Take the 'heart' out of umpiring

Rob Neyer says there's no reason any WBC games should be umpired by men from the same country as one of the teams.

Originally Published: March 13, 2006
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
I don't want to pile on. The World Baseball Classic, with a few relatively minor exceptions, has been a success. I always figured the Classic would be interesting, but little more than a pleasant diversion while suffering from March Madness and waiting for the real baseball games to start. But I would say it's been slightly better than pleasant, and I gather that in other parts of the world it's been more than that. The World Baseball Classic might, in fact, be the best thing Bud Selig has ever done.

Still, what happened in Anaheim Sunday was, shall we say, unfortunate. It was fortunate for the U.S. team that narrowly avoided a significant upset. But unfortunate for just about everybody else who cares about such things. What happened Sunday in Anaheim could easily have been avoided, and should have been.

Bob Davidson
AP PhotoA controversial call by home plate umpire Bob Davidson, left, marred the Japan-United States game on Sunday.
Let me be very clear about this: I am not questioning Bob Davidson's integrity. Hall of Fame umpire Bill Klem famously said, "In my heart, I never called one wrong," and I'm absolutely sure that in Davidson's heart, he called this one right. He really did believe that Tsuyoshi Nishioka left third base a split-second before Akinori Iwamura's fly ball nestled in Randy Winn's glove. But just because Davidson believed it didn't make it true, and just because he believed it doesn't mean there's an excuse for his being in the position to believe it. Bob Davidson shouldn't have been on the field, in a position to make a call that would upset millions of Japanese baseball fans.

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