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Umpires - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Sep. 13th, 2005

11:53 am - Umpires

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One thing is clear from the opening statements of John Roberts' confirmation hearing.

Republicans don't watch baseball.

"Umpires don't make the rules; they apply them."

Have any of the Republicans repeating this talking point looked at the strike zone over the last 50 years? Or how about how often fielders making a double play actually make physical contact with second base? I'm sure bigger baseball fans than myself could name a dozen more rules that Umpires traditionally bend or broadly reinterpret.

A consensus of umpires over time subtly changes the rules, while retaining their spirit, in order to keep the game enjoyable in the face of changing styles of play. Umpires operate on a combination of written rules and a constantly evolving professional baseball tradition.

Comments:

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From:kniedzw
Date:September 13th, 2005 04:55 pm (UTC)
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Heh. I nearly snarfed my water reading this.

Touche!
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From:desert_fox
Date:September 13th, 2005 05:24 pm (UTC)
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He was slick, I'll give him that. The Indiana boyhood thing was a bit much. On its face, the umpire comment seemed innocuous. I honestly don't know what to think about the guy. I know there are pro-lifers that are discouraged by his lack of public platform, and everyone else is fearful of a right-wing wildcard in neutral clothing. Is he just a semantic genius litigator, knowing how to bob and weave between the letter of the law? Was his switch to defense politically motivated or is this guy the real deal?
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From:msphys
Date:September 13th, 2005 05:54 pm (UTC)
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Still seems like an apt simile, though. Given that Roberts seems to have a huge stick up his butt, he'd probably be the umpire to get all the umpires together and say, "Now look here, we've got to maintain some consistency in this game, so let's take some time to go over the rules again."
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From:pasquinator
Date:September 13th, 2005 06:06 pm (UTC)
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The cornfield think was a little akward too. I mean who looks at a cornfield and sees opportunities? Maybe opportunities to be bored and eat corn. I think most people would see all the opportunities in a city, you know, where there is stuff.
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From:xymboulos
Date:September 14th, 2005 03:39 am (UTC)
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Perhaps an opportunity to raze the cornfield and build a city? Or at least a strip mall.
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From:conejita_diabla
Date:September 13th, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC)
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Although personally I despise how the entire upper half of the strike zone has all but vanished the last decade or so...
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From:zarfmouse
Date:September 14th, 2005 05:29 am (UTC)
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Don't you think the game would just degenerate into All Home Runs All The Time if the strike zone were higher up? I think that allowing strikes down at the calves and balls up at the letters actually keeps the game more interesting in an era of hyper-advanced/enhanced batting because home runs are ultimately BORING (they're great for a brief moment when they happen but they totally defeat the complexity of the long term hitting/running game).

Maybe my understanding of the motivation of the umpires is wrong. I'm not a super baseball geek. I had the impression in my head that the strike zone was (silently) moved in order to keep the game interesting and maybe even to make life on the pitchers a little easier. It's a response to the ongoing tug of war between pitching and batting skills. Maybe if there's a huge new pitching innovation that comes into play that makes pitchers far superior to batters they will change the strike zone again to favor batters.
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From:conejita_diabla
Date:September 14th, 2005 05:41 am (UTC)
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Actually, it is completely an offensive game right now. A chest-high fastball is actually much more difficult to get any lift on, and from most batters is more likely to be a line drive than a homerun.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:September 14th, 2005 05:57 am (UTC)
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Ah, so is the reality that the Umpires are in the pockets of the Owners who know that Home Run Contests mean profit?

All the more reason that Judges shouldn't be like Umpires! They'd just be in the pockets of the fat cats running the show.
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From:conejita_diabla
Date:September 14th, 2005 06:09 am (UTC)
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Hee...just as I'm typing this, Jon Stewart is expounding beautifully on the metaphor. :-)

And yes, I think the entire game 5 years ago was focused on Home Run Contests. It's just started inching the other way, but slowly.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:September 14th, 2005 06:50 am (UTC)
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Woah...fires up TiVo...
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From:schizoguy
Date:September 13th, 2005 07:04 pm (UTC)
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Once again, very deep and profound!
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From:mathuaerknedam
Date:September 13th, 2005 08:31 pm (UTC)
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I have to wonder:

Was this a statement of how things have worked in the past, or of how things are "supposed" to work? I'd bet the latter. And I'd bet that the former wouldn't be seen (by the politicians) as a desired goal, but rather as a corruption of the game.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:September 14th, 2005 05:25 am (UTC)
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You're talking about the strike zone thing?

The strike zone is currently about 1-2 feet lower and 1-2 feet smaller than it is in the rule book. It has been evolving towards this over the past few decades and this is based on a silent consensus of umpires and the leagues have made no attempts to correct it. There are two reasons for this: 1) The pitching is too now fast for humans to really be able to perceive it accurately, catchers can sometimes fool the ump into thinking the ball was somewhere it wasn't by moving the glove quickly after they catch the ball. 2) If the balls were pitched up where they are supposed to be (between the letters and the knees rather than between the waist and the calves) they would be MUCH easier to hit and the game would turn into a home-run-a-thon which would be BORING BORING BORING.

I don't know what is up with the sweeping tags of second base but the players expect it and it makes for dramatic plays and no one seems to mind because both teams get to do it.

I think it is quite reasonable for the umps to do what they do.

I don't think this is actually a good strong analogy for what judges should do. I'm not trying to make a point about judges. I'm trying to make a point about Umpires and Republicans. My point is that Umpires and Judges are totally different creatures and the analogies between them are bound to get people in trouble.
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From:mathuaerknedam
Date:September 14th, 2005 02:59 pm (UTC)
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I know so little about baseball that I'm not about to even start bullshitting in it's general direction. :)

I was saying that the politicians would likely say that umpires aren't legally allowed* to overlook the rules in an effort to change the game (even for the better). I suspect that they would say that the if the rules need changed to improve the game, then the rules should be changed, and that the actions of an umpire to deliberately not follow the rules is bad for the game because it corrupts it, and creates an uneven (and more subjective) playing field.

I also suspect thet they would say the exact same thing about judges.


* As I said earlier, I don't know baseball, but I'm guessing that umpires are, according to the written rules of baseball, charged with enforcing those rules, and not given the power to selectively overlook those rules for the betterment of the game. If this guess is wrong, then yeah, the republicans are out to lunch on the analogy. :)
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From:boannan
Date:September 14th, 2005 12:13 am (UTC)

now I get to tell my umpire / judge joke!

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So my professor told this joke to our class as an analogy to judicial decision making:

a baseball player asks three different umpires, "Ump, how do you tell which pitches are balls and which are strikes?"

The first umpire says, "Well, son, I just call 'em as I see em."

The second umpire says, "I guess I just call 'em as they are."

The third one squints, spits some tobacco and says,

"Kid - they ain't nothin till I call 'em."

:)
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From:zarfmouse
Date:September 14th, 2005 07:42 am (UTC)

Re: now I get to tell my umpire / judge joke!

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Heh.

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