What the umpires said

Yanks strike early, often in 10-2 route of Twins
Pondering the untouchables

Previously on What the umpire saw: Derek Jeter tries to steal third base with no outs in the first inning. While the throw beat him to the base, his hand touches third before the tag. Umpire Marty Foster calls him out. “I was told I was out because the ball beat me, and he didn’t have to tag me,” Jeter alleges, and crew chief John Hirschbeck, who called Jeter “the classiest person I’ve been around,” promises an investigation….

When last we saw Monday’s umpiring crew, things were looking bleak for Marty Foster. Hirschbeck had refused to make him available to the media, and Derek Jeter was adamant in his critique. I blamed Foster for the bad call at third, and Cliff Corcoran slammed the umps for four bad calls. The men in blue were on the wrong end of a lot of scorn.

On Tuesday, though, this story took a turn for the bizarre. With the same crew working the Mets-Dodgers game, New York reporters had their second crack at Hirschbeck and Foster. Again, Hirschbeck declined to make Foster available to the media. The beleaguered umpire refuses to face the fire. Meanwhile, Hirschbeck has apparently changed his story after speaking with Foster.

According to the 25-year veteran, Foster told him that Jeter was wrong. According to Hirschbeck, Foster said, “The ball beat you, and I had him tagging you.”

To reporters, Hirschbeck defended Foster without reneging on his praise of Jeter. “I don’t see a problem with that,” Hirschbeck said. “Sometimes when tempers flare, you don’t hear everything that’s said.”

Tempers, though, didn’t flare until after Foster allegedly told Jeter that he would be out as long as the ball beat him regardless of the tag. Meanwhile, prior to the game — and prior to Hirschbeck’s discussion with the media — Jim McKean, an MLB umpire supervisor who liaises between MLB and the umpires, spoke with the crew. Do I sense a conspiracy afoot?

Right now, this story is just plan weird. Two members of the Yankees — their widely respected captain and manager — claim the umpire said something outrageous while the crew chief, after having enough time to get his story straight, said the polar opposite. We still haven’t and probably won’t hear from Marty Foster.

The calls for instant replay aside, this is a prime example of a problem with the current system. The umpires have become the story. ESPN has rebroadcast Jeter’s slide hundreds of times by now. The entire nation knows that he was safe. Yet, Marty Foster called him out, and John Hirschbeck seems to be sweeping this story under the rug.

We don’t need a full investigation. We don’t need some Watergate-level special prosecutor to turn up. What we need is for Marty Foster to step forward and tell us the honest-to-God truth. If he really thinks that Scott Rolen placed a tag on Derek Jeter, then so be it. He missed the call, and bad calls are just a part of the game. If he actually said that Jeter was called out regardless of the tag because the throw beat him, he shouldn’t be umping Major League Baseball games.

Either way, this has devolved into a “he said, he said” battle. Right now, I believe Derek. This latest development from Hirschbeck is far too convenient for my tastes.

Added by Joe: Since this is probably the last we’ll hear of this, I figured I’d add this tidbit. Apparently Joe Girardi didn’t get tossed on Monday for arguing the Jeter play at third. Erik Boland says it was because of a call from Sunday. Marty Foster was at home plate on Sunday for the play where Raul Chavez tagged Mark Teixeira with his glove, but the ball was in his other hand. Personally, I find that call more egregious than the one at third.

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Yanks strike early, often in 10-2 route of Twins
Pondering the untouchables
  • Dela G

    yeah i just read this in the post and found it perplexing.

    eh, i guess the ump mafia strikes again!

    • bryan w

      I don’t know if Girardi even realized that Chavez had the ball in has hand while tagging Tex with the glove because he didn’t argue it. I don’t know how the ump didn’t see that either because his other arm was stretched behind him then he comes back around with ball in hand and never reaching into the glove to take it out. I wonder sometimes what goes in the minds of umpires who get calls correct probably 99% of the time. But when things are so obvious and they miss them it just gets magnified which is the reason they need a replay challenge system just like the NFL where you can challenge twice a game and get a third if you win the first two. It’s really a simple solution but baseball is always way behind the times and they are just refusing to join the 21st century.

