It has not been an easy first half of the 2013 season for our beloved umpires. There was a Twitter war with three Tampa Bay pitchers, a late arrival to a game because a crew was stuck in traffic, a shot to the groin — or two — a replay review which was obvious but still missed and a blatant screw-up of the rules ... to name a few of the bungled incidents so far. It's been so bad, some umps have been fined and a crew chief was suspended for two games. Here are some of the more noteworthy errors ups of the season:
April 8: Strike what?!
Did umpire Marty Foster have early dinner reservations? Foster called strike three on Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist for the final out of a Texas 5-4 victory on the second Monday of the season. Not only did Zobrist start heading to first base after the full-count breaking ball nearly hit the dirt on the outside corner, Rangers closer Joe Nathan acted like it was ball four. But Foster signaled the punch out. Nathan said, "Wow," Zobrist held his hands out as if to say, "You've got to be kidding me!" and Rays manager Joe Maddon came charging out of the dugout to argue. Even the TV and radio announcers for both clubs couldn't believe the call. It's worth watching. "That call cannot be made in a major league baseball game," Maddon said. By the way, it was Nathan's 300th career save, so maybe that's why he's seen saying, "Wow" — but we doubt it.
April 10: The dog ate my homework?
Wonder if White Sox manager Robin Ventura heard this one before? The umpiring crew of Tom Hallion (pictured), Chris Guccione, Ron Kulpa and Phil Cuzzi got stuck in traffic on the way to the Chicago White Sox-Nationals game in Washington. The interleague contest was scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. ET start, but didn't get underway until 7:20 p.m. thanks to the umps' late arrival.
April 25: Low blow
Making calls on bang-bang plays is no easy task, but standing behind the plate every fourth game isn't easy either. During this April game in Anaheim, Calif., between the Angels and Rangers, home plate umpire John Hirschbeck took a foul ball to what family publications generally refer to as the lower abdomen. Trainers attended to the ump for more than two minutes in the fourth inning, but just like a hockey player, the incredibly tough Hirschbeck stayed in for the remainder of the Rangers' 11-3 victory.
April 26: Chew on this
During the first inning of a Phillies-Mets game in New York, home plate umpire Brian O'Nora ran off the field with flu-like symptoms. Once in the dugout tunnel, he apparently got sick in front of Mets skipper Terry Collins before being taken to a nearby hospital for examination. The NL East contest was delayed nine minutes to allow first-base umpire Adrian Johnson to change into home plate gear as the game was finished with three umpires. Meanwhile, word started to spread in the Citi Field press box that O'Nora swallowed his chewing tobacco, and some reporters tweeted about it. However, this theory was later denied as MLB reported O'Nora suffered an intestinal tear and was out indefinitely to recover.
April 28: Tweet you!
Tampa Bay starter David Price and home plate umpire Tom Hallion (pictured) exchanged words after the third out in the top of the seventh. Price was upset about a non-called third strike. Moments after the encounter, Hallion tossed Price's teammate Jeremy Hellickson, who wasn't in the game but was yelling from the Rays dugout. After the Rays' 8-3 victory, Price claimed Hallion told him to "throw the ball over the (expletive) plate." "I'm walking off the mound I'm just mad at myself," Price said. "I didn't say a single word or look at him. He (Hallion) yells at me. ... My own dad doesn't speak to me that way." When told this, Hallion called Price a liar. Then the Twitter war started, which included Rays starter Matt Moore. Four days later, Major League Baseball fined Price, Hellickson and Moore $1,000 apiece for violating the league's social media policy. MLB also fined Hallion an undisclosed amount.
May 8: Highway robbery
Why is A's manager Bob Melvin fuming? Trailing by a run in the top of the ninth with two outs and no one on base, Oakland's Adam Rosales hit a deep drive that appeared to clear the left-field wall for a game-tying homer. The umpires ruled it a double — even after a video review, which clearly showed the ball leaving the yard. Melvin sprinted out of the dugout and was immediately tossed by umpire Angel Hernandez. The A's would load the bases before failing to score in a 4-3 loss, but Melvin definitely got his money's worth during the argument. FOX Sports.com's MLB National Columnist Jon Paul Morosi would later write, "Angel Hernandez embarrassed Major League Baseball on Wednesday night." The day after, MLB executive vice president Joe Torre issued a statement, acknowledging that “an improper call was made” but nevertheless affirming the judgment as “final.”
