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MLB gets umpires they deserve

10/19/2009

Fay Vincent writes sensibly (as usual) about the umpiring mess:

    The beginning salary for a junior umpire is about $9,500 for the five-month season, hardly a living wage. A young umpire may spend as many as 10 years in the minors, earning at most about $20,000 at the Triple-A level and scratching around for other work during the off-season.

    To attract the kind of young people any business would want, Major League Baseball should establish a thoroughly professional training system for umpires — and ensure that every official it hires is up to the job.

Well, yeah. Major League Baseball has always claimed, reasonably enough, that they've got the best umpires in the world. But that's really begging the important question. Do you want the best umpires? Or do you want better umpires. If you've got 10 candidates for a job and you choose the best candidate, you might be pleased with yourself. But what if you had 100 candidates? Wouldn't your final choice probably be better than when you had only 10 candidates?

Frankly, everyone associated with Major League Baseball should be embarrassed. It's easy and fashionable to blame the umpires when things go wrong, and appropriate enough as these things go. But these umpires we so love to criticize and ridicule are the only logical product of that terribly inefficient system -- which is hardly a system, really -- that's used to train and develop top-notch umpires.

The umpires have always complained that Major League Baseball doesn't care about them. They've probably got a point. For the rest of us, though, the real problem is that Major League Baseball doesn't care enough about umpiring. Maybe the Great Umpiring Fiasco of 2009 will result in some needed reforms.