Saturday, May 9, 2020

KBO Demotes Umpire Crew After Player's Complaint

Less than 24 hours after a player publicly complained about an umpire's plate calls, the Korea Baseball Organization demoted his entire five-person officiating crew to the minor leagues. The KBO season is less than a week old and multiple members of the crew hadn't even called balls and strikes prior to their demotion for "lack of consistency on ball-strike calls."

Hanwha Eagles outfielder Lee Yong-kyu took to the media following Thursday's action, and said, "Even though it's only been three games this season, a lot of players are really unhappy with the lack of consistency on ball-strike calls. I'd like to ask all the umpires to please be more considerate of the players. We're all very confused (with the inconsistent zone). I know the umpires are doing their best out there, but I just hope they should start seeing things from the players' perspective, too."

Following the player's comments, KBO officials quickly moved to demote the entire five-person umpiring crew of Lee Ki-joong, Jang Jun-young, Won Hyun-sik, Choi Su-won, and Kim Jun-hee to the Futures League for "retraining" while simultaneously asking players not to publicly criticize umpires and "to show more respect toward officials."

Gil's Call: Logic...Demoting five umpires for balls/strikes performance over the span of three games means that—even if we were to assume the three games were all subpar—two of the demoted umpires never actually called a game behind the plate (and thus cannot logically have turned in a suboptimal performance). That must be what the KBO means by "show more respect toward officials."

KBO umps wear masks, but players don't.
Second, depending on your affinity for science, my mask-as-hindrance-to-breathing gag at the beginning of the last video has now proven to be a legitimate concern. Less oxygen in the bloodstream has a negative effect on performance: "Different masks have varying levels of airflow restriction, depending on the thickness of the material...With less air, your body has less available oxygen to utilize during exercise to convert glucose [sugar] into energy."

Finally, it seems notable for KBO to exercise an adverse employment action against an umpire for poor performance when forcing said umpires to wear face coverings, long sleeves, and gloves (while allowing players to forgo masks) likely carries a negative correlation. Either order players to wear masks or allow umpires to remove them. In the United States, such an event could be deemed a violation of labor law, regardless of whether or not a union or collective bargaining agreement exists. Similarly, the presence of a union such as MLBUA strongly discourages such punitive actions.

I hypothesize MLB umpires will not be forced to wear similar masks, gloves, and long sleeves in the heat of Spring Training stadiums in Arizona and humidity-laden Florida. As long as such protective gear is required, I'd surmise it is likely not yet safe enough to play the game.
Related PostKorea Baseball Says Play w Umpires in Masks & Gloves (5/5/20).

During its broadcast, ESPN commentators speculated that the KBO had adopted a new policy that allows the organization to demote any umpire—to include entire crews—in the wake of a subpar game.

The KBO reportedly hired a new Director of Umpires prior to the 2020 season. MLB is considering an electronic strike zone for its 2020 campaign.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: KBO Demotes 5 Umpires After Player's Balls/Strikes Complaint (CCS)


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