I want to say here at the top that Royals pitcher Danny Duffy did not complain about a horrendously missed call at a horrendously bad moment, even when directly presented with the opportunity.
Home plate umpire Dan Iassogna really did biff it, too. The pitch in the sixth inning Tuesday night was clearly a strike, both by the naked eye and MLB’s own technology, not particularly close to being ball four.
But that’s how Iassogna called it, instead of strike three, which would’ve ended the inning but instead gave Colorado’s Nolan Arenado — let’s pause a quick sec to say he’s an incredible talent — a chance to hit a two-run homer that changed the game.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
“Could’ve gone either way,” Duffy said about a call that really should not have gone the way it did. “Dan’s such a good dude, I don’t have anything bad to say about that.”
Good for Duffy, and I assume he’s right about Iassogna. I don’t ever remember writing anything about an official or referee or umpire before, but I can’t help it today. For two primary reasons.
The first is it really was an awful miss. Instead of being through six no-hit innings with 76 pitches, Duffy needed 88 pitches to get through the sixth with two runs surrendered. It cut a three-run lead to one, and if Scott Alexander hadn’t bossed up in a brutal spot after Kelvin Herrera’s forearm locked up in the ninth, this would be a different column. Wasn’t the only pitch Iassogna missed, either. Might not have even been the worst.
The second reason is that Iassogna belongs to a union that just days ago made a strikingly tone-deaf, misguided, and hypocritical protest of players being meanies.
The umpires’ feelings were hurt because Ian Kinsler said an impolite but true thing about Angel Hernandez being bad at his job, and the umpires thought Kinsler should’ve been suspended instead of heavily fined, so naturally, they overreached and assumed more power and influence than they have or deserve and whined publicly about it.
“It’s ‘open season’ on umpires, and that’s bad for the game,” their regrettable statement read in part.
Look, umpires aren’t bad people. Many of them are very good at their jobs, and many handle themselves professionally, and with class and restraint, when criticized.
But too many don’t, which made the reaction of Duffy and manager Ned Yost — “it was fair on both sides,” he said when asked about the strike zone — all the more notable.
At least by my eyes, the most static Iassogna got was from Charlie Blackmon, who was rung up on an absolutely absurd call, a pitch at least a few inches off the plate. Blackmon’s argument lasted about six seconds. This would be the equivalent of you asking the police officer if you really have to pay a fine after he writes you up for going 48 in a 55.
Maybe the umpires would say the lack of beef on the field and criticism in the clubhouse is proof their protest worked, because look at the players and managers holding back.
But to me it’s proof that the protest was petty, insecure, delusional, and based on a set of facts that do not exist in this reality, where nobody is above criticism, least of all overpaid, overprotected, self-righteous umpires who regularly bait players into arguments, apparently confused about their own value and place in a beautiful sport that provides them a cushy living.
Because if the umpires are going to make hundreds of thousands of dollars and fly first-class around the country to work seven or eight months a year, feeding off the teat of an industry they don’t do much to push forward, they should probably keep their mouths shut.
Nobody wants to hear a spoiled brat demand more candy.
It brings me no joy to be critical of umpires, or point out their mistakes. Their job is a thankless one. I’m always cognizant of that, and have always pushed back against the notion that any particular win or loss can be put on them.
But much of that has always been in respect and appreciation for the umpires keeping a relatively low public profile.
If they’re no longer going to do that, well, they’ll see what “open season” on umpires really feels like.