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how to address flawed strike zone and HPU positioning ?

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It was obvious while coaching in person at a little league game yesterday, and again on video afterward to confirm, the Plate Ump (who stood directly behind batters) could not judge outside pitches.  Pitches that crossed the plate in the middle of the opposite batter's box were called strikes, and often third strikes.   He was consistent, and this affected both teams equally, but the zone was so far off that it wasn't fair to the kids trying to hit.

What is the proper way to address this in real time ? Or for the future ?

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Discuss it with your league's UIC.  Have him watch a game.  If he agrees, he can train him as to what is expected.  If he refuses to be trained, umpires serve at the discretion of the President.  The league can choose not to assign him.

Real time...nothing can be done except tell your hitters to foul it off and not let the umpire make the decision for them.

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As @johnpatrick said speak to the UIC... If he is receptive to training the umpire corps he would most likely be accepting to seeing the video provided it is offered only as a training tool to help make the person better.

New Umpires see to have the most trouble with calling the outside strike; they typically way over extend the zone and this sounds like what you may have saw. Visual evidence provided to the umpire through the UIC would allow this person to see the actual position of the pitch versus his perceived position and assuming he want to get better allow him to have true visual points of reference to re-evaluate his zone.

Also depending on your area you may be able to discuss this with the District or Association UIC if different than the local league UIC. In my area the majority of the training is conducted at the District level for LL so although I would be more than happy as the local UIC to receive this video and work with the one guy the group as a whole may benefit from such a training tool... I bet there is more than one guy making that same call out there!

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OP:

Coach with all due respect your​judgement and view of pitches is no more valid then the umpire working the game. Can you entertain the possibility that your view from the dugout or on video is different the the umpires?

As a former coach my advice would be to not make a big issue of it with your kids. If as you said this umpire was consistent, then how you choose to respond can give you an advantage. The better team will set up away and get strikes. Their hitters will get on top of the plate and try and put the outside pitch into play. Good luck coach...

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49 minutes ago, KenBAZ said:

OP:

Coach with all due respect yourjudgement and view of pitches is no more valid then the umpire working the game. Can you entertain the possibility that your view from the dugout or on video is different the the umpires?

As a former coach my advice would be to not make a big issue of it with your kids. If as you said this umpire was consistent, then how you choose to respond can give you an advantage. The better team will set up away and get strikes. Their hitters will get on top of the plate and try and put the outside pitch into play. Good luck coach...

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My thinking was they had a video camera at the backstop... if so then the video could be a learning tool. If taken from the dugout? not real helpful as you mention.

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Was the umpire behind the batter or in the slot? I set up according to the plate. I'm sure it looks strange when the batter is on top of the plate and the catcher sets up on the outside. 

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1 hour ago, KenBAZ said:

OP:

Coach with all due respect yourjudgement and view of pitches is no more valid then the umpire working the game. Can you entertain the possibility that your view from the dugout or on video is different the the umpires?

As a former coach my advice would be to not make a big issue of it with your kids. If as you said this umpire was consistent, then how you choose to respond can give you an advantage. The better team will set up away and get strikes. Their hitters will get on top of the plate and try and put the outside pitch into play. Good luck coach...

Sent from my SM-G935T using Tapatalk
 

Could you entertain the possibility that the coach had video from behind the plate, and that he was getting confirmation from his catcher, from people behind the plate, and maybe even from the other team, that this was occurring?

There is a point, and I've seen it in a handful of games, where even a consistent umpire, who is calling strikes that are literally 12-18 inches off the plate, or literally crossing above the brim of the helmet (and no, I'm not exaggerating), does affect the game, because the pitches he is calling strikes are not hittable.   At this point, it's not baseball anymore.  You can't get close enough to the plate to hit a pitch that's 12-18 inches outside without throwing your bat at the ball.  That's not baseball anymore.  Do you really want to see a game where both teams' catchers and pitchers set up to take advantage of this strike zone?   I've seen it.  Believe me brother, it's a waste of time, it's only fun for the two pitchers that are racking up k's, and it's not baseball.

