Monday, June 18, 2018

Major League Baseballs Go On Strike Until Umpires Clean Up Their Act

Dear Major League Baseball fans,

Skip Rawlings here. You may know me from my work as a baseball. 

I had a relatively long career in The Show. The average lifespan for a baseball in the Big Leagues is about seven pitches. If you blink, you'll miss it.

But I'm proud to say I lasted 12 pitches on Thursday, before the San Diego Padres pitcher threw me in the dirt and the umpire tossed me into the Atlanta Braves dugout.

Looks like they’re gonna use me for batting practice now. Or send me down to the minors, where recycled baseballs like me often see more playing time. But I'm ok with that. It’s a living.

But that’s not why I’m writing you this letter. I’m writing to tell you that we baseballs — all 1.2 million of us that are made each year at the Rawlings plant down in Turrialba in Costa Rica — have had enough.

We baseballs love this game, and we hate to see the umpires blow it for everyone. What happened this past weekend at SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves’ new ballpark, was inexcusable.

The umpire crew collectively choked. They lost the ability to distinguish between a strike and a ball. We baseballs hate it when this happens. It makes us look bad.  

Like when people insist we're juiced this year. I am not juiced, and neither are my brother baseballs.

But I digress. The four-game series between the Padres and Braves was the most incompetently officiated series I've seen. Not that I’ve seen many. But it was bad.

Umpiring isn't an easy gig. And most of them do a great job. But this series was a new low. And it isn't just this series. My baseball buddies are chiming in from The Bronx to Miami to Chicago to Denver to Seattle. 

It’s clear to me and my fellow baseballs that the quality of umpiring throughout the league is dropping faster than a Zach Britton sinker. 

Officiating in baseball needs reforming. Big Time. There are some guys who just can't cut it, and others who were great once but should now retire.

It appears that umpires are employed virtually for life. Like a Supreme Court justice. Or someone who works at the DMV or the VA.

Too many Major League Baseball games are being decided by bad calls. Even with the replay system, things are getting ugly, folks. Bottom line? The umpiring crew in Atlanta this past weekend was collectively crummy. It was an embarrassment to all of us baseballs who love our game.

There were at least a half-dozen pitches clearly off the plate that this umpire crew called strikes. Actually more like a dozen. It happened again and again and again.

We take pride in our construction and our consistency, and then these umpires make these horrific calls and people get to talking. I've never seen a regular-season series with more bad calls than this one. I’m not one to name names, but they know who they are.

I don't blame Padres manager Andy Green for losing his cool on Friday. He had every right to be mad. He got yanked from the game, but he did what he had to do.

In Sunday's game, there were men on second and third with two outs and a full count on the Padres’ Corey Spangenberg. Atlanta threw a pitch that was way outside, not even close to a strike. 

But the ump rang Corey up. It ended the inning and pretty much ended any chance the Padres had of coming back and winning the game and tying the series. 

Even the Padres' TV announcers Don Orsillo and Mark Grant, both professional, good-natured guys who rarely call out the umps, were incensed by the number of bad calls. 

They rightly noted that all the poor calls essentially forced batters to take a hack at virtually everything to protect.

The umpiring in this series and in other games throughout Major League Baseball this season has convinced us to take action:

As of today, all major league baseballs have decided to go on strike. Let them use Whiffle balls, we say. If the games continue on Monday, just know that they are using scab baseballs. 

These baseballs are picket-line crossers!

We love the game too much to just stand by and watch what some umpires are doing to it, and to us. We will return if and when the umpires agree to three conditions:

1 - Allow both teams to challenge three strikes-and-balls calls per game.

2 - Require that every umpire visit a league-sanctioned optometrist and get their vision checked and addressed.

3 - Suspend each umpire in the notorious Braves-Padres series for a week without pay.

Meantime, I’m gonna enjoy the time off. It’ll give me a chance to write some letters, pay a few bills, maybe do a little fishing, and check in with my fellow baseballs around the country.

Sometimes my fellow baseballs are caught by fans in the stands and taken home. That’s our favorite thing. Especially when it's a kid. 

One of my baseball buddies was caught at a recent Chicago Cubs game along the third-base line by a 12-year-old pitcher from Iowa who plays Little League baseball and whose mother is fighting cancer. 
It gave him lots of joy to catch that ball in the stands and take the ball home and put it on the top of his dresser. He's a really courageous kid.
Some baseballs have all the luck. 

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