Saturday, July 18, 2020

MLB Protective Gear, Masks for Umpires Stirs Debate

Major League Baseball has encouraged, but will not require, umpires to wear face coverings or masks, setting off a de facto personal preference debate of what to wear, if anything.

MLB will also develop face shields for the home plate umpire who works in proximity to catchers and batters. According to The Athletic, MLB is testing the shields to make sure they are shatterproof.

MLB's masks optional policy splits the difference between South Korea's KBO and Taiwan's CPBL, the former which requires umpires to wear masks and gloves while the latter carries no such mandate.

A majority of umpires in Spring Training 2.0 have worn various measures of protective equipment.

For instance, Carlos Torres was photographed in Atlanta wearing a face covering, as were the trio of Washington, DC assignees—David Rackley, Chris Segal, and Larry Vanover (though Vanover did not appear to wear a face covering during his plate job Saturday evening)—and New York officials Sean Barber and Roberto Ortiz at Yankee Stadium. At Dodger Stadium, Ryan Blakney wore a white face covering underneath his black-padded traditional facemask.

In San Francisco, the simple act of umpires wearing face coverings contributed to feelings of good will with the Giants ball club.

Giants Manager Gabe Kapler recently praised the two umpires assigned to train in San Francisco—Doug Eddings and MLBUA President Bill Miller—for donning face coverings when offered, perhaps offering a glimpse into a new subtle way to build rapport and improve game management in the age of coronavirus: "Bill and Doug, I give them a ton of credit because they're super humble and open, and so our training staff had a few extra very, very comfortable masks and those guys did a great job. They were open to giving these masks a try and I think everybody on the field was proud of that."

In New York (Mets), HP Umpire Ryan Additon and base umpire CB Bucknor carried small bottles of hand sanitizer attached to their belts.

And when Clint Frazier hit his home run Saturday evening in Queens while wearing a face covering, home plate umpire Jose Navas was right behind him wearing his own fabric cover.

In all, most umpires throughout the league have worn some degree of protection during MLB's preseason restart.
Related Post2020 MLB Summer Camp (Spring) Roster (7/15/20).

Having questioned COVID case calculations while later clarifying his belief that the virus itself is very real even if case or death statistics may suffer from inflation, Joe West, along with fellow crew chief Mark Wegner in Tampa Bay, recently adopted the plastic face shield prototype MLB hopes to use throughout the 2020 season; West initially wore blue medical gloves and, like Wegner, wore a surgical-style mask underneath his facemask, but switched to the face shield Thursday after it arrived mid-game to Tropicana Field.

In Kansas City, Todd Tichenor, who wore a white face covering behind a catcher who also wore a mask, told Yahoo! Sports, "I want to make it work," explaining he'd do his best to mask up while admitting there might be times, perhaps out of habit, when he might inadvertently remove it: "Sometimes I let it slip from my nose. That was the tough part, was keeping the full mask on. I kinda just told myself, if I can do that 80 percent of the time, maybe I'm saving somebody 80 percent of the time."

In June, the World Baseball Softball Confederation shared a photograph of a catcher/umpire's mask with plastic shield. When umpiring legend Perry Barber asked why cover just the nose and mouth and leave the eyes exposed (as a mucous membrane, the eyes are susceptible to viral transmission [reception]), WBSC's response ("no screen in eye area here to avoid any interference with visibility due to reflection, lights, etc") portrayed the ultimate dilemma in a COVID restart: safety vs functionality.

Silver Lining: One hot-button issue not being discussed whatsoever? Switching to a computerized strike zone or automated ball/strike system that would remove an umpire from the field.

The extent to which baseball will go to arm its umpires with protective equipment should indicate, with all of baseball's chatter relative to robot umpires, the value of keeping human umpires involved and on the field.

Sidebar: Speaking of arming umpires, Rob Drake, in Oakland, was pictured Thursday not wearing a face covering on the bases while plate umpire Gabe Morales wore both a covering and blue gloves (as did Brian Knight the day before). MLB's face covering policy seems very much to rely on personal preference.

Video as follows:

Friday, July 17, 2020

Former Umpire Rick Reed Dies at the Age of 70

Rick Reed, the MLB umpire who survived two strokes during his umpiring career, died Thursday at the age of 70.

