October 8th, 2010
01:48 PM ET

David Wells: Umpires, bad calls 'getting worse and worse'

Former pitcher David Wells has no problem saying it - he's not a fan of the umpires in Major League Baseball.

He wasn't when he had his bad days, or when he got into fights with them on the mound, or thrown out of a game for hitting a batter. He didn't like them either when he was at his peak and pitching a perfect game, and he still isn't - a day after an umpire made a call that may change the outcome of a playoff series.

The decision from Thursday's Braves-Giants game that mystifies Wells is also fueling the cavalcade of demands for instant replay in America's past time.

"You watch all these sports shows, these talk shows and all these so-called experts on sports are ranting and raving about how there should be instant replay," Wells, now a baseball analyst for TBS, said. "But it's the umpire's discretion. And I've never been fond of the umpires because they've changed their strike zones throughout the course of the game. But when [umpires are] out of position and can't make a call - they still have to make it. So everyone's going to push for the replay."

But for Wells - instant replay is only a bandage for the real problem in the sport - consistent umping.

"I think it can help, but then again it can hurt the game of baseball," he said.

Wells acknowledges how instant replay has helped other sports and the current baseball use when it comes to replays for home runs - but he said if umpires were doing their jobs there wouldn't be a need for the technology which could slow down the sport.

"I've been on both sides, a strike is a strike no matter what," Wells said.

The man known as Boomer, pointed to his former team, the Bronx Bombers, as an example.

In the ninth inning Wednesday night during Game 1 of the ALDS in Minnesota, New York Yankees outfielder Greg Golson trapped a sinking line drive from the Twins’ Delmon Young according to how right-field umpire Chris Guccione saw it. Instant replay showed it differently – a clear catch by Golson.

With Young on base, Jim Thome came to the plate as the tying run in a 6-4 game. Luckily for the Yankees, – Thome, who had 25 homers this season, popped out to the end game.

But in Game 2 home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called a ball on a 1-2 pitch thrown to Lance Berkman that to many observers was a clear-cut strike. Berkman spanked the next pitch to nab an RBI double and broke a 2-2 tie.

"That ball was right down the middle with [Carl] Pavano," Wells said. "You give Lance Berkman a second chance and you made [Pavano] pay for it - and that's just uncalled for."

Berkman seemingly acknowledged the issue in his post-game comments, echoing some of Wells thoughts on the ever-changing strike zone:

"I mean, I felt like it was a ball. I had to swing at it, I had two strikes. It was a tough pitch. You know, I've had a lot of people ask me about it, and like it was right down the middle or something. That's a very borderline pitch. Sometimes it gets called, sometimes it doesn't. I felt like Hunter was very consistent all night with not giving anything inside. He was giving probably four to six inches off the outside corner, wasn't giving anything over the inside corner. So that was the strike zone. And I mean, I have been punched out plenty on balls that I didn't think were strikes, so what the heck. You know, if he had called it, I wouldn't have been happy about it, but I wouldn't have been shocked.

For Wells, the biggest issue is that when umpires make what everyone deems to be an error - nothing gets done about it.

"These guys have to be reprimanded, and they don't do anything to them. They're not evaluated," he said. "These guys are still making bad calls."

Wells openly admitted his problems with some umpires - something that may not be a surprise to those who have seen Wells fight some calls tooth-and-nail from the mound.

"These umpires I think are getting worse and worse," he said. "These guys, they're ruining the game of baseball and they need to get some [new] guys in there."

This time, Wells said, he'd like to see Major League Baseball officials be the ones to step up to the plate.

"Just evaluate these guys, or put umpires in the right positions," Wells said. "If you've got to add an umpire - one in the front and one in the back - whatever it takes to get these games right."

"A lot of these guys, a lot of these teams are getting really screwed over by bad calls."

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Filed under: Baseball • Sports
soundoff (104 Responses)
  1. Junior Lovell

    Umpires will make mistakes and I am okay with that. My problem is that they (most of the umps) are so arrogant and have big egos, that they take over the game sometimes. Why is it they have to throw out a manager or player everytime they argue a call.? Why can't they just accept that they make mistakes sometimes? The ump who called 'safe' when it was an obvious at 1st base in that perfet game that wasn't, was a class act and he admitted his mistake and apologized afterwards. More umps should learn from him on how to be humble.

    October 8, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ken

    Why is it that players can not get away with errors but umps/refs can and do everyday? Umps and Refs should not even be part of the game. Hopefully technology will replace them all in the fairly near future so than sports will only be between teams and players...which will determine their own outcome and not the bias/terrible/wrong/missed calls/penalties.

    October 8, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tom

    Human error is what makes the GAME a GAME. What has taken baseball to the level where we complain about a blown call ? Bookies and the all the other un-realistic expectations. Teams that have a $120mln budget vs. another that has a $50mln budget. One team wins the other loses.