I'm all for umps learning on the job, and for respectfully providing constructive analysis, and I'm all for telling my players to roll with the punches, and my general motto to my players is "if you don't want an umpire to call you out on a bad strike three, hit the ball before you get two strikes", but there are points where it's so bad that something needs to be done.  I've had a couple of games where the umpire was so poor that both coaches agreed and told the umpire to go home, we'd ump the game ourselves.   You can talk about whatever lessons you want to give the kids you want...the one lesson I prefer is accountability.

So many people seem to forget that in many leagues the biggest portion of a team's or player's fees is to pay for umpires.  The association has an obligation to address and correct these issues.  They are selling a product and providing a service, for a fee, and the players (or their parents) are ultimately the customer.  They have a right to expect competence - not perfection - for their time and money.  For some reason we're expected to just deal with a poor quality product that we've paid for, and ignore it.  If you paid someone to mow your lawn, and he only did half of it, would you just let it go, or would you expect it to be corrected?   Or would you have someone tell your that your judgment of the quality of work isn't valid?

With all due respect, putting up the "blue" wall isn't solving any problems.  Accept the possibility that there are really really bad umpires out there that actually impact the quality of the game.    Some are willing to learn if they're shown what they're doing.  And some aren't. 

Hey, lots of crap coaches out there too.  Not disputing that, but that's not the question.  The OP respectfully asked what to do about educating an umpire who is making an obvious mistake, and your first response was to dismiss it.

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I asked if he would consider his judgement might be flawed. I have the experience to know that my view of pitches is much different then a coaches'. I'm not confident I can pass judgement on the umpire in questions work from what an anonymous coach posts. If he sincerely wants advice on how to deal with an umpire in the situation he describes, he has it. Check the assumptions he is working under. If he wants advice from an experienced coach he has that as well. Figure out how to handle what's happening. No ill will offered, just trying to be helpful.

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In my experiences when I hear the phrase "he's calling strikes over their heads" & "it's half way through the batters box" they are almost always over-exaggerations.

 

 

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I'm a LL UIC, in a league generally coached by non-rats.   If there's an issue, I want people to let me know; how much salt I consume with your report depends on your tone and your rep, but it alerts me as to who I want to watch out for.   I'll give your observations more credit if I also hear you volunteer your praise of the quality umpires from time to time.

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23 hours ago, Guest NJ Coach said:

It was obvious while coaching in person at a little league game yesterday, and again on video afterward to confirm, the Plate Ump (who stood directly behind batters) could not judge outside pitches.  Pitches that crossed the plate in the middle of the opposite batter's box were called strikes, and often third strikes.   He was consistent, and this affected both teams equally, but the zone was so far off that it wasn't fair to the kids trying to hit.

What is the proper way to address this in real time ? Or for the future ?

Real time is bad IMO. If he is young or new, then it could make it worse. If he is consistent, he has half the battle. A veteran or UIC perhaps could 'rein him in' a bit on the size of the zone, but that would be after the game.

I agree, if the video was from behind the plate, then you may have something, but a video from the side is very hard to judge. By asking the catcher, you probably will get what the coach wants to hear from him.

His positioning could be part of the problem, but maybe he was properly in the slot, but not close enough to the catcher. Lots of things that MIGHT be here, maybe experience will help.

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On 5/25/2017 at 6:04 PM, KenBAZ said:

I asked if he would consider his judgement might be flawed. I have the experience to know that my view of pitches is much different then a coaches'. I'm not confident I can pass judgement on the umpire in questions work from what an anonymous coach posts. If he sincerely wants advice on how to deal with an umpire in the situation he describes, he has it. Check the assumptions he is working under. If he wants advice from an experienced coach he has that as well. Figure out how to handle what's happening. No ill will offered, just trying to be helpful.

