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Updated: May 7, 2010, 2:30 AM ET

Time for baseball to get the score right

By Buck Showalter
ESPN
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Ball or strike, safe or out, fair or foul -- everyone knows that umpiring isn't easy. But the umpires' calls aren't the only decisions that impact players and managers. In clubhouses across the league, people continue to voice frustration over the inconsistency of the official scoring. Some home scorekeepers favor their team while others practice over-the-top fairness for visiting teams to combat the notion of a "home-field advantage." What might be considered a hit in one play is an error on another.

While that may seem trivial to some people, baseball statistics play a huge role in arbitration cases. A player's contribution to his club is heavily weighed in arbitration hearings and measured most accurately by his statistics. If those statistics are impacted by inaccurate scorekeeping, a number of players will appeal to their managers and request that they file a review to the commissioner's office. It's a messy and tedious situation for all involved.

So how should the league overcome this issue?

There's a two-pronged approach to improving scoring discrepancies, and the first step should involve the organization of a three- or four-day forum with all the official scorekeepers in the league. An instructor could show film of controversial plays and ask the scorekeepers which way they would score them to get a better idea of their range of reasoning. Frankly, not many people doing the scoring have had to make plays at the major league level, so it can be challenging to differentiate between a tough play and a play that should be made.

A lot of the official scorekeepers are retired baseball writers who are good at what they do and that shouldn't be overlooked. But the second -- and most effective -- way to correct this problem is for baseball to incorporate a fifth umpire. Why not bring an umpire up from Triple-A to be the replay official and scorekeeper? That way you can train someone through the umpiring system and develop some sort of consistency with how things are ruled. It would also be beneficial to have that extra umpire in the press box in case an official on the field gets injured during a game.

And maybe while these discussions are taking place, baseball can start to examine some scoring oddities. It seems counterintuitive that a catcher can make a perfect throw to second but if the fielder misplays the ball, the runner is credited with a stolen base and the fielder has no statistical repercussions. What about a guy who makes an errant throw that allows a runner to move two bases: Should that be two errors instead of one? These are all issues that could be addressed while tightening up the scorekeeping system.

Before people had scoreboards on their smart phones and instant replay at their fingertips, the best way to follow America's pastime was with a piece of paper and a pencil. It's time to revisit the most basic art form of baseball and correct the inefficiencies with official scorekeeping.

Buck Showalter is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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