Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Gil's Call: Stop the Charade (Will to Win Trumps Fair Play)

Gil's Call for September examines the philosophy of personal business, fair play and the desire to win and how the competing goals of the latter two create situations in which managers, players and coaches tend to get into other people's business.

Gil's Call is the monthly column or publisher's memo featured in The Left Field Corner newsletter. The September 2014 edition of TLFC is on its way; while we wait, here is Gil's Call.

Gil's Call: Stop the Charade
Staying in the Lane: Where Desire to Win Trumps "Fair Play"

Let’s talk philosophy.

In 2006, Yankees batter Hideki Matsui attempted to check his swing on a two-strike pitch and was rung up by plate umpire Bill Miller.

As Matsui retreated to the dugout, on-deck batter Johnny Damon of all people argued with Miller, who removed his mask, asking, “Johnny, do you want to get in my business? Do you want to argue balls and strikes?” Damon was ejected.

Lesson learned: Don’t get in other people’s business.

There are really three kinds of “business” in the world: (1) yours, (2) other people’s, and (3) the intangible—nature’s, Doug Harvey’s, or what have you.

In the real world, I might show up to work, do a fantastic job and, yet, find my assignments have become undesirable simply because the company itself is changing approaches or is working with a new client whose requests require unsatisfying tasks.

In the officiating world, an influx of new officials or association/conference realignment might cause the quantity and quality of my game assignments to decrease.

Bum rap? Sure. I could complain, I could demand a return to the comfort zone; I could look for another job or officiating group to join. In essence, I could expend much energy fretting over issues I have no control over and get under others’ skin, showing true colors in the process.

This is where our craft comes into play. We’ve all had experiences of the coach or player who has pried his or her way into our business, someone who has gotten under our skin. If not in baseball, then surely in life.

On the Major League fields, we see managers argue and—every so often—justify the act with the phrase, “I just want to get it right.”

As Vin Scully would say, “that is fertilizer.”

The problems begin when Coach A tries to get in Coach B and Umpire C’s business.

Our last ejection for arguing Warnings was Toby Basner’s dismissal of Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon on August 7 (E-147) after Kendrys Morales was hit in the knee by a first-pitch fastball. McClendon got in Basner’s business by demanding an ejection and was met with one of his own.

Baseball recently denied Rays Manager Joe Maddon’s protest over Toronto’s Replay Review on August 23. Maddon claimed Jays skip John Gibbons took too long to challenge a safe call that was overturned by replay. Replay Regulations state the Manager must exercise his challenge before commencement of the next play or pitch—this or statement gives the Crew Chief much leeway to decide on timeliness—and Maddon protested the game based on Bob Davidson’s decision to allow Gibbons to challenge the play after the pitcher returned to the rubber and batter to the box. Replay Regulations also state that no protest shall ever be permitted for violation of any rule or procedure concerning Replay Review, yet Maddon still filed one.

In his postgame comments, Davidson said he just wanted to get the call (safe/out at 1st base) right. Gibbons obviously agreed.

Let’s be honest; let’s drop the charade.

Maddon—and most Major League managers—have a vested interest for umpires to get the play wrong as long as the call favors the skipper’s team. Gibbons—and most managers—would rather overlook the timeliness restriction as long as it meant having a chance to get a call overturned in their favor.

Maddon’s argument against Davidson’s allowance was essentially an a la carte view of baseball rules: Let’s disregard the incorrect safe call at first because a replay procedure may have been violated. Maddon would say the fact that the safe call benefited TB meant nothing. In reality, it meant everything.

As for Davidson’s desire to just get it right? When managers start arguing against that, we begin to see that MLB’s “umpiring problem” goes far deeper than instant replay. I wonder if roles were reversed…



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