Cleveland’s Canada Day, 19 inning victory over the Toronto Blue Jays should be marked with an asterisk. Rather than the teams deciding the winner, the umpires decided the game early on when Edwin Encarnacion was ejected from the game for questioning a called third strike (on a pitch that was outside the strike zone) in the bottom of the first inning.
This is not the first time that the Toronto Blue Jays have been subjected to bad umpiring. For much of the start of this season, the strike zone applied to Blue Jays hitters has been generous.
Over the years, Toronto Blue Jays fans have also been witness to very questionable decisions, including the controversial call in the ALCS game against Texas, the failure to eject KC’s pitcher for throwing at Josh Donaldson last year, and George Bell’s slide into third against KC in that memorable ALCS in 1985.
Nine Blue Jays were called out on strikes yesterday. In some cases, the called third strike was legitimate. In others they simply were not. And for the umpire to eject Encarnacion or cause Russell Martin to boil over was another example of an official dictating the outcome of a game rather than the players on the field deciding who should win or lose. The strike zone applied by John Hirschbeck’s crew was, in our opinion, not a major league strike zone. It was disrespectful to the experienced players who bat throughout the Blue Jays line up.
As baseball fans, we expect to see the games determined by the skills applied by the players, not the poor decisions of the umpires.
Major league baseball needs to implement a Code of Conduct and Code of Review for its umpires. As we witnessed in the Canada Day game, it was easy to imagine withdrawing any support for the game because we perceive (rightly or wrongly) that the umpires do not want a Canadian team to win baseball games or make the play-offs. It was easy to imagine how Major League Baseball creates a poor atmosphere for young baseball fans by causing players and managers to argue consistently bad decisions.
The call of “out” against Kevin Pillar at first base, when he was clearly safe at regular speed, arguably demonstrated that the Blue Jays had been fingered to lose yesterday’s game before it started perhaps by the fickle hand of destiny or perhaps by the fickle hand of bias.
Major league baseball deserves umpiring of the highest integrity and highest skill. If the home plate umpire cannot properly call balls and strikes, then perhaps it is time for technology to make the call for him. Tennis has a machine to check whether a served ball is good or not, or whether a ball has landed in or out of the court when an official makes a borderline call. We see pitch-tracker in baseball, so why cannot it be used to ensure that we don’t see what we witnessed (for the upteenth time) yesterday?