As usual, James Loney has been his regular infuriating Loney self so far in 2012. Despite our best efforts to talk ourselves into believing in him, he’s once again on pace for the worst season of his career at the plate, and in yesterday’s one-run loss to Milwaukee he went hitless, in particular failing to bring a run home by flying out to end the third inning with the bases loaded.
Yet every once in a while, Loney does something great that endears himself to us forever, like when he & Javy Guerra photobombed a Hollywood premiere party this winter. This time, it’s because he (probably unintentionally) touched upon a topic that always makes the Twitterz tingle: #robotumpsnow, in regard to the poor call on Aaron Harang‘s throw to first which touched off the Milwaukee rally in the sixth last night.
“Whatever it takes, just get it right,” Loney said. “Even the guy behind the plate. A guy leaning behind the catcher doesn’t have the best view of all the balls and strikes. Watch the centerfield camera, that is the best way to call balls and strikes. It’s going to take more and more bad calls for all of that to happen.”
Loney went on to say he believes that “within 50 years, I would say,” baseball will have electronic umpiring in place.
Oh, James. How can we hate you when you’re going to go off and back us up on a topic that’s so dear to all our hearts?
To be clear, “robot umps now” is more of a general catch-all than an actual specific request; no one really wants Rosie from “The Jetsons” back behind the plate – though I could be talked into Bender from “Futurama” – and I’ve yet to really see anyone calling for instant replay on balls and strikes. It’s just that with so much technology readily available, it gets more and more ludicrous that we’re still seeing so many mistakes go uncorrected on safe/out and fair/foul calls.
I feel like we say this every season, but it really does seem like umpiring is at an all-time low this year. There’s really no way to prove if that’s true or not, and we’ll probably say it every year for the rest of our lives, just because blown calls get more and more media play as time goes on. (Come on, do we really think there weren’t terrible calls in the 1940s too?) Generally, I think MLB umps do a very tough job extremely well, and if we think that they’re getting worse, it’s probably more of a result of our ability to instantly view multiple HD replays from every game across the country than it really is about overall performance. (Except, of course, for that Jerry Hairston play in Colorado, which is and always will be the worst call in the history of sports.)
Yet while a solution seems so simple – and I don’t want to hear a word that having umps view replays would take more time, because we’ve all seen games grind to a halt as managers rush out to argue, and it’s not like you couldn’t have an off-field ump at each park to make those calls anyway – baseball is being held back by the out-of-touch King Dinosaur, Bud Selig:
“I’ve had very, very little pressure from people who want to do more,” Selig said.
Meanwhile, umpires afraid of looking bad and having their call overturned stubbornly refuse to even ask the rest of their crew for help, generally adopting an “I’m right and my word is law, so turn around” attitude:
“You get tired of being diplomatic,” Mattingly said after the game. “I just asked him to get help. We had a pretty good view of it. It was a play where (Loney) going across the line makes it look bad, but I just asked him to get help, and he wouldn’t do that. He told me he was 100-percent sure.”
“It’s not about him getting the call wrong,” Loney said. “It’s about him not asking for help. He said it was his call.”
We tend to only remember the calls that go against our team – and it’s not like Harang didn’t set this off himself by first making a poor throw on an easy play and then being unable to contain the rally that followed it – but the Dodgers have had a few go their way as well this season. (Or have we all forgotten the triple play that saved Guerra’s bacon in San Diego already?) Over 162 games, it tends to even out. But the day is going to come, and soon, where a blown call late in the season or in October bounces a team right out of the playoffs. We have the technology where within twenty seconds millions of people all around the world will be able to see what the correct call should be – everyone, really, except for the four men on the field who are actually empowered to make the call. We’ve already seen it cost an otherwise mediocre pitcher a perfect game, and I don’t look forward to the day that it ruins some team’s entire season.
#robotumpsnow. James Loney may not be much of a hitter, but he sure can be one hell of a spokesperson.