The Detroit native officiated his first American League game in 1979, later serving as a crew chief across Major League Baseball until his 2009 retirement. In May 2008, Reed suffered a stroke, followed by another in February 2009.

He would return to officiate 41 games in his final season before retiring after 3,392 regular season games and 31 years of big league service, which included three Division Series (1997, 2000, 01), three League Championship Series (1989, 95, 99), and the 1991 World Series, working as an umpire when Kirby Puckett hit a walk-off home run in Game 6 to win it for the Twins. Reed ejected a total of 71 players, coaches, and managers during his career.

After his retirement, Reed joined Major League Baseball as its Detroit umpire observer and evaluated umpires as they officiated games at Comerica Park. He also served as an observer for basketball referees in the NCAA Division I's Summit League Conference.

Prior to umpire school, Reed took a sports officiating class at Eastern Michigan University, explaining his 'A' grade helped pique his interest in the profession.

He appeared in the film For Love of the Game, where he played—what else—the home plate umpire, recalling in a 2010 interview that he was hit by a pitch in the mask 13 times during rehearsal so that catcher John C. Reilly's miss would look convincing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

2020 MLB Summer Camp (Spring) Roster

As summer's restart turns to intrasquad games at teams' home ballparks, MLB Spring Training 2.0 brings in umpires. The following is a list of umpires and locations/cities where they have appeared.

Of Major League Baseball's 76 full-time umpires, approximately 11 have opted out due to their classification as high-risk for complications from coronavirus or for other personal reasons. The remaining umpires, along with a handful of Minor League and fill-in umpires, having completed MLB's safety protocols, join teams at cities near home.

Umpires during the season will be assigned regionally, to one of MLB's three 2020 divisions (West, Midwest, or East).

UEFL'er RC2004 has provided the following and maintains a spreadsheet of assignments. As this is a working list, please comment below with any additions or changes and we'll update the table! Crew Chiefs are listed in bold. Opt-outs are italicized.

MLB Summer Camp/Spring Training 2.0 Umpires' Roster

Umpire (MLB) Team Umpire (MLB) Team Umpire (MLB/MiLB) Team
Baker, Jordan TEX Gorman, Brian Out Reynolds, Jim ARI
Barksdale, Lance TEX Guccione, Chris COL Ripperger, Mark SD
Barrett, Lance TEX Hallion, Tom Out Schurwater, Stu TOR
Barrett, Ted ARI Hamari, Adam COL Segal, Chris WAS
Barry, Scott Out Hernandez, Angel MIA Tichenor, Todd KC
Bellino, Dan MIL Hickox, Ed CLE Timmons, Tim CLE
Blakney, Ryan LAD Hoberg, Pat KC Torres, Carlos ATL
Blaser, Cory COL Holbrook, Sam Out Tumpane, John CHC
Bucknor, CB NYM Hoye, James TB Vanover, Larry^ WAS
Carapazza, Vic MIL Hudson, Marvin ATL ^Wegner, Mark TB
Carlson, Mark CWS Iassogna, Dan ATL Welke, Bill DET
Conroy, Chris PHI Johnson, Adrian HOU Wendelstedt, Hunter HOU
Culbreth, Fieldin Out Knight, Brian OAK West, Joe TB
Cuzzi, Phil Out Kulpa, Ron STL Whitson, Chad CIN
Danley, Kerwin Out Layne, Jerry Out Winters, Mike Out
Davis, Gerry Out Lentz, Nic CWS Wolcott, Quinn SEA
De Jesus, Ramon BAL Little, Will CIN Wolf, Jim ARI
Diaz, Laz Delay Marquez, Alfonso ARI (Additon, Ryan) NYM
Drake, Rob OAK Meals, Jerry PIT (Bacon, John) CLE
Dreckman, Bruce Out Miller, Bill SF (Barber, Sean) NYY
Eddings, Doug SF Morales, Gabe OAK (Libka, John) DET
Emmel, Paul Injured Muchlinski, Mike SEA (Livensparger, Shane) BOS
Estabrook, Mike MIA Nauert, Paul ATL (Mahrley, Nick) SD
Fairchild, Chad MIA Nelson, Jeff MIN (May, Ben) CHC
Fletcher, Andy STL O'Nora, Brian Out (Miller, Brennan) BAL
Foster, Marty MIL Porter, Alan PHI (Ortiz, Roberto) NYY
Gibson, Greg Injured Rackley, David WAS (Rehak, Jeremie) BOS
Gibson, Tripp SEA Randazzo, Tony CHC (Tosi, Alex) CWS
Gonzalez, Manny HOU Reyburn, DJ STL (Woodring, Tom) LAA
Other MLB full-time staff:
^Visconti, Jansen: PIT

