INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA – MAY 05: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Home plate umpire wears a mask during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between SK Wyverns and Hanwha Eagles at the empty SK Happy Dream Ballpark on May 05, 2020 in Incheon, South Korea. The 2020 KBO season started after being delayed from the original March 28 Opening Day due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The KBO said its 10 clubs will be able to expand their rosters from 28 to 33 players in 54 games this season, up from the usual 26. Teams are scheduled to play 144 games this year. As they prepared for the new beginning, 10 teams managers said the season would not be happening without the hard work and dedication of frontline medical and health workers. South Korea is transiting this week to a quarantine scheme that allows citizens to return to their daily routines under eased guidelines. But health authorities are still wary of « blind spots » in the fight against the virus cluster infections and imported cases. According to the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 new cases were reported. The total number of infections in the nation tallies at 10,804. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
On Thursday, the Korean Baseball Organization faced a potential crisis. The umpiring crew during the game between the SK Wyverns and the Hanwha Eagles faced a great deal of criticism following the game, with outfielder Lee Yong-kyu calling out the umpires on national television. He voiced the concerns of the other players, stating that both sides were frustrated with a lack of consistency between calls.
With games being televised in the United States on ESPN, the last thing that the KBO needed was to have any sort of questions regarding the competence of their arbiters. The league needed to act swiftly and decisively, squashing this potential issue before it snowballed.
They did exactly that. On Friday, the KBO sent a message to their umpires that they expect far better. The crew that worked the game between the Wyverns and the Eagles were sent to the minors. According to the league, the five umpires were sent to the Futures League for “retraining” purposes.
The admonishments did not stop there. The league also took a firm tone towards the players, asking that they refrain from ripping on the umpires publicly. While the KBO stopped there with their request, one has to feel that punishments would be forthcoming for any players to ignore that edict.
This action also shows a dramatic difference between the KBO and Major League Baseball. A number of umpires, specifically Angel Hernandez and Joe West, have put themselves before the game. Their inconsistent calls, and refusal to admit that they are fallible, have infurated fans and players alike.
Just imagine the uproar from the Umpire’s Union, or any umpire in the majors, if the league attempted to banish them to the minors for “more training.” While everyone would like to see the umpires held accountable for their bad calls, few avenues are available. Even admitting fault would be a step in the right direction. Where have you gone, Jim Joyce?
The Korean Baseball Organization has taken a dramatic step to ensure they have the best product possible on the diamond, sending an umpiring crew to the minors. If only the same could happen in the majors.
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