Saturday, March 11, 2023

Called Third Strike Ends NCAA Game - About Umpire Power

After a called third strike wrapped up New Orleans' 7-3 win over Mississippi Valley State, questioned surfaced as to whether the NCAA umpire deliberately called a strike on a pitch that was a ball in order to get back at a player who may have shown the umpire up one pitch earlier. We review the play and discuss the issue of umpire and referee authority and abuse of power.

After the home plate umpire called strike two with two outs in the top of the 9th inning, the batter demonstratively jumped out of the batter's box before returning and gesturing with his bat to where he believed the pitch to have been thrown. The umpire did not discipline the batter and play resumed. The umpire did, however, call a third strike on the ensuing 1-2 pitch, ending the at-bat and the game.

The umpire measuredly walked off the field without addressing the player as the struck-out batter followed and attempted to argue, before the batter was restrained by the opposing catcher.

This has led to accusations that the umpire deliberately called strike three on a clear ball out of the strike zone, due to a grudge or way to get back at the player who behaved disrespectfully one pitch earlier.

To be clear, an umpire may discipline a player for unsporting conduct pursuant to the rules.

NCAA Rule 2-26 states, "the game officials have the authority to eject a player, coach, or team representative for misconduct or unsportsmanlike conduct. MLB's version is Official Baseball Rule 8.01(d): "Each umpire has the authority to disqualify any player, coach, manager, or substitute for objecting to decisions or for unsportsmanlike conduct or language, and to eject such disqualified person from the playing field."

However, when an umpire or referee instead deliberately disregards the rules of the game, for instance, by calling a strike on a pitch the umpire knows to be a ball and outside the strike zone, the official has abused their authority and violated the ethics of officiating.

In sum, discipline the player for misconduct—the rules and, depending on your game, video will support you—but the moment an official has deliberately called a play incorrectly in order to get even with a player or send a message, that official has abused their authority and committed a disservice to the game.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: Umpire's strike three call prompts discussion after unsporting incident (CCS)


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