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:

Friday, May 8, 2020

Plate Meeting - COVID Mental Health Checkup

In this Plate Meeting Podcast video episode, we step away from on-field umpiring discussion and turn to the current reality for all umpires: a wholesale loss of all games at all levels (in all sports). In this COVID mental health checkup, Jack Furlong of the OSIP Foundation joins tmac & Gil for a conversation about the current sports landscape and reality for officials who continue to lose income due to a lack of games to work.

We've long discussed the subject of umpire abuse stemming from on-field and game-related incidents, but to this point haven't especially delved into off-the-field, non-game mindsets for sports officials.

This episode of The Plate Meeting is available on YouTube in video form as follows, as well as audio form on our page:

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

2020 MLB Umpire Crews (Delayed Season)

Before COVID-19 delayed Opening Day, the originally-drafted 2020 MLB umpire crew list features 76 umpires in 19 crews. Major League Baseball may reshuffle these crews due to coronavirus restrictions, however, or assign umpires or crew chiefs regionally as the season begins in modified form.

The following table is arranged by Chief seniority and may be found on the UEFL Umpire Roster, Profiles & Crews page, which features MiLB call-up information as well as the MLB staff list. UEFL Umpire Profiles are also available for full-time MLBU.

Reminder: The 2020 UEFL Draft will remain open until Opening Day.

2020 MLB Umpire Crews (by Umpiring Crew Chief Seniority)

Crew #Crew ChiefUmpire 2Umpire 3Umpire 4
Crew 112 Davis, Gerry6 Carlson, Mark92 Hoye, James31 Hoberg, Pat
Crew 222 West, Joe5 Hernandez, Angel2 Bellino, Dan78 Hamari, Adam
Crew 324 Layne, Jerry53 Gibson, Greg93 Little, Will52 Visconti, Jansen
Crew 49 Gorman, Brian3 Welke, Bill80 Johnson, Adrian36 Blakney, Ryan
Crew 520 Hallion, Tom10 Cuzzi, Phil91 Knight, Brian90 Ripperger, Mark
Crew 633 Winters, Mike21 Wendelstedt, Hunter76 Muchlinski, Mike59 Lentz, Nic
Crew 725 Culbreth, Fieldin39 Nauert, Paul54 Bucknor, CB17 Reyburn, DJ
Crew 865 Barrett, Ted60 Foster, Marty98 Conroy, Chris96 Segal, Chris
Crew 945 Nelson, Jeff63 Diaz, Laz49 Fletcher, Andy85 Scheurwater, Stu
Crew 1026 Miller, Bill88 Eddings, Doug30 Drake, Rob62 Whitson, Chad
Crew 1127 Vanover, Larry51 Hudson, Marvin19 Carapazza, Vic86 Rackley, David
Crew 1241 Meals, Jerry15 Hickox, Ed71 Baker, Jordan47 Morales, Gabe
Crew 1350 Emmel, Paul7 O'Nora, Brian1 Dreckman, Bruce89 Blaser, Cory
Crew 1434 Holbrook, Sam28 Wolf, Jim79 Gonzalez, Manny81 Wolcott, Quinn
Crew 1514 Wegner, Mark68 Guccione, Chris64 Porter, Alan83 Estabrook, Mike
Crew 16 44 Danley, Kerwin46 Kulpa, Ron4 Fairchild, Chad87 Barry, Scott
Crew 1772 Marquez, Alfonso95 Timmons, Tim16 Barrett, Lance37 Torres, Carlos
Crew 1877 Reynolds, Jim11 Randazzo, Tony13 Tichenor, Todd73 Gibson, Tripp
Crew 1958 Iassogna, Dan23 Barksdale, Lance74 Tumpane, John18 De Jesus, Ramon
DL/IR[To Be Determined]
New MLB Umpires (New Hire MLBU): Blakney, De JesusLentzSegalVisconti.
New Crew Chiefs (Promotion to -CC): Danley, Iassogna, Marquez, Reynolds.
Retirements: Cederstrom, DeMuth, Everitt, Kellogg (DiMuro retired in mid-2019).
RIP: Cooper.

Notes and Observations:
≫ Only one crew—#7 (Culbreth)—remains unchanged from 2019.
≫ As occurred in 2018 & 2019, West swapped all three crewmates. He reunites with Hernandez.
≫ ≫ Not The Onion, But Humurous Coincidence: Hernandez, while mid-suit v MLB, adds a lawyer (Bellino) to his crew.
Lance Barrett switched from sleeve #94 to #16, Mike DiMuro's old number.

Statistical Promotions or Leftward Lateral Movement:
≫ From Umpire 3 to Umpire 2: Hickox, Barksdale, Randazzo, Foster, Guccione, Wolf.
≫ From Umpire 4 to Umpire 3: Little, Baker, Muchlinski, Tumpane, Conroy, L Barrett, Gonzalez.

Statistical Rightward Lateral Movement:
≫ From Umpire 2 to Umpire 3: Dreckman.
≫ From Umpire 3 to Umpire 4: Barry.

Video as follows:

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Korea Baseball Says Play w Umpires in Masks & Gloves

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) started its 2020 season with several COVID-19 mitigation measures in place: As with Taiwan's CPBL, the Korean league played games in empty stadiums without fans, but KBO umpires and coaches took mitigation a step further.

While KBO players participated without protective gear of any sort, umpires and base coaches wore face coverings—the coaches wore white masks and the umpires wore black—and umpires additionally wore long sleeve shirts and black gloves.

Pictured at right is KBO umpire Park Geun-young in the protective gear during Tuesday's NC Dinos - Samsung Lions game.
KBO umpires conduct a Replay Review.

For HP Umpire Kang Gwang-hwe, it meant wearing two masks—one a traditional-style facemask and the other an infectious disease-style face covering—along with long sleeves and gloves.

Are the KBO umpire masks truly effective around barefaced players and will MLB umpires follow suit when baseball continues in the Americas—rumored for a potential June Spring Training and July Opening Day?