Hey MLB, So, I have a perfect idea of how to fix umpiring. I will start by saying I come from an extensive umpire lineage. There are five retired (two late) umpires in my family with 40+ years experience. I am working towards that with 13 years experience now from Little League to MLB (Emergency fill in only for NCAA and MiLB AND MLB games thus far). As such I am coming at this from a whole different angle! From the umpire’s point of view, here are my steps on fixing MLB umpiring (NOTE: CAPS ARE FOR EMPHASIS! IF YOU KNOW A BETTER WAY LET ME KNOW!):
1. My Grandpa cared so deeply about being fair, every spring he would read all through the baseball rule books. Study them from front to back. He wanted to know the rules inside and out so no call would be missed and he could call it as fairly as possible. This is where it has to start. Every umpire would have to go through training and the rule book EXTENSIVELY every February before games start.
2. Put an Extra Umpire in the booth reviewing EVERY BALL/STRIKE CALL live with stat cast or better software/technology. The booth umpire would have till the next pitch is thrown to buzz the crew chief/HP umpire signalling pitch overturned. Also if a HP umpire is unsure he can just signal the booth and request the booth to call it. The Booth would then have 30 SECONDS TOPS to make the call. The crew chief (unless HP umpire, then would be another selected umpire) would always be able to challenge a call if he deemed it wrong. I would make this the 2B umpire as he would have the best view.
3. Umpires would be suspended and put through the same February training again and then reinstated if they fall below 95% pitch calling or out/safe calling accuracy. 5 such suspensions would be forced retirement, ie: permanent ban from baseball umpiring.
4. Managers and players would have a COMBINED 5 pitch challenges per game. When a challenge is exercised the booth umpire would have 30 seconds TOPS to rule on the challenge. To argue said challenge result would be an auto ejection.
5. Batters would be ejected* for arguing balls and strikes if they influenced the pitch call by running to 1B early on a 3 ball count call or the way they moved the bat. Attack it from both ends here.
6. Outlaw catcher framing! THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST! By doing this 90% of bad strike calls will instantly vanish! This alone is actually what causes over 60% of the problem! Any catcher framing would be ruled arguing balls and strikes and warrant an auto ejection under baseball rules*. The catcher must never frame or hold the glove in a spot after catching the pitch to influence the calls. Corresponding with this umpires MUST be trained and mandated to never pay attention to what he catchers glove is doing or where its at!
7. Post season umpire reviews handled by the MLBUA (MLB Umpire Association). Any umpires failing to meet required numbers would be put through extra training of video review of their calls and showing them why said calls were wrong. If they learned and agreed to be better they would be allowed to continue umpiring the following season.
8. Check swing calls would only be allowed by the 1B and 3B umpires+ and only on the pitcher and catcher appealing to the HP then the HP umpire making the appeal to the corresponding base umpire.
9. Any arguing or talk against ball and strike calls from the dugout would warrant an auto ejection. Asking where the pitch was is not arguing balls and strikes but all to much arguing balls and strikes is ignored which is against baseball rules. THIS MUST BE CRACKED DOWN ON! WAY TO MANY MANAGERS AND PLAYERS GET AWAY WITH ARGUING BALLS AND STRIKES WHICH HAS DESTROYED THE STRIKEZONE!
Summary: To correctly fix this major issue you have to approach it from both sides of the equation, players and umpires. Players cause issues by influencing calls due to the way they act. Umpires cause it by human nature. The naked eye literally cannot get every call right. Thus the umpire in the booth fixes the umpire side. My other suggestions fix it from the player side. This is not an umpire-only issue and cannot be treated as such.
By Adam King