May 9: Rules, schmules
The umps really dropped the ball in Houston during an Angels-Astros game. They're going to make mistakes, but not knowing the rules? FOXSports.com MLB National Columnist Ken Rosenthal called it inexcusable. With two outs in the seventh, Astros manager Bo Porter called on reliever Wesley Wright, leading Mike Scioscia (left) to counter by changing hitters. Then Porter called on the bullpen for Hector Ambriz, but Wright never threw a pitch, which is against the rules. Scioscia couldn't believe it and ran onto the field to argue. Led by crew chief Fieldin Culbreth, the umpires huddled and discussed the situation, but didn't see a problem. They were either unaware or forgot the rule. So Scioscia protested the game, which didn't matter because his Angels rallied for a 6-5 victory. A day later, MLB suspended Culbreth for two games and fined him for a misapplication of rule 3.05 (b), and fined the other umpires in Culbreth’s crew, Brian O’Nora, Bill Welke and Adrian Johnson.
May 19: Buck likely wants this back
Ahead a run in the top of the sixth, Tampa Bay's Matt Joyce ripped a drive that appeared to bounce off the right-field wall near the foul pole in Baltimore. First-base umpire Dan Iassogna ruled it a fair ball and Joyce stood on second base for a double. But Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out to argue the ball was foul. That led to Rays skipper Joe Maddon coming out to state his case of the hit being a homer. After a lengthy discussion between the umps and both managers, the umpiring crew left the field to review the play. When they returned, Joyce's hit was ruled a home run. That would stand to be the final run of the Rays' 3-1 victory, but Buck probably wished he stayed in the dugout in the first place.
May 24: Grimm & bear it
Texas pitcher Justin Grimm and first baseman Mitch Moreland fooled first-base umpire Jeff Nelson while trying to turn a 3-6-3 double play in the second inning. Running over to cover first base, Grimm caught the ball in front of Moreland's glove at the last minute. Problem was, Grimm wasn't on the bag, while Moreland at least started with his foot on it. Nelson immediately called the out at first, while Grimm and Moreland obviously knew the truth and had to chuckle inside as they walked towards the mound. "That happened so fast. I didn't realize the ump had called (the runner) out at first," Grimm said. Seattle manager Eric Wedge argued that Moreland pulled his foot of the base — which replays confirm. But the M's skipper wasn't aware who actually caught the ball until after the game. "It would have been a much bigger argument if I had known that at the time," Wedge said. It's hard to say the missed call played a role in the Rangers' 9-5 victory ... but still, just another blown call by the Men in Blue.
June 1: Not to be too picky, but ...
In the Brewers-Phillies game, Milwaukee escaped partly because of a version of the old hidden-ball trick. Except this time, it looks like the ball was hidden from the umpire. Second-base ump Mike Estabrook called Phillies pinch runner Kyle Kendrick out on a pickoff throw by the Brewers' Francisco Rodriguez. Except one thing: Second baseman Jean Segura dropped the ball, as clearly shown by a replay. However, Segura held the ball aloft, deking Estabrook. It was a key play, as it turned out. Philly trailed by one in the ninth, and the play was the second out. Cesar Hernandez then hit a double, which would have tied the game if Kendrick had still been on second. Instead, Hernandez was stranded as Rodriguez retired Michael Martinez to end the game.
July 2: You're out!
Brian Runge recently was dismissed for what was believed to be the first known drug ouster among umps, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. MLB announced on June 14 that Brian Runge was no longer on the staff, but didn't give a reason. The two people said Runge failed at least one drug test, then reached an agreement so he could remain on the umpire roster. When he failed to comply with those terms, he was released. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because MLB didn't publicly say why Runge was gone. It could not be independently determined by the AP what drug was involved.
July 25: Two wrongs, nothing right
The play starts innocently enough. With a runner on first, the Mets' David Wright sent a blast to the left-center field gap, the ball hit between two outfielders and bounced, appearing (even at full speed) to clearly hit above the line at the top of the wall for a ground-rule double. But the umpires said the ball hit off the wall, not above it, and Wright ended up with a triple. What's more, the runner that would have been on third instead is allowed to score, giving the Mets a two-run lead in what would become a 7-4 Mets win. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez came out to complain and 1) his pleas fall on deaf ears, 2) the umpires refuse to review the call, and 3) he gets tossed. That's right . . . they blew the call and ejected the manager they hosed on the call. For the umps on this one, it should be 1, 2, 3 strikes, they're out!
July 29: Does honesty count?
You gotta give it to umpire Jerry Meals — at least he admitted he blew it. With the Red Sox trailing the Rays at home, an eighth-inning rally appeared to tie up the game on a sacrifice fly. But Meals called Boston pinch-runner Daniel Nava (without cap) out at home, sparking the ire of Nava and manager John Farrell (in jacket). Farrell was ejected during the argument, and Boston fell to Tampa Bay 2-1 as the Rays reclaimed first place in the AL East from the Red Sox. After the game, Meals told a pool reporter, 'What I saw was [Tampa Bay catcher Jose] Molina blocked the plate and Nava's foot lifted. But in the replays, you could clearly see Nava's foot got under for a split second and then lifted, so I was wrong on my decision. From the angle I had, I did not see his foot get under Molina's shin guard.'