Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Silent Umpire

The Mets played through rain, heavy at times, at Citi Field,
but umpire Bill Miller wouldn't explain why he never called for a delay.
I've written before about umpires, specifically Joe West, who believe their job makes them all-powerful. They are never accountable and never need to explain. Anything.

We have a new entrant in the contest to see which ump cares little for the fans or players: Bill Miller. Last night, he was the crew chief for the New York Mets rain-soaked game with the Washington Nationals in New York. Throughout the game, rain was falling. Sometimes it became a deluge. Eventually, the infield was as announcer Keith Hernandez said, "puddling."

On TV, the stadium lights reflected brightly off the dirt. The grounds crew repeatedly worked on the infield between innings. It seemed odd that the game wasn't stopped. The mound was a slippery slope and ground balls were slowed in the slop.

The announcers, and I am sure most viewers, discussed the situation. Hernandez and Ron Darling and Gary Cohen were reasonable. They were curious just about the umpire's reasons for continuing play. And wondered about safety concerns.

No big deal. We'd all find out after the game. Well, no. Because Miller, from his powerful perch, refused to talk about it. (It's not the first time Miller has been in the spotlight. In 2009 he was accused of insulting a player during a game.) He sent word through one member of the media that if it was about the rain he could talk to the commissioner's office.

It's hard to understand why Miller won't explain his actions. Maybe the forecasters told him the rain would ease. Maybe he feared stopping the game would just make the field worse while everyone waited till the game was finally called. It doesn't even matter.

The fans, the players and the media deserve an explanation. Has Miler not learned that being upfront and honest will give him more credibility? As I have written before, Jim Joyce made one of the worst calls ever, costing a pitcher a perfect game. But by being honest about it he earned respect.

It's time for baseball to bring the umpires into the 21st century.

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