Sent from my SM-G935T using Tapatalk
 

Not rushing to conclusions on the field is critical in this scenario, and I agree that coaches should be open to considering the discrepancies between what they see and what the umpire sees.

In this post, however, I'll grant the OP the benefit of any doubt to get to the heart of his question, so my answer is similar to others here. Do not address this in-game with the umpire. Rather, let his association know your concerns so they can handle it as a training opportunity.

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On 5/25/2017 at 10:29 AM, Guest NJ Coach said:

It was obvious while coaching in person at a little league game yesterday, and again on video afterward to confirm, the Plate Ump (who stood directly behind batters) could not judge outside pitches.  Pitches that crossed the plate in the middle of the opposite batter's box were called strikes, and often third strikes.   He was consistent, and this affected both teams equally, but the zone was so far off that it wasn't fair to the kids trying to hit.

What is the proper way to address this in real time ? Or for the future ?

I'll pass along a tip I picked up from a player/father in men's league. Tell your players to go to the plate with the attitude that they don't need an umpire. If the ball is close to the strike zone, swing. If it's not, it's obviously a ball. Batters at every level would do well for themselves to refuse to let their fate at the plate be decided by the umpire. If you don't want to get called out, swing. If you don't trust the umpire's judgement, swing. Take that power out of his hands by taking control of your own at-bat.

And at the end of the game, sometimes the best can do is use it as a learning opportunity for your players to deal with adversity since this game employs umpires of all levels of experience, skill and ability.

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On 5/27/2017 at 9:05 AM, ElkOil said:

I'll pass along a tip I picked up from a player/father in men's league. Tell your players to go to the plate with the attitude that they don't need an umpire. If the ball is close to the strike zone, swing. If it's not, it's obviously a ball. Batters at every level would do well for themselves to refuse to let their fate at the plate be decided by the umpire. If you don't want to get called out, swing. If you don't trust the umpire's judgement, swing. Take that power out of his hands by taking control of your own at-bat.

And at the end of the game, sometimes the best can do is use it as a learning opportunity for your players to deal with adversity since this game employs umpires of all levels of experience, skill and ability.

My general rule to my players is to hit one of the first two balls that crossed near the plate instead of waiting for an umpire to ring you up on a pitch that may or may not be in the strike zone.  And don't ever complain to me about a backwards K on what you think is a bad call.  You put yourself in that situation.  The fact is, 99% of the time that third called strike is within a ball width of the strike zone, so it was too close to let go anyway.

I have even used umps with strike zones that extend two ball widths off the plate as a demonstration to players that they can hit more pitches than they think they can.  Go up there looking for one six inches off the plate and hit it.  Surprise yourself.

However, on two occasions I have seen an umpire calling pitches 18 inches off the plate (yes, truly), where by the second inning both pitchers had figured it out, so that's all they threw, and the only time you saw a ball in play was if the pitcher missed the target.   So, like you said, the batters, knowing full well where these "strikes" were being called, are crowding the plate and swinging, trying to hit these pitches - most of them aren't hittable - they're too far outside.  

Then, the umpire has the nerve to say "well, if you're swinging they must be close enough to be called strikes".   Chicken meet egg.

There's adversity, then there's general stupidity.  Luckily it's extremely rare, but when it happens, as a player you frankly feel like you've wasted your time even coming to the ball park.  And though I generally agree that fixing real time is a bad idea, if it's egregious something needs to be done.  At this point I'd rather pull a random bum off the street to ump the remainder of the game.  I've said it before - when it gets this bad it's not baseball anymore.

 

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For what it's worth, video camera bolted to backstop, centered behind plate perhaps 8-9 feet high.  Ump almost directly behind batters and some outside pitches crossing the plate in the middle of the other box were called strikes. 

Saying confirmed on video meant just that.  Whatever the width of the box is, pitches crossing there were often called strikes. No exaggeration.

 

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1 hour ago, Guest NJ Coach said:

For what it's worth, video camera bolted to backstop, centered behind plate perhaps 8-9 feet high.  Ump almost directly behind batters and some outside pitches crossing the plate in the middle of the other box were called strikes. 

