Friday, September 17, 2010


Photo Courtesy Boston Globe
For those who have not heard about this story, Derek Jeter when the Yanks were playing the Rays appeared to have gotten beaned with a pitch in the hands. A closer look showed that the ball hit the butt of the bat and not Jeter.

The plate umpire, Lance Barksdale (stats) told him to take his base for being hit. A trainer paid a visit to Jeter to check on him, but at the end of it all, Jeter took his base.

Joe Maddon, the Rays manager argued the call to the point of getting tossed for it, and at the end of the day the Rays won the game 4 - 3, and would appear to be (in the legal community would be called) "harmless error."

After the game, the real fun began with Jeter admitting he was not hit by the pitch and Maddon admitting he did not blame Jeter. No one openly faulted the umpire for the situation.

I did reflect on this a bit and there were a bunch of thoughts I had.

First, I noted that no one was openly castigating the umpire for the ruse. This is sharply contrasted in our game where referees are expected to be drama critics as well as arbiters of THE game. MLBs approach seems more sane to me. How can you hold an umpire, or any referee, responsible for the actions of a player who is purporting such an act? Now, this is not to say that the league should not later take action, such as a token fine for Jeter for his dishonesty to "steal" a base, not withstanding his piety later in the evening. Same holds true for FIFA and MLS who I know have taken action after the fact to an incident that required some further discipline.

Second, is that I agree with Jeter and Maddon. I don't blame either for their reaction. Mistakes happen, and there is no reason not to take advantage of them when they occur. This is one of the realities of any game played at that level. Participants are paid a lot of money, and would be sharply criticized if they don't take advantage of such situations.

Third, I agree with Barksdale's actions. He may have actually got clued into the fact that the ball did not hit Jeter somewhere between home plate and first base. Assuming he had the ability to change his mind once the base was awarded (JAFO may jump in here), it may not have been a good idea and may have actually undermined his authority and caused more issues if he brought Jeter back to the plate. Sometimes when you are committed, you have to roll with it. More than once in my career after I called a foul, a player would get up and smile in that knowing way that gave me the sinking feeling that they just stole one from me. My response, call the foul. To go back and untangle that mess can cause havoc.

Lastly, THERE ARE NO MAKE UP CALLS. Let's say you discover that you got juiced for a call (as I have many times). You can't make up a call the next time for the other team. This is patently dishonest and will instantly bankrupt your credibility with the players and coaches. Now, I have joked about it with players and even admitted that the player got one over on me, but, never, never, never make up a call. It turns a soccer match into a bartering session.

Keep in mind you are there not to be "fair" (one for red, one for blue), but rather to be "objective" (call 'em like you see 'em). Sometimes things are not even in a match, and a referee acting as one who tries to balance such a competition is asking for big trouble.

In my opinion, slap Jeter with a fine for cheating, or in the alternative make him *gasp* apologize for cheating, and leave the rest alone.

A story on the topic is here, courtesy of the Boston Globe.

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