Jeff Nelson, the second-base arbiter who brutally botched a crucial call in last night’s ALCS game between the Tigers and the Evil Empire, must hold a graduate degree from the Richie Garcia School of Umpiring (see Maier, Jeffrey). But even a lifelong pinstripe-hater like me has to wonder, upon further review, just why the pastime can’t extract a measure of accountability from the men in blue.
The estimable Joe Torre told the postgame presser that Nelson had clearly blown the call. The cry of “More instant replay!” rang out across the land. If some way to arrange that without further lengthening what are already absurdly long games could be found, fine. Still, while that’s getting hashed out, here’s a suggestion: Suspend Nelson, and the crew chief, for the rest of the postseason, both for blowing the call and then digging in their heels in that arrogant, unaccountable, mule-headed way that umpires seem to have learned from Marvin Miller, the old players’-union boss.
Nelson not only blew the call; he was out of position to get the call right. There was no consulting with other members of the umpiring crew, that I could tell. And the crew chief did nothing, except help shoo Girardi away. Why? Because MLB umpires have a sense of their infallibility that would boggle the mind of any pope.
Enough of this is enough. Surely the commissioner has the power, “in the best interest of the game,” to enforce accountability among umpires. And if Bud Selig doesn’t have the cojones to do it, let Torre, who does, do it for him — and for the rest of us.
— George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center.