Saying confirmed on video meant just that.  Whatever the width of the box is, pitches crossing there were often called strikes. No exaggeration.

 

Have a conversation with the league UIC... As the UIC for my kids LL I know all the coaches and if they gave me a video like you describe then I could use it as a teaching tool. Coming from the UIC to the umpire will bear more fruit than if you do it directly.

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My question is what level of little league? If it is AA with a 13 year old first year umpire, that is training and will get better with time.

That's a lot different than a 10th year adult in a junior game. But, i would also suggest that you discuss with the UIC. and he will take care of training.

as far as the game, the players need to adjust. 

Also, everyone has a bad game every now and then......

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6 hours ago, Dbellyflop said:

My question is what level of little league? If it is AA with a 13 year old first year umpire, that is training and will get better with time.

That's a lot different than a 10th year adult in a junior game. But, i would also suggest that you discuss with the UIC. and he will take care of training.

as far as the game, the players need to adjust. 

Also, everyone has a bad game every now and then......

Adjust how? By standing on the plate?  

If the umpire is standing behind the batter, and that's why he's not seeing outside pitches properly, if the batter moves six inches closer to the plate, the umpire's going to move six inches closer to the plate, and that's just going to move the strike zone six inches further outside....

And carpenters also have a bad day every now and then, but we don't wait until the house is finished upside down before we do something about it...

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With younger umpires, the association UIC is like their coach. If you, as a coach, don't want me coaching your kids, then as a UIC, don't coach my umpires. If it is a situation of rule interpretation, positioning or mechanics, talk to the UIC. 

Positioning and mechanics, as long as the umpire knows the proper rule interpretation of the strike zone, are usually where a UIC can support an umpire in developing their zone. We can work on tracking into the glove and timing. We can work on slot stance, head height and keeping the head still. 

Strike zones usually improve with development in these areas. 

What concerns me is that your information is selective. You did not tell us how the tape measure was hooked up so you knew the pitch was 12-18 inches off the plate. 

The camera would be around 30-60 feet from home plate and could be blocked by the catcher. Was it directly behind of off to an angle? I know if I stand straight up and look down, that is enough to affect my perception on pitches, your camera would higher and have a more visible distortion. 

If your second baseman had five ground balls go through the wickets, would you let the BU show him how to field a ground ball? Would you let the crew chief come to you and tell you that your second baseman's errors are affecting the game?

Players are learning to get better; so are the umpires. For younger umpires, who are umpiring games where, if lucky, the pitcher can get close to the strike zone 1 out of 3 times, it is hard to learn to keep a good zone. It is a process to grow as an umpire. As a UIC, I am not going to go and teach your chucker how to pitch. She/he is learning how to pitch, so is that umpire. 

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14 minutes ago, BCBrad said:

With younger umpires, the association UIC is like their coach. If you, as a coach, don't want me coaching your kids, then as a UIC, don't coach my umpires. If it is a situation of rule interpretation, positioning or mechanics, talk to the UIC. 

Positioning and mechanics, as long as the umpire knows the proper rule interpretation of the strike zone, are usually where a UIC can support an umpire in developing their zone. We can work on tracking into the glove and timing. We can work on slot stance, head height and keeping the head still. 

Strike zones usually improve with development in these areas. 

What concerns me is that your information is selective. You did not tell us how the tape measure was hooked up so you knew the pitch was 12-18 inches off the plate. 

The camera would be around 30-60 feet from home plate and could be blocked by the catcher. Was it directly behind of off to an angle? I know if I stand straight up and look down, that is enough to affect my perception on pitches, your camera would higher and have a more visible distortion. 

If your second baseman had five ground balls go through the wickets, would you let the BU show him how to field a ground ball? Would you let the crew chief come to you and tell you that your second baseman's errors are affecting the game?

Players are learning to get better; so are the umpires. For younger umpires, who are umpiring games where, if lucky, the pitcher can get close to the strike zone 1 out of 3 times, it is hard to learn to keep a good zone. It is a process to grow as an umpire. As a UIC, I am not going to go and teach your chucker how to pitch. She/he is learning how to pitch, so is that umpire. 

The second baseman has a job, he is doing that job for the coach and the team, not the umpire.  (and he's not getting paid).

The umpire has a job, for which he is compensated, he is doing that job for the league, and by extension the teams, and directly or indirectly those players and coaches and parents are paying the umpire to do his job properly.  When half the league fees I pay go to umpires, I have a right to expect that money is well spent.

I'm the customer.  I'm paying for a service.  The service isn't being performed competently.   Sometimes the service is bad but at least passable enough to let it complete and address later.  Sometimes it's so bad that addressing it immediately is the only appropriate option.

Doesn't really matter if the camera is blocked by the catcher if the pitch isn't crossing the plate.   I can go directly stand behind the plate, directly behind the backstop, and see if a pitch is crossing half way into the other batter's box, no matter where the catcher and umpire are standing.  And if that box is 48 inches wide (baseball) or 36 inches wide (softball), and if the box starts six inches from the plate, I can make a very reasonable, and generous, guesstimate to how far off the plate that pitch is.   If I can get video footage that I can slow down to validate my initial impression, even better.

You can make all the excuses about angles all you want.  From directly behind that plate, especially from above, there are few changes in perception that would differ drastically from reality.  Even in something slightly off angle it's hard to argue when the pitch is that far off (we're not arguing about the difference between 8 inches and 3 inches off the plate - it' more like 24 to 12.

 

 

 

 

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I can hardly believe the guy is calling strikes on pitches 24 inches outside. Even I'm not that bad! :blink:

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1 hour ago, Mussgrass said:

I can hardly believe

I can hardly believe this thread is still open.

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1 hour ago, beerguy55 said:

The second baseman has a job, he is doing that job for the coach and the team, not the umpire.  (and he's not getting paid).

The umpire has a job, for which he is compensated, he is doing that job for the league, and by extension the teams, and directly or indirectly those players and coaches and parents are paying the umpire to do his job properly.  When half the league fees I pay go to umpires, I have a right to expect that money is well spent.

I'm the customer.  I'm paying for a service.  The service isn't being performed competently.   Sometimes the service is bad but at least passable enough to let it complete and address later.  Sometimes it's so bad that addressing it immediately is the only appropriate option.

Doesn't really matter if the camera is blocked by the catcher if the pitch isn't crossing the plate.   I can go directly stand behind the plate, directly behind the backstop, and see if a pitch is crossing half way into the other batter's box, no matter where the catcher and umpire are standing.  And if that box is 48 inches wide (baseball) or 36 inches wide (softball), and if the box starts six inches from the plate, I can make a very reasonable, and generous, guesstimate to how far off the plate that pitch is.   If I can get video footage that I can slow down to validate my initial impression, even better.

You can make all the excuses about angles all you want.  From directly behind that plate, especially from above, there are few changes in perception that would differ drastically from reality.  Even in something slightly off angle it's hard to argue when the pitch is that far off (we're not arguing about the difference between 8 inches and 3 inches off the plate - it' more like 24 to 12.

 

 

 

 

No, I get an honourarium for my volunteering to my association. Umpires are as much as part of the association as the players and coaches. As a UIC, I am part of our associations executive. We all are developing, as coaches, players and umpires. I am not some mercenary. 

You are not paying for my service. I am contributing to, to the best of my ability and knowledge, to amateur and minor baseball. There is an honourarium because of my costs to umpire and because of the culture of baseball to officials. Umpires have a sense of responsibility to ensure fair play and the game being played by rules. If you are umpiring at the grassroots level, you are not doing it to get paid. All the gear, for games and my umpire practices, all the books, I bought myself.  I do it to support the development of other umpires, and I am grateful for what others teach me.

