Friday, July 25, 2008

Minor League Brawl: League President overturns ejections

If you haven't seen the chilling video of the Dayton Dragons/Peoria Chiefs brawl from last night, it's here. It's damn ugly. Julio Castillo, in my view, should not be able to play pro baseball again without a psychological evaluation. Seriously. I've been in a lot of minor league ballparks, and I like to sit behind the dugout. I don't think I should be dodging fastballs. Nor should any of his intended targets inside the dugout.

I haven't seen the game, so I'm going to set aside the in-game controversies involving the umpires (should they have warned, could they have prevented, etc.). It's what happened during the hourlong delay that interests me.

The umpires, Tyler Wilson and Joey Amaral, ejected 15 players and 2 coaches. (Based on the video, that's not at all surprising.) But the Reds and Cubs (parent organizations for the Dragons and Chiefs, respectively) appealed the ejections to Midwest League President George Spelius.

The grounds for the appeal?

They didn't want their pitchers to have to play the outfield that night.


Spelius upheld the appeal and overturned the ejections (except for Castillo). I can see it from his point of view; he needs to keep the major league bosses happy.

However, I wish he'd shown some fortitude and backed his umpires...made the teams play with whatever remaining players they had, or else forfeit.

An ejection is an ejection, and overturning Wilson and Amaral as they doled out discipline on an incredibly difficult (to say the least) situation isn't the way to solve it.

The pitchers will survive one game in the outfield. If that makes life difficult for the Reds and Cubs, they need to take that up with their players who participated in such a horrifying melee, not with the umpires who rightly tossed them.

To allow them all to play that night reveals horribly misplaced priorities...player development over player (and fan, and coach, and umpire) safety. Nobody who is ejected for brawling should get to play that night, whether there's an appeal to the league President, U.S. President, or Pope. Sort it out later if you must, but don't overturn an umpire's ejections, especially when they are so obviously warranted.

I'm not mad. I'm disappointed.

I've grown to expect the "Top Ten Worst Calls of All Time" features on ESPN and Fox Sports.

But the NFL Network debuted a piece on the "Top 10 Most Controversial Calls" last week. I was so baffled that I Tivoed it. Just watched it now.

There are some great calls on the list (Immaculate Reception has been proven correct by physics professors, as has the Music City Miracle) and one or two misses that even the NFL admits were wrong. I thought maybe, since the NFL wouldn't want to sell its officials down the river, that they might explain "This one was proven right" or even "This one is a subjective call; here's what the official saw and some reasons people might disagree" along with the occasional "We blew that one."

Mike Pereira was on the show, so this was entirely possible. Jerry Markbreit even explained his perspective on the 1978 "Holy Roller" play (he said, from his angle, he couldn't rule whether Stabler threw the ball forward on purpose).

But those moments were rare exceptions. For reasons I do not at all understand, the NFL actually undercut their own officials by providing 60 minutes of airtime to people bitching about their old wounds, frequently without any real explanations about a rule. And since they don't let their officials talk to the media without rarely-granted permission, no active refs could talk about their perspectives on these calls.

If I were an NFL ref, I'd be fuming that the NFL willingly made their own look bad. They didn't focus on what made these calls controversial, or use these calls to educate fans just a little bit about rules or about officiating.

I expect anti-ref propaganda from sports networks--but not from an arm of the league itself.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

I'm not an NBA referee...

But if I were, I might be concerned that my new supervisor has no officiating experience.

Sure, the status quo needed change. I like that the reffing assignments, scheduling, and evaluation are now separate from the NBA. And, from his resume anyway, the new guy seems like a straight-arrow decent guy.

But couldn't they have gotten a respected college guy or college assignor?

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