Richard Herr - Retraction - Whaddya Mean, Strike?

Whaddya Mean, Strike?
I’m afraid I’m going to have to retract a comment I made earlier in the season.

To my credit, I did say at the time that I had a small sample size, but as I watch more games I find, much to my regret, that I was wrong. I had stated that I thought the league put out the word to the umpires to call a more stringent strike zone. I was seeing a whole bunch of pitchers start that regal strut back to the dugout, assuming he’d struck out the batter, only to be summoned back because that last pitch that was close to the outside corner was just that: close to the outside corner. It wasn’t a strike. The umpire was demanding that the pitcher do the thing that’s described in the rule book, throw the damn ball over the plate. I saw a lot of pitchers fussing and snitting behind the mound, having been forced to return and throw an actual strike.

I loved it. This was the game as it was designed.

Well, don’t ya know, things have returned to the sad normal. The strike zone that I was seeing at the start of the year happened to be the private property of the umpires who happened to be assigned balls and strikes for those particular games. The games that I’ve seen since them were called by umpires who called the usual strike zone, the one where home plate was a kind of wandering, vagabond thing that strolled around, commodiously fitting itself underneath pitches that were heading toward an area of the field not previously claimed by the strike zone. The batter was the nonplussed guy left standing at the plate, holding his bat, while everyone else walked away from him.

And you know what? I hated it. We were back to business as usual.

I realized that I liked those first few umps I saw this year. They called the real strike zone that you see in the rule book. Not once during those games did Keith and Ron talk about something called a “low strike zone.” A LOW, EFFING STRIKE ZONE! What the hell is that? Somebody who’s got a rule book handy please post in the comments to this post what the book says about that low strike zone thing. I don’t recall reading it.

I’m going to quote myself from above, where I talk about an umpire having a strike zone that is his own “private property.” Again, same thing: post in the comments the section about umpires’ “private property” strike zone. I didn’t read that one, either. However, the fact of the matter is that all of the umpires are grotesquely flawed when it comes to calling balls and strikes. They all seem to be committing the mistake of not being invisible.

Just like in the scene in Naked Gun where the Leslie Nielsen character inserts himself as the umpire in a baseball game. The first time he calls a strike, the crowd roars its approval. So he starts calling everything a strike and performing victory dances behind the plate after each one. Too many umpires do that. (I am one guy who did not weep, moan, nor rend my garments when Dutch Rennert retired.)

Let’s get rid of the umpire as star. Let’s start calling the strike zone form the rule book.

If not, let’s go for the electronic strike zone.

Whenever Richard Herr isn’t solving all the Mets’ problems, he spends his time writing humorous science fiction novels.

You can see his books at https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Herr/e/B00J5XBKX4.


Gary Seagren said...

Totally agree. Why not an electronic strike zone? That would eliminate strike call arguments or is that the point....Mack chime in.

Thomas Brennan said...

I had the pleasure of finally watching Paul Sewald last night, someone who has pitched very admirably in a long minor league career. I liked his fastball movement, and the fact one hit 94 on the gun, the quality breaking pitches, and the location.

It really made me wonder why this guy has stayed buried for so long.

That said, in pitching to Frickin' Freddie Freeman, it looked to me like the ump squeezed Sewald on two pitches, leading to a full count walk. The elite hitter got the calls, not the rookie pitcher. An electronic calling of balls and strikes? Has its merits.

Richard Herr said...

I can't say how much I enjoyed those games where the umps called the real strike zone. I must admit I started with an immediate reaction of, "That's a strike!" Then I paused and realized. "No, that was actually outside. It really was a ball."

Thomas Brennan said...

Richard, the master of the 17 inch strike zone stretching to 28 inches, with umps' assistance, was Tom Glavine (pre-Mets, of course.)

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