Other MiLB (umpires not previously on MLB's call-up list)
Bacchus, Erich: MIN
Beck, Adam: BOS
Ceja, Nestor: LAD
Clemons, Paul: KC
Merzel, Dan: MIN
Moore, Malachi: LAA
Moscoso, Edwin: HOU
Navas, Jose: NYM
Valentine, Junior: NYM
Wills, Ryan: PHI

Monday, July 13, 2020

Joe West Wins Defamation Lawsuit Against Paul Lo Duca

Umpire Joe West won his defamation lawsuit against former MLB player Paul Lo Duca, a New York court ruling via default judgment that the ex-Mets catcher and Barstool Sports personality's comments during a podcast episode constituted enough proof for the court to determine a viable cause of action exists, namely that Lo Duca allegedly slandered West.

In October 2019, West filed suit against Lo Duca, alleging he and podcast producer The Action Network defamed West during a podcast by falsely claiming as fact that West accepted a bribe in exchange for favorable calls during a Mets game featuring pitcher Billy Wagner, and falsely portraying as fact that West ejected Lo Duca "eight or nine" times during his career.
Related PostJoe West Sues Paul LoDuca Over Bribery Claim (10/22/19).

Following a Close Call Sports Fact Check to the same effect, West's team argued that both claims were defamatory and demonstrably false, citing statistics and box scores indicating West never served as home plate umpire during a game in which Billy Wagner pitched and Lo Duca caught, and that West ejected LoDuca just once during his MLB career—not eight or nine times.

In March 2020, West settled with defendant The Action Network and accused Lo Duca of ignoring the lawsuit. The present court order of July 2020 accordingly removes The Action Network from the lawsuit's caption and finds, via default judgment, that Lo Duca did ignore the suit, which itself was/is viable.
Related PostPants on Fire - Paul Lo Duca's Joe West Accusation (5/10/19).
Related PostJoe West Settles with Action Network, Accuses Paul Lo Duca of Ignoring Lawsuit (3/24/20).

In concluding his remarks and awarding West his victory, New York Supreme Court (County of New York) Judge John J. Kelley wrote ordered the following:
> Default judgment against Lo Duca on the issue of liability.
> Remove The Action Network from the caption (e.g., dismiss in light of settlement).
> Set inquest to assess damages at a later date.

LoDuca's Twitter profile lists his e-mail.
Shortly after the order's issuance, West lawyer Nicholas J. Zaita (who also represents Angel Hernandez in the latter's discrimination suit against Major League Baseball) filed an affidavit of service with the court, attesting that he served Lo Duca with the Decision and Order via e-mail to LoDuca's e-mail address.

Earlier in the case, West's team tried serving Lo Duca several times at his various residences, to no avail, and the court ultimately granted permission to serve Lo Duca at his e-mail address, as reflected on Lo Duca's verified Twitter profile.

The newly titled case of Joseph H. West v Paul Lo Duca will next appear before the court on September 15, 2020, at 9:30am.

Video as follows:

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Umpires Emerge At MLB Summer Camp 2020

We officially have umpires at MLB ballparks as the first MiLB call-ups and full-time big leaguers alike took to the field across baseball for the first time since Spring Training's March 2020 cancellation.

Judging by sleeve numbers alone, Sean Barber and Roberto Ortiz (both Florida residents) officiated Sunday's Yankees intrasquad game in New York while Chad Whitson (Ohio) visited Cincinnati.

Cubs Manager David Ross said Sunday that Chicago native Tony Randazzo and crew will work Cubs scrimmages.

Notably, umpires in New York did not appear to wear face coverings or masks during the Yankees' scrimmage (as opposed to interim-ump and retired player Jason Varitek, who donned a black face covering in Boston, or KBO umpires overseas, who stepped onto the field for their season wearing the covers).

Video as follows: