aren’t observers passing judgment on the legality of given actions so much as filters through which the action passes; nothing can happen — a strike, an out, a run scored — without their imprimatur. They have no prime responsibilities, just the responsibility to see and acknowledge everything, which is why the technological usurping of any one of them feels especially sullying.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
from SPARTY. baseball
SPARTY - sends this from the New York Times about the role of umpires. While I don't disagree with any of it, it doesn't mention anything about the obligation of fans to boo and condemn the umps for bad calls, or even for imagined bad calls.
I hadn't thought about the idea of a perfect game before.
Your comments are always welcomed.