Saturday, April 1, 2017

20 Fill-In Umpires Promoted Full-Time to The Show

Baseball announced a hiring spree of big league fill-in umpires today, who virtually have a combined 100 years of experience calling games—and that number could well be north of the million-games mark when factoring in their global officiating work. Most have additional postseason experience, and nearly all have worked at least one World Series.

20 Umpires Were Added to The Show.
Some of the umpires have already been scouted by big league broadcasters. For instance, Eric Karros described one umpire's plate calling as, "[having] a bit of a reputation as having a fat strike zone, but I don't think that really applies to all corners. Also, I've been told that he's pretty consistent with what he does and doesn't call."

Regarding a second, Karros said, "'Ferg,' as he's known amongst baseball people, really does call a good game back there. He might reward a pitcher for a good location every once in awhile, but most of his calls seem to be spot on."

Click here to see them in action.

The newest additions to the baseball umpiring staff include the following umpire crews:
Crew A
» Carl Dixon
» Freddie Ferguson
» Joe MacDonald
» Eric Summersgill

Crew B
» Ed Drummond
» Woody Keller
» Earl Hendricks
» Clyde Washington

Crew C
» Mike Fillmore
» Jerry Hillsdale
» Kenny Janzen
» Rusty Valentine

Crew D
» Ricky Holliday
» Dave Lawrence
» Darryl Parker
» Matthew Ross

Crew E
» Larry Bullard
» Patrick Johnson
» James Kingsley
» Gary Simmons

Happy April Fools' Day!

No-Pitch Intentional Walk Rule Used for First Time

MLB doled out the first no-pitch intentional walk in Major League history during the annual pre-season Battle of the Bay Bridge Series in San Francisco.

Melvin summons an intentional walk.
With one out and runners at second and third base in the bottom of the 8th inning of Friday's Athletics-Giants game, A's Manager Bob Melvin elected to use the no-pitch intentional walk rule now afforded to teams in order to load the bases.

Official Scoring: The walk was credited to A's relief pitcher Ryan Dull, whose pitch count remained unaffected as Giants batter Brandon Crawford simply jogged to first base.

Procedure: In order to issue the free pass, Melvin simply displayed a hand signal of "four" in the direction of HP Umpire Tom Woodring as Crawford approached the batter's box.

MLB formally announced the adoption of no-pitch intentional walks on March 2, alongside several other rules modifications for the 2017, which include:
> 30-Second time limit for Managers deciding whether to challenge a play;
> Two-minute guideline for Replay Officials in New York;
> Crew Chief Reviews will now begin in the 8th (as opposed to 7th) inning;
> Fielders may no longer make markings with foreign objects (e.g., tape) on the playing surface;
> Crow-hop deliveries and resetting of the pivot foot are now illegal (balk or illegal pitch);
> Base Coaches must stand within their box until play begins.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Umpire Uniform History & Return of the Shoulder Rings

Umpires in San Francisco recently debuted a new uniform jacket with sky blue shoulder trim to match the inner collar area in the latest of a long line of umpire uniform advancements.

Umpires in Suits = Dignified, Authoritative & Professional.
Uniform Evolution - Why the Plate Coat?
From the very inception of umpires and umpiring in the 19th century, the most commonly conjured umpire uniform, as well as the first ever instituted, was and is the umpire suit: the first era of umpiring (which extended until approximately the mid-20th century) was all about establishing the umpiring craft as a legitimate profession.

In order to establish this legitimacy, the American Association and National League independently came to the same conclusion: umpires needed professional looking uniforms and nothing said "professional" quite like a suit (whether black or blue wool, the core concept of a suit [or "sports jacket"]). The very first umpires (then-referees) wore full suits: pants and coats cut from the same fabric, collared shirts, ties, and hats.

From there, and as protective equipment such as chest protectors and masks were introduced and evolved, so too did the umpires' uniform scheme.

