Fieldin Culbreth’s Suspension Is Right Move by MLB, As Lackadaisical Umpiring Warrants Kick in the Pants

Mike Scioscia, Fieldin CulbrethGo home, you’re drunk, major league umpires.

An umpire who doesn’t know the rules is like a cab driver without a license, an accountant who’s bad at math or a firefighter who doesn’t know how to use a hose. So for all the hostility thrown at Major League Baseball over the last few days because of umpiring screw-ups, the league made the correct decision in disciplining the umpiring crew of Thursday’s Angels-Astros game — discipline that included a two-game suspension for crew chief Fieldin Culbreth.

The umpiring week from hell started off with Wednesday’s debacle, during which Angel Hernandez and Co. horrendously blew a home run call despite the luxury of instant replay. You knew the play in question was a home run, I knew it was a home run and even those in the league office knew it was a home run. Yet Hernandez ruled, even after looking at replays, that Adam Rosales’ fly ball didn’t clear the fence, creating a mess that MLB had to issue a statement about on Thursday.

That whole situation sucked and, frankly, was unacceptable. We can sit here and toss around the “human element” phrase all we want when discussing what place instant replay should have in baseball, but Hernandez’s blown call came despite the opportunity to take a second, third or even a 10th look at the play. The only “human element” in that situation was insanity. It’s a judgment call, I guess, but that simply means that Hernandez’s judgment is worse than that of some college bro after one too many keg stands.

But Hernandez can sleep a little bit easier now that someone came in and blew his foolishness out of the water. If we’re sticking with the college bro theme, it’s as if Hernandez’s stupid antics are suddenly back-page news because his blacked-out buddy made an even bigger dummy out of himself the following night.

In the seventh inning of Thursday’s Angels-Astros game, Houston manager Bo Porter brought in reliever Wesley Wright to pitch to J.B. Shuck. Angels manager Mike Scioscia responded by pinch-hitting Luis Jimenez, but once Wright completed his warmup tosses, Porter went back to the mound and called upon Hector Ambriz from the bullpen. It was a classic MLB chess match — and God knows there are plenty of those over the course of a game — but without Wright having ever thrown an official pitch, Porter never should have been allowed to bring in Ambriz. [For all you rule junkies, it was a misapplication of Official Baseball Rule 3.05(b).]

Not to get all technical, but Culbreth and Thursday’s crew, which included the likes of Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson, either didn’t know one of baseball’s basic rules or they had a total brain fart. Even if it was a brain fart — which, hey, we all have from time to time — it doesn’t change the reality that Thursday’s crew still completely fumbled all over itself in what should have been an easy situation to grasp, and in such a performance-based profession, it’s unacceptable. Major League Baseball needed to send that message, and fortunately it did by suspending Culbreth and fining O’Nora, Welke and Johnson.

The disciplinary actions might not solve the league’s current pandemic of subpar umpiring, but it at least reinforces the importance of attention to detail. Sometimes, a kick in the pants is all someone needs.

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