Monday, May 3, 2021

Critique - Cone Off the Ump Name Calling from the Booth

In this Commentary Critique, tmac reviews Yankees broadcaster David Cone's criticism of 2B Umpire Junior Valentine's start-stop balk in New York, a correct call in accordance with the Official Baseball Rules. Cone called Valentine a name, with a backdrop of a nationwide phenomenon of umpire abuse that has caused officiating shortages across multiple sports, mainly at the youth level.

After Valentine called Yankees pitcher Darren O'Day for a start-stop balk, Cone warned "I want to go off on a rant," before stating, "Barney Fife on second base is going to call it."

In complaining about the call, Cone described the pitcher's actions: "He started his motion a little bit and then stepped off the rubber," still perplexed at the balk call.

As a quick Rules Review, Cone's description is precisely why the balk was called. The two start-stop pitching rules in Set Position relate to going from the stretch to the set and for actions from set to delivery. This is an example of the former, as elucidated in OBR 5.07(a)(2): "Preparatory to coming to a set position, the pitcher shall have one hand on his side [the stretch]; from this position he shall go to his set position as defined in Rule 5.07(a)(2) without interruption and in one continuous motion." The accompanying latter balk rule is OBR 6.02(a)(1): "It is a balk when—the pitcher, while touching his plate, makes any motion naturally associated with his pitch and fails to make such delivery."

Replays indicate that, while in the stretch, O'Day started to moving his hands together, but stopped and then disengaged the rubber by stepping off with his pivot foot. This is an illegal disengagement because he had already started his transition from stretch to set, as in OBR 5.07(a)(2).

As for Cone's name-calling, despite admitting the call was correct and later offering an apology, for the casual fan that sees a simple 10-second video clip, the damage is done.

And with a nationwide referee and umpire shortage generating national headlines and citing abusive fan/coach/player conduct and poor sportsmanship as a top reason for officials opting not to participate in youth sports, the example of umpire abuse at baseball's highest level does no favors.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Cone's catty call trickles down to youth sports, argues tmac (CCS)


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