The Umpire William Caldercourt (1852).
Print @ The British Museum.
Victorian-era top and bowler hats gave way to turn-of-the-century "sunshade hats" to accommodate protective headgear while allowing umpires to shield their eyes from the sun without having to use shade umbrellas. University-style caps made their way onto field umpire heads while Boston-style caps (which have a shorter bill) were favored by plate umpires needing a smaller hat under their facemasks.

Eventually, the hats were standardized and stamped (embroidered) with the governing league's emblem or logo.

First, a note about umpire suits. A suit is comprised of at least two components: a matching pant and jacket, cut from the same fabric. On metaphorical "Day One" of umpiring, suits were the norm.

Slacks gradually became larger to accommodate the plate umpire's shin guards, but would no longer match the upper coat. At one point, the National League experimented with white trousers (similar in a sense to football's knickers), but umpires tired of players kicking dirt on them in order to dirty the pants, a manager-umpires argument stereotype that persists to the present day.

At one point, baseball attempted a return to blue pants (the color of umpire's authority), but ultimately, the pants were colored heather and charcoal gray in order to camouflage any potential dirt stains while preserving the dignified suit slacks look. Ball bags were eventually accessorized and hung along belt loops in colors generally matching that of the uniform shirt, while the belts themselves were (and are) occasionally outfitted in patent leather, which draws further attention to the umpire's dignified posture in wearing a visible belt (as opposed to, say, a necktie). Yesterday's tie is today's belt buckle.

Shirts, Coats, Jackets, and Ties
To accommodate umpire mobility, the suit's necktie eventually vanished due to its constrictive nature.

Plate Coat: The ultimate symbol of dignity.
Umpire suit jackets became larger blazers (especially for the plate umpire) to accommodate greater equipment requirements, before transforming into sport coats with large pockets to hold spare baseballs. Blue was the predominant color of the umpire's upper wear during its early and mid-20th century evolution, though the American League experimented with maroon blazers and plate coats in an attempt to distinguish its staff from that of the National League, while both leagues took their logos and placed them in patch form on the shirt's left breast quadrant.

As for shirts, suit-era stiff collared shirts evolved into chest protector-accommodating button-down shirts, which were replaced wholesale by more flexible polo-style shirts in the later 20th century. Shirts retained their white or light blue shade largely until umpires on the bases were no longer mandated to wear dark blazers over them. When this piece of heavy outerwear left the base umpires' wardrobe entirely, they were replaced by black polo shirts.

MLB Ump Tee (majorleagueumpires)
Even something so seemingly minor as the umpire base layer tee-shirt or turtleneck has a story behind it. In the early 1970s, NL umpires began to wear black turtlenecks under their blue outer blazers in an attempt to replace the stiff collared shirts with something more flexible and comfortable. Dark T-shirts came on the scene during this era, and the layered look was born out of a desire to replicate the dignified suit appearance of baseball's early years.

In recent years, Majestic Athletic, who manufactures umpire attire, made the gradual switch from contrast color piping along the collar (e.g., the two thin white lines on the black polo shirt's color) to a solid black shirt with no piping/contrasting color, to a black polo with a single vertical white line along each side panel (or black piping on a blue polo), to the modern black polo with grey trim along the collar, button, and placket areas, with a grey side gusset and extended grey panel of dry wicking material in the lower back (for breathability, with a black trim/gusset/panel—blue polo combo as well).

Around this time, umpire outerwear evolved as well, from a black heavy weather jacket with powder blue shoulder rings, to an all-black model, and, now, a return to blue shoulder trim—albeit, with updated collar and placket blue coloring to match.

The newest ('17) umpire jacket with blue trim.
The main cosmetic difference between the all-black "lightweight" jacket and black-with-blue trim "heavy" one is that the black-and-blue model gives the appearance of layering, the salute to days of multiple components coming together to create a dignified-looking umpire suit. All-black is more "lightweight" and, thus, more appropriate for warmer weather that nonetheless requires a jacket.

This uniform evolution may seem purely and superfluously cosmetic in nature—and a lot of it is—but a good amount of the upgrades are dedicated to increased comfort, durability, breathability, and utility, whether to keep umpires cool with moisture-wicking and breathable polyester/elastine waffle fabric in the warm sun or to keep umpires warm with thermal fleece-lined jackets during cold nights.

And, as the record demonstrates, much of it adheres to tradition, which brings us back to the plate coat, the single greatest tribute to umpiring uniform history.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

UEFL Prop Predictions - Start of 2017 Season

Fill in the blank: The 2017 regular season's first ejection will involve Umpire ____ and Manager ____.

Lock in your predictions before Opening Day.
Welcome to the UEFL's pre-season Prop Predictions, a chance to earn extra points in the UEFL standings. As stated in UEFL Rule 4-6, Prop predictions are forecasts of what might occur during an upcoming season, series or game. They may be numerical (e.g., "On what date will the first ejection of the MLB season occur?") or objective (e.g., "What umpire will finish the season with exactly 10 ejections?").

The following 10 questions serve as this year's prop bets ahead of the regular season. Submit your predictions via the accompanying form (available via "Read More" / scroll down) prior to Opening Day (before April 2) to lock in your picks. Predictions filed after 12:01 AM on April 2, 2017 will not be accepted.

Prop 1) The first regular season ejection of 2017 will be credited to which Umpire?*
Prop 2) The first Managerial regular season ejection of 2017 will be of which Manager?*
Prop 3) The first regular season ejection of 2017 will occur on what date?
Prop 4) The FIFTH person ejected in 2017 will be from which Division?
Prop 5) Umpire Joe West's first Managerial ejection of 2017 will be of what person?
Prop 6) The first 2017 regular season ejection for FIGHTING will occur on what date?
Prop 7) Manager Joe Maddon's first ejection of 2017 will occur on what date?
Prop 8) The SECOND team to receive an ejection during the 2017 regular season will be:
Prop 9) The THIRD regular season ejection of 2017 will be credited to which crew chief?
Prop 10) Of the four new full-time umpires, which one will execute the earliest ejection?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ejections - What and Wherefore? Standards for Removal

While searching for the baseball umpiring ejection classic, "Standards for Removal from the Game," I came to the stark realization that we have never really defined what an ejection actually is, or what conduct might necessitate one. Why do players and coaches get ejected, anyway? It is high time to correct this error and stop taking ejections and the associated decision-making process for granted.

Let's begin with Official Baseball Rule 8.01(d) [known, prior to 2015, as Rule 9.01(d)].
Each umpire has authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field. If an umpire disqualifies a player while a play is in progress, the disqualification shall not take effect until no further action is possible in that play.
I'm sure lawyer-ball from the players' union has made the distinction between disqualification and ejection when appealing a supplemental fine or suspension levied for a player's failure to leave the field in a timely manner after being "ejected," but we're succinctly looking at an ejection as a disciplinary measure levied against uniformed personnel who commit an unsporting act.

Philosophically, an objection to an umpire's decision via argument is generally an attempt to influence the umpire's call—if not the present one, then definitely a future one. This is an attempt to skew the rules to favor one's team: to tip the 50-50 balance to one's advantage.

In other words, the umpire is the representative of his/her assigning agency (such as MLB) and "shall be responsible for the conduct of the game in accordance with these official rules and for maintaining discipline and order on the playing field during the game" (Rule 8.01(a)). Attempting to influence the umpire to tip the scales from 50-50 to so much as 51-49 is tantamount to rewriting the League's rulebook (or interpretation thereof) in order to favor one's team over one's opponent. It effectively is an attempt to win a game outside of prescribed boundaries by changing the rules during the game. Such an attempt at fraudulent lobbying (colloquially, "cheating") is rightly subject to disciplinary action, such as ejection.

At the college level, ejected players "must be removed from sight and sound of the contest" (3-6d AR 2). Essentially, the player must leave the visual and auditory confines of the field and grandstands. The NCAA ejection restriction ends only after the umpiring crew has made it safely back to its dressing area after the game. Penalty is an automatic three-game suspension (formerly one game).

At the high school level, it is important to note that while players may be ejected, they should remain "in the dugout or elsewhere under the direct personal supervision of the coach" (Point of Emphasis, 1989). Coaches may still be ejected in the traditional sense that they shall "leave the vicinity of the playing area immediately and [shall be] prohibited from further contact, direct or indirect, with the team during the remainder of the game" (3-3-2). Sidebar: NFHS basketball, of all sports, is the one that makes a distinction between a disqualified player and an ejected coach. In high school basketball, a player is DQ'd to the bench, but a coach is ejected out of the visual confines of the playing area.

Several years ago, Ump-Attire, with cooperation and permission from what was then known as Professional Baseball Umpires Corp, or PBUC (and is now known as Minor League Baseball Umpire Development, or MiLBUD), published the 10 Standards for Removal from the Game, or essentially a list of what conduct subjects its exhibitor to expulsion from a professional baseball game.

Last year, the UEFL University - Video Rulebook entry on Ejections illustrated each of these standards for removal in action, which also appear in the Major League Baseball Umpire Manual (MLBUM). They are:

UEFL University Video Rulebook - Ejections - Standards for Removal from the Game
» Use of profanity specifically directed at an umpire. Wally Backman provides an example.
» Vulgar personal insults directed at an umpire. Earl Weaver and Bill Haller illustrate the point.
» Physical Contact with an umpire. Ryan Theroit's bump of Mike Muchlinski violates this standard.
» Refusal to stop arguing after warning. Charlie Manuel spent too long arguing with Greg Gibson.
» Leaving one's position to argue balls/strikes. Ryan Vogelsong's bee-line toward Phil Cuzzi was problematic.
» Referencing a video replay contradicting a call. Jack Hannahan tells Mike DiMuro he saw a replay.
» Use of histrionic gestures. Yorvit Torrealba goes crazy after Tim McClelland's safe call.
» Throwing equipment from the dugout. Gratuitous clip of already-run Milton Bradley throwing balls.
» Actions intended to ridicule. Koo Dae-Sung draws a line in the dirt, in contravention of standards.
» Throwing equipment in disgust. Lou Piniella throws down with Mark Wegner for an auto-ejection.
» Failure to comply with an ump's order. Bryce Harper ignores Marvin Hudson's order to enter the box.
» Entering the field to dispute a warning. John Gibbons argues CB Bucknor's warnings and is tossed.
» Arguing after a Replay Review. John Farrell is tossed by Bob Davidson for arguing a replay result.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

2017 UEFL Draft Results

The standard 2017 UEFL draft is now complete and the results are as follows. Membership/roster information may be viewed via the 2017 standings page on the UEFL Portal.

Joe West, once again, was the most selected.
Crew Chief Draft: 17 of the 19 available crew chiefs (89%) were drafted: As in 2016, the most common selection was Joe West (25 times), followed by Jeff Kellogg and Ted Barrett, who each were chosen 11 times. Larry Vanover and Jerry Layne were the only two crew chiefs not drafted. The least commonly drafted crew chiefs, of those selected, were Fieldin Culbreth, Bill Miller, Mike Winters, and Paul Emmel, who each were drafted just once. Gary Cederstrom, Jerry Meals, and Mike Everitt were chosen twice each.

Primary Umpire Draft: 44 different umpires were drafted in the Primary, or exactly 50% of the total field, which included minor league call-ups. Joe West was the most selected Primary umpire (14 times), followed by Vic Carapazza (11 times), Will Little (nine times), Hunter Wendelstedt and Chris Guccione (eight selections each). The most frequently selected Triple-A/MiLB call-up umpire was Toby Basner (twice).
> Primary Pairings: No two Primary umpires were paired together on more than three ballots. Vic Carapazza and Joe West were drafted together three times, as were Hunter Wendelstedt and Joe West. Pairs that appeared twice were: Tripp Gibson and Joe West, Angel Hernandez and Joe West, Brian Knight and Chris Guccione, and Hunter Wendelstedt and Will Little.

Secondary Umpire Draft: 65 different umpires were drafted in the Secondary category, representing 86% of the available 76 umpires. The most frequently selected Secondary umpires were Joe West, Greg Gibson, and Dan Iassogna (tied for nine selections each); Dan Bellino, Vic Carapazza, and Angel Hernandez (eight each); and Chris Guccione (seven times).
> Secondary Pairings: No two Secondary umpires were paired together on more than two ballots. Secondary umpire pairings that appeared two times were: Dan Bellino and Vic Carapazza, Bill Miller and Joe West, Greg Gibson and Angel Hernandez, and Marty Foster and Jerry Layne.

> Crew + Primary: Only one configuration of Crew Chief + 2 Primary Umpires appeared twice amongst draft ballots: That of Ted Barrett (crew chief) and Brian Knight/Chris Guccione (Primaries). No such repetition existed amongst Crew + Secondary, and, thus, no two crews were identical.

Undrafted Free Agents: Umpires not selected in any of the above drafts include Mark Carlson, Chris Conroy, and David Rackley.
MiLB Undrafted Free Agents: Minor League call-ups not selected during the Primary phase include Sean Barber, Ramon De Jesus, Ben May, Roberto Ortiz, Stu Scheurwater, Chris Segal, Chad Whitson, and Tom Woodring.

Three-P Approach Instituted for Comment Moderation

The UEFL Commissioners' Office has instituted a Three-P approach for comment moderation and posting guidelines on the website for the 2017 UEFL season. In umpiring discipline shorthand, the Three-P approach includes unsporting comments that fall under one of the following categories: Personal, Profane, or Prolonged, and, in a ballgame, can lead to ejection. The following portrays how the Three-P approach will be applied to UEFL comment moderation.

» Personal insults toward other commenters is prohibited and subject to discipline and/or removal.
» This also covers posting personal information about MLB/MiLB umpires, their families, and/or other information that is inappropriate for public dissemination (such as but not limited to an umpire's mailing address, personal life rumors, or other private information).

» Directing profanity toward other commenters is prohibited and subject to discipline and/or removal.
» This encompasses situations not necessarily covered by UEFL Rule 8-1-c, and serves as a reminder to refrain from inappropriate behavior. Profanity may be appropriate under certain circumstances, such as factual reporting of what a player or umpire said (e.g., lipreading, or language picked up via a field microphone), but it is never appropriate when combined with insulting or degrading intent.

» Disputes amongst commenters that carry on...and on...and on should be put to rest; threads should not be hijacked by singular disputes between a minority of users.
» This also applies to spam action—that included in UEFL Rule 8-1-a—as well as repeated posting behavior of the same or similar nature in multiple threads, or multiple times within the same thread.

As a reminder, UEFL Rule 8-1 specifies the CCS Comment and Posting Guidelines, and states:
a.     Users shall refrain from spam activity or any attempt to solicit.
b.     Users shall refrain from flaming, trolling or other conduct interpreted as such by the post moderators. This includes name-calling.
c.      Users shall refrain from undue profanity, vulgarity, obscenity or content of a prurient nature. This includes username selection.
d.     Users shall refrain from attempting to moderate or resolve violations. Instead, users shall contact a Commissioner for assistance.
e.     Users shall enjoy the privilege of engaging in an environment free from the aforementioned violative conduct.
f.      If at any time, attention or enforcement is requested, please contact the UEFL Commissioners for assistance.
g.     Post moderation shall be delegated to the UEFL Commissioners, whose judgment shall be final and unchallengeable.
h.     A penalty system, which may include, but is not limited to, comment banishment and loss of UEFL points, shall govern flagrant and/or repeat violations of the Comment and Posting Guidelines, at the sole discretion of the UEFL Commissioners. A commenter penalized for inappropriate/violative comments may appeal this decision to the UEFL Appeals Board, whose decision shall be final and binding.
The Three-P approach is being introduced to the CCS / UEFL website pursuant to UEFL Rule 8-1-g, in a format that translates to the game to which CCS / UEFL is dedicated. The effective date is immediate and not retroactive. More information about the CCS/UEFL Terms of Use and Privacy Policy is available via our Privacy and Terms page.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Spring Ejection S-10 - Bill Miller (Robbie Ray)

HP Umpire Bill Miller ejected Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray (strike three call) in the bottom of the 4th inning of the Indians-Diamondbacks game. With two out and one on, Ray took a 1-2 fastball from Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer for a called third strike. Replays indicate the pitch was located over the inner edge of home plate and belt high (px .785, pz 3.04), the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Indians were leading, 6-2. The Indians ultimately won the contest, 6-5.

This is Bill Miller (-)'s first ejection of Spring Training, the 2017 MLB preseason.
Bill Miller now has 0 points in the UEFL Standings (0 Previous + 0 Spring Training = 0).
Crew Chief Bill Miller now has 0 points in Crew Division (0 Previous + 0 Spring Training = 0).
*This is the first pitch f/x-supported ejection of 2017. To refresh, here are the UEFL terms:
Kulpa Rule 6-2-b-1: Px value of |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.
Miller Rule 6-2-b-2: Pz value of BALL < sz_bot + MOE < STRIKE < sz_top + MOE < BALL.

This is the 10th ejection report of Spring Training 2017.
This is the 7th player ejection of 2017. Prior to ejection, Ray was 0-2 (2 SO) in the contest.
This is ARI's 1st ejection of Spring Training, T-2nd in the Cactus League (CWS, LAD 2; ARI, LAA 1).
This is Robbie Ray's first career MLB ejection.
This is Bill Miller's first ejection since September 2, 2016 (Dave Magadan; QOC = Y [Check Swing]).

Wrap: Cleveland Indians vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Cactus), 3/26/17 | Video via "Read More"

Presenting the 2017 UEFL Appeals Board

The 2017 UEFL Appeals Board roster is now final and features eight returning members and two new-comers.* Throughout the season, the Appeals Board will contribute to challenges, appeals, check swing rulings, and other matters referred to the Board pursuant to procedures specified within the UEFL Rules. Appeals Board decisions and pending cases will be posted throughout the year to the UEFL Portal's 2017 Appeals Board page. The following members were selected to represent the Appeals Board for the 2017 UEFL season:

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mike Trout Advocates for MiLB Umpires

AL MVP Mike Trout is advocating for Minor League Umpires at Spring Training by trying to get them more big league experience during the baseball pre-season period.

Mike Trout wants more March MiLB umpires.
The Umpire's Friend?
Trout has never been ejected from a Major League game, though coincidentally enough, his manager Mike Scioscia was just ejected by Mike Cascioppo, who is a minor leaguer working his first Spring Training. Unlike the never-ejected Trout, Scioscia has been ejected over 40 times in his playing and managerial career.

According to a Buster Olney report, Trout has an idea for pre-season baseball: schedule the MLB staff umpires to, on occasion, officiate just two-thirds of the Spring games and give that remaining one-third of play to minor leaguers that have been left off the Spring Training invitee list.

Based on that timesharing program, more younger umpires could gain big league experience, if only for a few innings during Spring Training at a time.

Under Trout's brainstorm, a sample crew for a Spring Training Angels game could look like this:
HP: MLB Veteran (Innings #1-6), MiLB Non-Invitee (Innings #7-9).
1B: MLB Veteran (Innings #1-6), MiLB Non-Invitee (Innings #7-9).
2B: MLB Veteran (Innings #1-9).
3B: MiLB Spring Training Invitee (Innings #1-9).

Whether or not the plate umpire is switched out after six innings of play, swapping base umpires would still afford developing umpires expanded opportunities for exposure that don't yet exist in the Spring.

According to one unnamed league source, Trout's idea "makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons."

For now, though, we have the MiLB Invitee list, which in 2017 includes 26 Triple-A umpires, 12 of whom have previously officiated a regular season MLB game. As is tradition, baseball has also extended the opportunity to a few additional non-invited umpires to officiate the odd late-March pre-season game, although this list is fairly select due to the larger-than-usual MiLB invitee list (due itself to the World Baseball Classic). Click through ("read more") to see the few umpires not on the invitee list who have had a chance to work a game or two in March.

Trout's proposal would also require suspension of the rules, as OBR 8.02(d) states, "No umpire may be replaced during a game unless he is injured or becomes ill."