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Back to you in the booth

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com

Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) -- The adage about beating a dead horse had to be penned with Major League Baseball umpires in mind. Regardless of how pathetic their performance or how obvious it is to all that are witness to this spectacle that has belittled the sport, nothing will be done about it. That is an accepted fact and instant replay will just magnify their shortcomings repeatedly on the big screen. It is the epitome of being undressed in public and believing that you still have your clothes on. Incredible!

What is even more aggravating than the lack of performance on the field and behind the plate, as the umpires continue to disgrace themselves and make a mockery of the grand old game, are the observations made by the announcers themselves.

Hirschbeck and Jordan
Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck appears to dare Brian Jordan of the Atlanta Braves to make a comment about his called third strike.
Someone in television programming has apparently concocted a listing of descriptions of the miscues, bungles and screw-ups in an attempt to convert them to acceptable. It would be easier to convert the complete works of Karl Marx into a Broadway musical. But, they did something similar with "The Producers" so who am I to question the plausibility of it all?

Let's see what the boys in the booth have to say. "Just off the plate" really means that the pitch was nearly plucked in flight by someone in the lower boxes. When they expand their infinite wisdom and Eagle-like eyesight to such phrasing as "It caught the corner" that makes great sense if they mean that it was the corner of the dugout.

"That pitch was chest high" works for me if the body of Shaquille O'Neal is allowed to be superimposed over that of the batter and used as the measuring stick by which to determine balls from strikes. It works almost as well as "Up and in" to define a pitch that came within a hair of causing instant replacement of that wonderfully capped bottom row of dentures. Heading in the other direction, "A tad low" can easily be identified as a pitch that rolled to home plate and was called a ball only because it did not cross the plate in the center, not because of the journey it took to get there.

How many pitches have you seen that are heralded as "Around the letters" but you know that they really mean the letters of the Good Year blimp? Lots, I'll wager. "Just missed" is what happened to the Titanic when the captain asked what happened with the big piece of ice the ship had passed. In baseball that jargon means that the pitch wasn't even close. Whose legs are they looking at when they explode with "At the knees?" Certainly not those of the batter. For that particular pitch it seems like an apt phrase since they are probably running out of others. But, is it applicable? Be serious.

Cubs Broadcast booth
Broadcasters often spin their version of what happens on the baseball field.
"That pitch took off a bit." Sure it did if you are at the controls in Houston prior to another space launch. To describe it as a strike and see it called such by the man for whom laser surgery was not exactly a success is to insult the intelligence. "It's not where you catch the ball that determines the call." Oh, really? Coulda fooled me. The umpires have the batters so confused over what is a strike and what is not that their desire to speed up the game and call anything within a county or two a strike has the most discerning of hitters flailing away at pitches with road maps to the opposite side batter's box. "That pitch didn't miss by much." Probably no more than the length of a football field.

If the announcers know that we are watching the same replay that they have before them why do they think that we are all sitting and viewing the game with German Shepherds by our side at, no offense intended, the Stevie Wonder annual gala? We, thankfully, see what they see. We see it time and time again as the director, bless him on certain days, seeks to make the point that we were just witness to a terrible decision. Is it possible that the Commissioner's office does not watch the games? Of course, it is possible. Their "We can do no wrong" mentality dictates that they need not watch their errors and mistakes. They are all kings without clothes while the not so adoring public continues to trip the turnstiles and the networks find ways to pay them hundreds of millions of dollars for a much less than perfect sporting spectacle.

The objectivity of the play-by-play and color commentators has become as blurred and cloudy as the vision of the umpires. You either cross the goal line or you don't. Simple. The puck either goes into the net or it does not. Simple. The ball either enters the rim and exits at the bottom of the net or it doesn't. Simple. The tennis ball is either in the area of play or it is not and a beeper goes off. Simple. There is a strike zone. Baseball changes it from time to time and we all hope that the permutation is slight and does not become the reconstruction that we have before us today. It starts to remind one of the highways and airports, where they are redesigning, rebuilding and converting forever. A ceaseless undertaking.

What the heck is wrong with the strike zone as it was intended to be and why do the announcers in the booth have to utter such ridiculous descriptions of each pitch as if their fading vision could determine the difference between a ball and a strike when the replay blatantly shows us what is and should have been? We are trapped. The whole world has told baseball and those describing the action that they are limping. They should see a doctor. They should fix the damage. A transplant is necessary. But will they do it despite the evidence? You gotta be kidding!