Dear Red Sox: stop whining. It’s embarassing, it’s not helping you win games, and it’s outing you all as coddled superstars who can’t imagine any other reason (mediocre pitching? lackluster hitting?) why they might be playing horrible baseball right now.
The Red Sox lost again, falling to the Miami Marlins 4-1 on Monday night. Josh Beckett had a rocky first inning, but recovered well. The offense (once again) couldn’t pick up the pitching staff, and the Red Sox bats went quietly. The Sox have lost four in a row, and they’re three games under .500. The worst part, though, the part that leaves the nasty impression, is Kevin Youkilis arguing balls and strikes with the home plate umpire after striking out on a foul tip, one day after manager Bobby Valentine blew a gasket before getting ejected in the series finale against the Nationals.
Valentine spent a lot of time this week insinuating that the umpires aren’t that great. He framed it more diplomatically than that, telling ESPN:
“I think they’re very well trained, and I think they’re very good at what they do. I think it’s almost impossible to do what they do, so why do we ask them to do the impossible? If in fact you can’t see the ball the last five feet, and now pitchers are throwing pitches that are moving in that zone, cutting and splitting and moving in the zone, your eye can’t see what’s happening.
“They’re humans. We’re asking humans to do a feat a human can’t do.”
But, his point was made – Valentine doesn’t think the current stable of MLB umpires – or human beings in general – can properly call a ball a ball and a strike a strike. The only exceptions to this fundamental failing of the human condition appear to be Valentine himself, and his players – they can tell a ball from a strike to the point where they’re comfortable telling professional, trained umpires that they’re wrong.
Bobby’s solution? Looking at his ESPN quotes, it appears to be robots. Or, the internet. Or maybe some kind of underground lair in Europe?:
“I don’t know how the Internet works. How about a fax? How about putting a thing in a machine and it showing up in Europe? If they can do that, they can figure out how to call a strike and a ball. Are you kidding me? That isn’t tough. It’s whether or not they want to do it.”
In all seriousness,Valentine advocates for some kind of computerized strike zone. This isn’t unrealistic: MLB Gameday and pretty much every television broadcast can and do superimpose the strike zone’s rectangle over the plate, allowing fans to judge the calls mercilessly. It’s not like MLB can’t computerize or automate or transmogrify or do something techie to judge the strike zone more consistently.
But should they? Valentine isn’t much of a fan of the human factor, but truth is, that’s baseball. That’s part of the game. Rookie pitchers don’t get the same calls that established Cy Young winners get. Derek Jeter probably gets more favorable calls than Bryce Harper. Is that fair? Maybe, maybe not. Is that the way the game is? Yes. Does that add to the never-ending analysis, second-guessing, drama that draws fans? Definitely.
Not only that, but if the Red Sox start blaming the umpires for their losses, then the umpires – who are, after all, just human – will start to hold that against the Red Sox, if they don’t already. I was a catcher in college. Every catcher knows that your first job is to manage the pitching staff and call a smart game. Every catcher also knows that your second job is to develop a rapport with the home plate umpire, and get him or her to trust your eye for the strike zone almost as much as they trust their own. I bet Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach know this, and I bet they wince every time Valentine pops his head out of the dugout or Youk starts whining after being called out ON A FOUL TIP (not even a strike looking). The Red Sox are not helping their own cause.
Anyway. Here’s a link to last night’s unf-air box score, courtesy of the Red Sox. The Sox take on the Marlins (and the umpires) again tonight. Clay Buchholz (6-2, 5.77 ERA) will try to replicate his last few strong showings against Mark Buehrle (5-6, 3.49 ERA).