  • A.D.

    The Tex call was terrible, since you almost always see the home plate ump wait to see if the ball is in the glove.

    What I don’t get about the Jeter at 3rd business is why wouldn’t Foster just say “he tagged you” and something about how he grazed the left hand after he made the call, even if it wasn’t true. On top of that the fact that Hirschbeck half threw him under the bus, and then didn’t was pretty poorly done considering he had 9 innings + some time after the game to discuss what actually happened with Foster.

    Foster-gate continues.

    • jsbrendog

      i’m trying to get an interview with amrty foster but they tell me, brian, no, he is an umpire and will literally tear your head from your body.

      COME OUT OF THE OFFICE YOU STUPID UMPIRE!

      I’m Brian Fantana for Foster-watch.

  • Bo

    Umpiring has been terrible the last few years. The technology is there to make it better. Take advantage of it. The myth that games would be longer is just that. A myth. it would take 3 minutes to check it.

    • Mattingly’s Love Child

      Who is this Bo that is right on point and not overreacting? I have to grant that I like this new Bo.

    • ChrisS

      I don’t think that replay would have proven that Jeter was safe, conclusively. David Cone said as much and I agree with him. I couldn’t tell from the video replay that Jeter was not tagged.

      He may have avoided the tag, but I couldn’t tell that he did avoid the tag.

      The out call on Teixeira was horrible.

  • Mattingly’s Love Child

    The umps have a really hard job. I don’t see why they can’t seem to admit when they screw up. It is almost a national story when an ump blows a call and then afterwards admits they blew the call.

    If the rest of us went about our jobs and never admitted the mistakes we made, most of us wouldn’t have jobs for very long. Not because we were making mistakes, but because we wouldn’t be demonstrating that we can look critically at ourselves and learn from those mistakes.

    Taking a huge leap here, but this is further evidence that Selig has his head in the sand. The umpiring system (from training on the rules of the game, utilizing new technology, to anger management, etc) is broken. I think an intelligent commish looks at these things and makes some serious changes in the offseason.

    • Sam P.

      This is very similar to the same thing I’ve been *dying* for in NCAA basketball. If you want consistency and transparency, you *have* to make the refs / umps available for postgame questions. It doesn’t have to be drawn out for dozens and dozens of questions, but holding the officials accountable and making them answer to others for their actions in the course of the game would -I think- improve perceptions and understandings.

      That being said, I know it’s a pipe dream, but I really think it would help.

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        Definitely a pipe dream, but I agree with you 100%. But I think it should be this way for all officials: MLB, NFL, NCAA, and NBA.

    • ChrisS

      The umps have a really hard job

      I umpired a little league game once when I was in high school.

      Once.

      I’d rather let the 9 year olds hit me in the junk with their little Louisville Sluggers repeatedly than do that shit again.

      • Mattingly’s Love Child

        Yeah I’ve umped a few little league games and coached middle school level (Jr Legion), the umps go through hell with the parents. Far too many parents don’t realize that even if their kid is the best in town, his career probably is over when he graduates high school.

        It is a thankless job, but a major league umpire starts at $120,000 for 6 months of hell (but can make up to $350k once they have put in some serious time). But it also is a job in major league baseball, most of us would kill for one of those. I’m sorry, I’d do it in a cocaine heartbeat, and then gladly answer questions as to why I blew calls after games.

      • Thomas

        The umps have a really hard job.

        The key word in this sentence is job. This is what umpires do for a living, it not a volunteer position. If you can’t handle the job (which you said you could, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t, and it appears Bell and Foster couldn’t), then don’t do it. However, if you are going to ump and get paid to do it, you better get the calls right, just like if you are going to be a pilot, you better be able to fly a plane.