    The uncertainty in a call made by a ump whether it be a bad call or a great call is what makes the GAME a GAME. So, what do we do ? We trot out 'experts' and technology to analyze backwards and forwards a call in a GAME that is just a GAME. The sun will rise tomorrow and the Yanks will still have the biggest budget in baseball...... but the blown call is what makes baseball beautiful. It gives us something to remember rather than automating the process....... Keep it a GAME. That is why it is interesting. Otherwise we risk dumbing down the sport to the point people will have another reason to turn it off.

    October 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tony

    I wish i could get payed millions of dollars to whine about a bad ump. Maybe there should be more complaints about how much they get payed when millions of people in the world are starving and dying because they have no money. I have no sympothy for these athletes. Do some math and you'll realize A Rod gets almost $50,000 pet at bat. More money that most people make in a year and more then some will see in a life time. Enough to make anyone sane go insane.

    October 8, 2010 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ken

    Tony, I think it is the fans that are the ones upset about the bad umps. These fans are paying billions to watch the players and teams (and not the umps and refs...especially making extremely obvious bad calls).

    October 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TV-Guy

    That was a third strike on Berkman. Umps are known to make bad calls but it seems to be getting worse. I remember in 1978 when the Dodgers and Phils squared off for the pennant and the last out was called safe by the first base ump which led to the Dodgers winning the game and series. That one call cost the Phils a World Series appearance. But they are making up for lost time. Umps should be reviewed and reprimanded like the rest of us. Al Clark where are you?

    October 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CharlieSeattle

    Yawn! The author assumes that those of us that fall asleep trying to watch that borrrrrrrrrrring game care about umpires bad calls. They may have been asleep.

    Lol, whenever I want to take a nap. I always turn on a baseball game

    October 8, 2010 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. John

    The players themselves ruined the game a long time ago.

    October 8, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JC

    I say give them limited instant replay – an umpire in the broadcast booth with acess to every camera in the park. This Ump would not be able to make calls unless called upon to resolve a disputed call. This would be sort of like when the home-plate umpire calls on the 3rd base ump to confirm a checked-swing.

    October 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JCG

    David Wells is being unrealistic on his standards for umpires. The umpires in MLB are the best in all of baseball; getting "new" guys as he suggests would result in more missed calls. Do you know who makes more errors than the umpires? The players. Its not as if the umpires are trying to miss calls on purpose, just like players don't try to make errors on purpose. Put Wells out there as an umpire and see how many calls he misses.

    October 9, 2010 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
    • dbpastor

      I am an umpire certainly not of the level discussed. I umpire little league and fast pitch softballl. The real problem, and one I see everday pn the field is coaches and fans like to blame the umpire for loss of a game. In my many years umpiring even a bad call or mis-interpretation of a rule has never cost a team a game. As fans you need to back off it is plain and simple. At least once a week in games that are just that GAMES I find muself in a difficult position of dealing with fans, coaches, and players. Most of the arguments on my, (and I do mean my) field turn out to be me making a right call and coaches or fans getting in my face over something that they themselves are not sure of. In every instance I end up being right and if I am found be wrong who cares suck it up and play ball. It is a GAME one in which most people never get paid to play. Eletronic devices or instant replay would totally take away the one most important aspect, "Human Eroor". It does not matter which level you plan it is all the same, EXCUSES for a loss of your teams game. Grow up, and in addition, let me talk one major aspect of sports if you dont want a bad call dont put the umpire in that position. If you want good calls make sure the player is their for sure. What is the cost of winning? Not near as much as my wife and kids coming to watch me work only to hear coaches and fans jump all over me because their players did not make the play. You come on my field you will have a ggod plate umpire who has to agenda but the kids themselves,

      May 30, 2012 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. James Leary

    This is the way Wells is trying to get attention. To be in the spotlight again. I'm a huge Yankees fan and a fan of Wells but if this is what he's become. BLAH! The game doesn't need instant replay and never will. Baseball is baseball and has been the same way for over 100 years. Leave it to the Umps and play ball.

    October 9, 2010 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. anonanon

    These guys were more fun back when they were on steroids.

    Oh and just like the steroids coverage – this is a prime example of the sports media making a big deal about nothing. Keep up the good work guy – keep those marginally interested fans on the edge of their seats.

    Succesful sports media troll is succesful. +1 internetz

    October 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Cliff Dunn

    game...Texas vise Oakland June 6th 2012

    situation...Cruz at bat in 7th with one out and 2 strikes. Fastball came high and in. He pulls back of his batting stance, backing up very quickly with his bat coming up next to his face. The fast ball then nicks his bat. The Umpire calls him out~! Cruz had "no intent of anything other than getting out of the way. He was not in anyone mind trying to hit the baseball. He could have been going to the Hospital if it had hit the inside edge of his sucked in bat upright in his hands next to his face. Please everyone pass this sick thing on~!
    Cliff Dunn, Buda Texas <I know baseball, played all levels except pro and umpired high school and college for years.

    June 6, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
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