Most times, especially younger ones, umpires have a one-day clinic then have coaches expect that they call games like MLB umpires. Our development program in my province has a three-year cycle of basic development. I do not expect your players, at the youth level, to play like MLB players. Part of this unreasonable expectation is why amateur umpires do get an honourarium. 

All you have to do is see a 12 or 13-year old kid, in his/her gear and big open eyes, wanting to know everything: the rules, the places to be to make a call, and the way to signal a call to know that the last thing on their minds is work. They love the game and want to be a part of it. 

This enthusiasm is humbling as a UIC. I hope by supporting them, they can keep that wonder to learn about umpiring for a lifetime and they grow to build fellowship with other umpires and always search for new ideas about umpiring. 

Understand, don't judge. 

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56 minutes ago, BCBrad said:

No, I get an honourarium for my volunteering to my association. Umpires are as much as part of the association as the players and coaches. As a UIC, I am part of our associations executive. We all are developing, as coaches, players and umpires. I am not some mercenary. 

You are not paying for my service. I am contributing to, to the best of my ability and knowledge, to amateur and minor baseball. There is an honourarium because of my costs to umpire and because of the culture of baseball to officials. Umpires have a sense of responsibility to ensure fair play and the game being played by rules. If you are umpiring at the grassroots level, you are not doing it to get paid. All the gear, for games and my umpire practices, all the books, I bought myself.  I do it to support the development of other umpires, and I am grateful for what others teach me.

Most times, especially younger ones, umpires have a one-day clinic then have coaches expect that they call games like MLB umpires. Our development program in my province has a three-year cycle of basic development. I do not expect your players, at the youth level, to play like MLB players. Part of this unreasonable expectation is why amateur umpires do get an honourarium. 

All you have to do is see a 12 or 13-year old kid, in his/her gear and big open eyes, wanting to know everything: the rules, the places to be to make a call, and the way to signal a call to know that the last thing on their minds is work. They love the game and want to be a part of it. 

This enthusiasm is humbling as a UIC. I hope by supporting them, they can keep that wonder to learn about umpiring for a lifetime and they grow to build fellowship with other umpires and always search for new ideas about umpiring. 

Understand, don't judge. 

Has nothing to do with judging.  As I've said in this thread, and others, I'll never expect perfection, or anything close to it from an amateur level umpire.  I'm all for on-the-job training, and all for any umpire who wants to get better, who is simply out there for the love of the game.  And I know the only way to get better is experience.  Believe it or not I have a strong relationship with at least a dozen umpires I frequently work with, and a profound respect for most of the rest.  I've also been the tournament volunteer who supplies adult beverages to the umpires after all the games are done for the day....drinks they have absolutely earned.

You can call it an honorarium, stipend, fee or whatever you want to call it, especially if it helps you get out of claiming it as income - I don't care.

It is compensation.  The umpire is getting paid to work the game.  If the league or team refuses to pay their fees, the umpires won't be assigned.  You can say they're not there for the money, but let's see how many umpires stick around and work the game if they're told they're doing it for free.   The only exception I've seen is like a National Championship where I've seen umps work the games for free but their travel expenses and meals are covered for the week.  Doesn't matter - the guy making my Big Mac is getting paid.  The guy building my deck is getting paid.  The guy calling balls and strikes is getting paid.

When I pay $2000 or more to enter my team in a league, a large chunk of that is for the umpires.   When I pay $800 to enter a weekend tournament, the biggest chunk of that is for umpires.

And some level of competence (not perfection, and not professional grade) should be expected for that payment.

Umpires make mistakes, and some are not as skilled as others.  For the most part, all that evens out, and you just roll with it - no different than a bad bounce or a gust of wind.  But if any umpire is bad enough to the point where they are actually impacting and dictating the direction of the game...to the point where the game being played on the field doesn't resemble baseball anymore, then ignoring it, or dealing with it later, is not an appropriate response.

I understand.  I can understand all I want.  Understanding doesn't solve a problem any more than judging does.  

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