  • Steve S

    What reason would Jeter have for saying that, especially after the game to the media? I know he screwed up by trying the steal but I doubt Teflon DJ would be worried about that, especially with the replay showing him as safe. Its obvious that Foster screwed up. I mean he cant realistically admit that he said that. He would be publicly acknowledging that he either (a) disregarded the rules or (b) didn’t know the rules. The guy cant be taken seriously as it is, even if he admitted mistake, it wouldnt make it any better in my opinion. Aside from any fine or suspension, he really should have no business umping any October games for the foreseeable future. I would think that’s a pretty strong punishment for these guys.

  • Kulish

    Bring on robots.

    • Pasqua

      They’re going to take us over, anyway! Why not?

  • rbizzler

    I am not surprised that Hirshbeck is doing a little backtracking and damage control. Especially after the crew got a well-timed visit from their boss. I was surprised at how candid Hirshbeck was after the game in the first place.

    Obviously, they decided to alter Foster’s story otherwise he would have came out with the “I had him tagging you” angle right after the game. If Foster didn’t really say that the tag wasn’t necessary, he shouldn’t have been anxious about facing the media. All he would have had to say is that Jeet was tagged out and that would have been the end of it. Now, MLB has to perpetuate the myth that their umps are infallible and the fans have to listen to them straight lying to us.

    Gotta love the Selig era, the hits just keep on coming.

  • Russell NY

    Umpires cant tell their toes from their fingers. They might as well have their heads up the catchers butt on plays at the plate.

  • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

    We’re nit getting an extra W from this, so I vote DJ gets to rochambeau Foster one time…

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      I propose that Derek be allowed to melvin Foster instead.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        By Mo, you sir are quite correct.

  • mark the spark

    If Foster “had him tagging (Jeter) out” then there is no reason to preface that with “the ball beat you”. Just say “you were out because you were tagged before reaching the bag.” The umps are trying to cover their posteriors. They know they messed up.

  • Dan

    Marty Foster is by FAR the worst umpire in MLB. I cant even watch the game if he is behind the plate…I’ll let the wife put on “ghostwatchers”, or whatever she wants to watch. HE NEEDS TO GO!

    • Tom Zig

      calmmmm downnnn

  • Justin

    The real travesty in all this is that idiot who missed the call at second base when Jeter did the jump throw and the ump called the runner safe which promptly led to a Vernon Wells 3 run homer. Their should have been 2 outs in the inning after that play and then Rios would have made the third out. Instead Rios flies out for the second out and Vernon Wells got his chance. Truly the worst game I have ever seen by an umpiring crew and then Hirschcock screwed up several calls behind the plate last night which led ManRam to get ejected. MLB needs to put this crew on leave for about a month.

  • gc

    This whole thing is ludicrous. And not just the bad calls. I don’t know how it is in MLB, but I’m pretty sure that in the NFL players are required to speak to the media after the games and will be fined if they don’t. And baseball players routinely man up and speak to the media after games no matter if they have a great game or not. Why, then, aren’t officials held to the same standard? If Mitch Williams can sit at his locker for an hour and answer every media question there is after giving up the Series winning home run to Joe Carter in 1993, then Marty Foster can be a man and talk to the media about a bad call he made in a July baseball game.

    • JohnnyC

      What’s really frightening is that Foster’s probably been this execrable his entire career as a major league umpire…and the commissioner’s office has done nothing about it. Just rubber stamp his awful job performance every year. And how is this allegedly better than the situation before Selig broke up the umpires’ union?

    • Pasqua

      I can understand the umps not having to face the media every night (they might very well go insane…or at least start to harbor grudges), but I would be in favor of a required “statement” from the crew following every game (or every game in which an on-field argument / ejection occurs), similar to what the Supreme Court does after they make a ruling. In other words, they don’t have to answer direct questions, but need to present their rationale / perspective on the issue. If the managers and players have to do it, the umps should do it in some form as well.

