On Monday night in Philadelphia, Jonathan Papelbon took the loss against the Dodgers after allowing a tiebreaking run in the top of the ninth via a leadoff triple by Dee Gordon and then a single by Elian Herrera. As Papelbon walked off the mound following the third out, he confronted umpire D.J. Reyburn, a minor league fill-in who had already ejected Dodger manager Don Mattingly earlier for arguing balls and strikes. Papelbon protested that the pitch immediately preceding the triple had been strike three, and he appears to have had a point; the PITCHf/x system shows that his 92 MPH fastball ended up on the inner edge of the strike zone. “I just wanted to ask him if he could throw me out for what I was thinking,” said Papelbon of the confrontation. “He was terrible all night. He probably needs to go back to Triple-A. If you don’t do your job, you get demoted or fired. It affected the outcome of the game.”
Papelbon’s outburst, which will likely generate a fine from the commissioner’s office, is the latest among a handful of high-profile confrontations between umpires and players or managers over the past few weeks. There’s Brett Lawrie’s helmet-throwing incident, Charlie Manuel’s run-in with Bob Davidson, Jim Leyland’s postgame tirade, Russell Martin’s spat with Laz Diaz and Joe Girardi and Kevin Long’s ejections by Davidson. The men in uniform are getting increasingly fed up with the men in blue, in part because they feel as though the latter aren’t held accountable. Certain umpires appear to wind up at the center of controversy more often than others, with few if any public consequences for their actions. Fans who are increasingly well-armed by a variety of technological means — including super slow-motion replay on high-definition TV, the ability to view every pitch via MLB.tv, an estimate of the ball’s path and location in the strike zone via PITCHf/x — can better spot umpires’ glaring mistakes, yet the powers that be have been slow to deploy the tools at their disposal to minimize errors. A frustrating situation appears to have reached a boiling point.
What can be done? What follows is a five-point plan that would help the situation.
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