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The Rant

WBC suffers from using minor league umpires

Posted: Monday March 13, 2006 11:28AM; Updated: Monday March 13, 2006 12:51PM

I've got to admit, the World Baseball Classic has caught my attention. On more than one occasion I've found myself zoned out in front of the tube, getting an early spring baseball fix. And while there have been several WBC-related things I would classify as "bad" -- bad hair (the preponderance of mullets on the Japanese team is absurd), bad announcing (Harold Reynolds and John Kruk asserting that David Ortiz's homer against Venezuela meant more to him than any homer in his career, including, presumably, his walkoff jack at Fenway in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS), bad booing (U.S. fans caterwauling when Derek Jeter got hit in the back in the ninth inning Sunday, a clear accident, and one that helped the United States' cause) and bad planning (did no one foresee the possibility of Mexico and Canada getting into a situation where a 2-0 Mexico win helps both teams? If this is soccer, they put their heads together and throw the game) -- most can be overlooked. On the whole, I'm digging the WBC.

There is one thing, though, that's worthy of my ire: the men in blue. How do you hold an event for the best players in the world and not bring the best umps? It's like buying a Ferrari but not springing for manual transmission. The overturned appeal call in the U.S.-Japan game wasn't just bad, it was embarrassing, because now it looks to the rest of the world like the U.S. has to cheat to beat Japan. Say what you will about the wrong ump making the initial call (which is the excuse the umps are offering up): They blew the call, and, more damning, they looked like they had no idea what they were doing in the process of blowing it. They looked like a minor league crew headed up by a guy whose idea of smart bargaining tactics is resigning.

Obviously, it's not as though major league umpires never blow calls. But they are big league umps for a reason. Next time, let's spend the extra cash, pull the extra strings, do whatever we have to do to get the best umps there.