  • Jake H

    This is pretty crazy.

  • yanks99

    I don’t understand why they would never replay games such as these. I understand that bad calls happen and you would never replay a game because of a bad call, but this was an umpire who blatently disregarded the rules and it costs the Yanks a W. Do you know how much money could be on the line if they miss the playoffs by one game.

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  • Rich M
  • MattG

    As for “the entire nation knows that he was safe,” I don’t think that is true at all. The replay is not conclusive in the least, and the only reason to intimate that is because of Derek Jeter’s reputation. If that was AJ Pierzynski, no one would be certain of anything right now, and in fact, this would all have been forgotten.

    So you have a player with a reputation for never arguing unless he knows he is right, an inconclusive replay, and an umpire that made a stupid–but private–comment. Whammo! Controversy. For all we know, he did get the call right, and this is much ado about nothing. Even if he got it wrong, is much ado about little.

    Personally, I think there is enough controversy and technicality in all things as it is. I don’t need a baseball diamond becoming indistinguishable from a courtroom.

    • YankeeFan

      much ado about nothing? The umpire is getting paid to do his job and he doesn’t know the rule.

      • bigyaz

        I guarantee the umpires know the rulebook inside out. You’re basing everything based on what Jeter says he heard (or thought he heard).

        Jeter made a positively boneheaded error. This whole controversy is a convenient way for him to deflect the criticism he deserves for that.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      Great. You also believe the guy sitting 500 feet from home plate in the far reaches of the upper deck is in a better position to make the call than someone watching a replay.

      Have you watched the replay or are you again just parroting what other people say? His hand was on the base before the tag.

      • MattG

        I saw the replay last night, and I am parroting what Cone says, because I agree with him. I think he got the tag on before he pulled the hand back.

      • MattG

        Why do say “again?” I seem to be a lone voice on this thing. Does anyone agree with me on this? No.

        Foster’s probably a jerk and a lousy umpire. He is probably too arrogant–a trait very common among officials. But I don’t know that, his stupid stance and comments notwithstanding, he is actually wrong here.

        What’s more, I do think that the reputation of the Yankees and Jeter have a lot to do with this controversy.

        • YankeeFan

          This controversy has to do with an umpire not even knowing the rules of the game and a person like Jeter who has a good reputation continues to say that lame explanation from the time he told Girardi on the field to the postgame makes it all the more likely that Foster did say that. Not to mention Hirschbick not even backing him the first time and Foster running away from the media.

          Nobody has talked about the two other blown calls that cost the Yankees the game as much as anything. The reason? because bad calls are going to be made though they were very bad calls but the rules were not skewed as was the case here.

  • Yankee1010

    Marty Foster is a terrible umpire, as demonstrated multiple times this past weekend. He’s also arrogant about it and it does not seem like he can be bothered to try get better.

    Does anyone honestly believe Hirschbeck’s cover-up? No way. Foster will not talk to the media because everybody knows that he changed his story after the justified beatdown he received. MLB should relieve him of his duties.

  • Billy

    the solution here is pretty simple, guys. we just crucify the whole crew. that will settle it. thats pretty much what i wanted to do after the yankees lost that game.

  • Little Bill

    Marty Foster lied and should be fired. Hirschbeck too.

  • AsianShuutoHeat

    So this is basically how they handled this.

    1. Hirschbeck (did I get his name right?) drags Foster to the room to get “disciplined”.
    2. They both sit in there with a cup of coffee and just look at each other.
    3. Foster cuts the cheese and they both laugh like little kids.
    4. Foster then brings up the notion of just lying and making something up.
    5. Hirschbeck then agrees because he wants to sleep.
    6. So they both come up with the fact that Foster DID indeed mention the tag.
    7. Foster cuts another one as he walks out of the room.

    so they make something up… greeeeat move

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