The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya reported on Monday that Los Angeles Angels’ skipper Joe Maddon, “... confirmed that MLB is considering having some umpiring crews traveling on team charter flights this year, considering the unique travel circumstances,” the league (rightly, probably) expects to deal with while trying to play a 60-game season amidst an ongoing pandemic.
It’s actually in the MLB Operations Manual, Section 7.1.3, which notes (in part) that, “When necessary (as determined by MLB), umpires may be permitted to travel with Clubs. In these instances, umpires shall be subject to the same schedule and guidelines as other members of the Traveling Party.”
Washington Nationals’ catcher Yan Gomes, who spends a lot of time around umps, was asked for his thoughts on that possibility, (umpires traveling on team flights), which might one day allow him to continue arguing over that missed strike call which cost him as the club departs one city for another and travels around the country over the next three months.
“I did just hear that,” Gomes said. “I think I just read that on Twitter.
“That could be a good thing from a safety standpoint, and I mean, that could be a really weird and awkward deal if something happens in that game.
“I think we’re going to have to be very cautious with that, putting them in one little section of the plane, and hopefully not having to interact very much with players.
“That’s an interesting thing, but if it’s something to keep everything safe from the game standpoint, I think we can make that adjustment. I think everything from traveling and everything is going to be pretty unique this year, and why not add umpires in there.”
“Why not?” indeed. Which umps want to be on a plane with Mike Rizzo if they blow a call that costs the Nats a game?
Gomes also talked about his level of concern with having an ump over his shoulder/behind his back close enough to call balls and strikes for nine innings in the age of COVID-19 and social distancing. Avoiding neighborhood parks as he’s asking his children to right now might help everyone stay healthy and safe, but having Joe West or Angel Hernandez breathing on your neck for nine innings in a ballpark seems dicey, no? Or will they be among the ten umpires who reportedly opted out of the 2020 campaign? Gomes’ level of concern?
[ed. note - “We’re sorry for singling our Joe and Angel, they were just the first two ump names that came to mind ... which does, however, kind of say something.”]
[ed. note - “We’re sorry for saying that last part too, it ruined the apology.”]
“There’s really no concern-level, the 32-year-old, eight-year veteran said. “I think everyone here is doing a very good job on the testing and everything. It’s really just a matter of everybody staying safe, and not do those like silly try to joke around touches. I think we’re just going to have to be careful with that.”
Yeah, silly try to joke around touches should be specifically banned in the Operations Manual for this and each subsequent season.
While the Nationals wait for their first exhibition game this weekend and the first interactions with umps since mid-March, Gomes and fellow Nats’ catcher Kurt Suzuki have been calling balls and strikes in sim games (while catching). Has he developed an increased respect for the umpires’ admittedly difficult jobs?
“It’s kind of been super-tough, so I think I respect them even more,” Gomes said, “but I think from my angle, I’m over here trying to frame balls, and I tend to forget what pitch it was. I don’t know.
“I haven’t had too many people complain. But I think I’ve done an okay job.
“I think Kurt is a little tighter than I think I am. I think the first day I made some tough calls for our own pitching staff, and I was like, ‘You know what, I’m going to give at least a couple balls for these guys,’ because roll-over innings are probably the toughest thing.”
Never let Yan ump a real game.
Also, Robot umps now.
Seriously though, this actually makes a lot of sense, (the umps on planes thing, and pretty much nothing else in this “article”), and it will probably all work out fine. Also playing baseball during an ongoing pandemic is like next-level (are the kids still saying that?) dicey. But they are apparently really going to try. Here’s hoping everyone who hasn’t already tested positive for COVID-19 doesn’t and everyone who has fully recovers, and they all take Davey Martinez’s advice.
[ed. note - “Please don’t let it be, ‘Go 1-0 today!’ The advice that is.”]
“If we’re really going to do this and keep everybody safe,” Martinez said on Tuesday, “I tell these guys all the time, ‘You can’t be messing around. You’ve got to really take this seriously, because one, I don’t want to get sick, and two, I don’t want anybody else getting sick around here. So we’ve got to be smart about everything we do.”