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Sunday, July 22, 2012

When the ump makes a bad call

Back in May, the Red Sox were playing the Detroit Tigers in front of a capacity hometown crowd at Fenway when the home plate umpire made a bad call. 

The Red Sox had a base runner on second with two outs in a tied game when the batter appeared to strike out swinging. But instead of the end of the inning, the home plate umpire called it a foul tip that hit the dirt before landing in the glove of the Tiger's catcher; keeping the at-bat alive. 

On the following pitch, the batter singled in the game winning run.  Replays showed that the catcher caught the ball cleanly and it never hit the dirt.

Anyone who follows baseball will have had the misfortune to watch a game handed to the other side by a bad (or questionable) call by the umpire.  In this case, my Red Sox benefited from the bad call (and went on the win the game), but the call could have just as easily gone the other way.  That's because the calls are made by human beings.

I like that baseball doesn't rely on instant replay for the most part.  It is analogous of life, in that sometimes the ump gets it wrong... but you have to live with the call.

If it is an early/mid-season game where very little is on the line, a bad call is frustrating... but the players and managers usually argue a bit with the ump and then shake it off; looking forward to the next at bat... and the next game.

But if a pitcher's perfect game is on the line... or it's a late/post season game which might lead to elimination, emotions run high and it wouldn't be uncommon for players and manager to yell 'enthusiastically' at the umpire over a bad call... and maybe kick a little dirt on his shoes (getting ejected for their efforts).

For their part, the umpires are aware of the fact that it is impossible to get every call right.  They are required to make dozens of key calls in every game, and they have to do so in a split second so as not to interfere with the flow play. 

While I've never actually heard a major league umpire admit it, my sense is that when they know they've made a truly bad call against a team, they keep their eye out for a way to make the next close call go the other way later in the game, or later in the series.  Sometimes such an opportunity never presents itself.  But sometimes karma or luck smile on the men in black and give them a chance to balance the scales.

The same goes with parenting.  We try to make the calls with our children as best we can.  Occasionally we think our kid has done something worthy of a being grounded, and only after it is too late to revoke or modify the punishment do we realize that the original offense, while not good, wasn't as bad as we'd originally thought.

I've rambled on this morning because I made a questionable call this past week with one of our kids.  By the time I'd thought better of it, it was too late to turn things around in such a way that plans with friends could get back on track.  The window of opportunity had closed... the game was over and lost.

I listened as my kid vented and told me how wrong I was (the family version of kicking dirt on the ump's shoes), and then responded with the gist of what I've written above.  I explained that as a parent, I try to make good decisions that will result in my children growing up to be good people. 

Do I always make the right call?  Of course not.  But I try.

I then explained that, like an umpire, I would keep my eye out for another close call... and if possible, I'd try to make sure the next one goes the other way.

It feels bad knowing I blew a call.  It feels worse when I know a big game - or an important outing with friends - was riding on the call. 

But despite the inexact science of making these calls, we parents/umps have to make them with confidence.  The strikes, balls, foul/fair balls and outs of our children's lives need to be shouted loudly, and with conviction... or else the legitimacy of the calls will be in doubt (not to mention open to debate).

I hope my kid understands all this, and will realize that in the grand scheme of things, this was an early season game.  There are many innings still to be played... and the outcome of the season is still very much up for grabs.

Posted by David Bogner on July 22, 2012 | Permalink

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This is great.

Posted by: Leora Hyman | Jul 22, 2012 12:39:36 PM

Unfortunately, children never understand that it is an early season game . . . at the time. To them, it is always the last game of the season, and it decides whether they go to the playoffs.

My take? The kid has to know that the offense deserved the punishment even if he was punished unjustly. He also has to learn that human judgment is fallible.

What you have to learn is that justice needs to be tempered with mercy.

Don't beat yourself up too badly. Been there. Done that. The kid lived. So did I.

BTW, I think that ump saw the replay and apologized. I know when Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was robbed of a perfect game by a bad call from first base umpire Jim Joyce, Joyce apologized the next day. An apology won't kill ya. It didn't kill me.

Posted by: antares | Jul 22, 2012 2:52:11 PM

I'm quite a bit further along this parent line than you are, David, and all I can say is that there have been times when I have been in your position, fretted about it, been castigated by daughter about it, only for her to tell me some time later that something had occurred that made my call the right one.

As Joe E Brown said at the end of "Some Like It Hot", "Well, nobody's perfect".

Posted by: chairwoman | Jul 22, 2012 5:48:25 PM

Even major league umpires admit it. Please see the following link.


http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100603&content_id=10754978&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

Posted by: Mark | Jul 22, 2012 6:22:38 PM

As the parents of children considerably older than yours, the Missus and I know that we make mistakes... and, when appropriate, it's perfectly OK to admit them. Kids have to know that nobody is perfect, even their parents - but they also must know that every decision you make is in their best interest, even if it doesn't seem that way at the time. And consistency, along with a unified message, is critical.

I always preferred baseball to football. Your post zeroes in on one of the reasons. Kol ha-kavod!

Posted by: Elisson | Jul 23, 2012 12:21:45 AM

Sometimes it's corrected, if it's immediate: There was that crazy situation a week or so ago when someone stole home, made it, and was called out when he was clearly safe. The umpire reversed himself within seconds- but the first call apparently threw off the pitcher and catcher and allowed another runner to steal.

Posted by: Nachum | Jul 23, 2012 11:06:49 AM

As I reflect back on decisions that my parents made for me, I can't think of anything that I'm still angry at them for, after all these years. [Except that we didn't make aliyah when I asked them to :)] Mostly, I'm appreciative for the amazing way I was raised, even though I know I didn't think so at the time.

Posted by: SaraK | Jul 23, 2012 12:15:03 PM

ugh... i've done it too.
i was also blessed with my second child to have a negotiator.
not only was he gifted with words. but oh my he had such sense.
his arguments were calm, thought out...and he was often right. (in the cases were i was making the 'bad call')
thank goodness thats over now :)

Posted by: weese | Jul 23, 2012 4:35:40 PM

Nothing wrong in admitting to a child that you were wrong.
Great post!

Posted by: rickismom | Jul 25, 2012 11:50:05 PM

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