Thursday, October 8, 2020

Dale Scott Guest Op-Ed - Of Umpire Labeling, CB & Angel

While watching MLB's 2020 postseason, 32-year Major League umpire and 16-yr Crew Chief Dale Scott noticed a troubling trend toward labeling, perception, and prejudgment, writing the following Op/Ed article exclusive to CloseCallSports following Angel Hernandez and CB Bucknor's Division Series plate games:

There comes a point where certain umpires trigger automatic "terrible" comments, regardless of reality or common sense.

CB and Angel are two of the names where this automatic critique takes place.

Umpires get labeled, good or bad, and once you get one it’s damn near impossible to get rid of it, that label is baked in the cake.

Example:  If an umpire is labeled as "a really solid ball/strike umpire," then has a sub par game, many of the comments are similar to, "he’s a good umpire, was just a little off," or "doesn’t usually miss that many but he controlled the game," or "more misses than usual but had a ton of close pitches." 

Angel Hernandez and CB Bucknor.
In other words, he’s given the benefit of the doubt and in most cases that positive benefit follows him for years if not his entire career, even if there is a slow decline as seasons go by.

Conversely, when for whatever reason, an umpire gets a bad label like "he has trouble behind the plate, misses a lot of pitches," (this label can, but not always, be a result of just one below average “big” game). Then if he has a great ball/strike game, you hear comments similar to, "amazing, not his usual bad job," or "anyone can have a lucky day," or "not bad but he still sucks."

In other words he’s not given the benefit of the doubt. In fact many times the focus isn’t on the good, but goes directly to any misses with "that was a terrible pitch, he’s horrible," or "no surprise, he’s always terrible." The negative label, fair or unfair, sticks and can follow him until he retires (and beyond).

CB Bucknor 'Fan Art' as UmpShow.
If you start a season with the staff on a level playing field, the negative labeled umpire starts a couple notches below and has to perform above average over several seasons (or several post seasons) just to get even. But one average or sub par game and you’re buried with an even deeper hole to crawl out of because of the baked in bias.

So enough of the automatic bashing of Angel or CB. Judge them without the negative label anchor before they walk on the field.

Editor's Note: See Related Post "Booby Bumbaca" (10/7/20).

We’re taught on day one that every game is a new day. As we’re putting on our uniform, we don’t drag former situations or issues with managers, coaches or players on with it.

I wish commentators, media, fans, and most importantly, the umpire brotherhood would use the same standard.

Author Dale Scott officiated in the American League from 1985 through 1999, and on the unified Major League Baseball staff from 2000-2017. During his 32-year AL and MLB career, Dale worked the 2013 Wild Card Game, 12 Division Series, six League Championship Series, and three World Series. He resides in Oregon.


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