First Pitch: Ten Things I Love About Baseball – Ump Show Edition

Tonight the Pittsburgh Pirates took on the Atlanta Braves in the first game of a three game series between two of the best teams in the National League. Kind of boring, right? Not exactly the type of game where you’re going for the teams. Fortunately, there was one thing that made the game watchable. The home plate umpire…

Hold on a second. Let me look up his name.

Still looking.

Here we go. Dan Iassogna. Totally copy/pasted that. Also, I kind of want some lasagna now.

Yes, it was the bottom of the fourth inning when a game between two projected playoff teams got interesting. After A.J. Burnett threw two straight balls against opposing pitcher Kris Medlen, Russell Martin (I didn’t have to look up any of their names for some reason) got up and said something to Dan Iassogna (still a Ctrl+V away!). Dan Iassogna immediately ejected Martin.

GIF by Cork Gaines

What did Martin say that was so offensive and caused an immediate ejection?

And was it worth it? I mean it’s not like those were clearly balls, especially the second one.


Oh. Well anyone could have missed that call. After all, the human element. And if Russell Martin doesn’t like that, then the human element gon’ human element.

That’s what I love about the game of baseball. You come for the masked, anonymous umpires behind the plate. You stay for the players on the field that are known to everyone in the stadium. Well, unless that player gets ejected first. And then you just get what you paid for.

Tonight’s incident got me thinking. What are the things I really love about MLB umpires? I know it’s the internet, and I have unlimited space. But I wanted to keep this short and go with a top ten list. So here are the ten things I love about umpires.

1. I love when an umpire is about to eject a player, but he doesn’t just wave his arm. Instead he cocks his arm back, delays, and fires the ejection signal. It’s like the Hideo Nomo of ejections.

Has there ever been an umpire who needed Tommy John surgery?
Has there ever been an umpire who needed Tommy John surgery?

2. I love when umpires occasionally argue back with a player, and when the player gets mad and continues to argue, the umpire ejects him. Umpires should always have the final say. That’s the most important thing. Also, don’t be afraid to be shown up. People are there to see you too.

3. On a related note, I love when people justify an umpire ejecting a young star like Bryce Harper by calling it a lesson. That’s what baseball is all about. It’s not about letting the best players play the game. It’s about letting the unknown people in blue deciding that the best players might need to be taught a lesson about the game, even if it means a first inning ejection.

4. I love when the ejection is quick, like tonight with Martin. Seriously, when have reactionary decisions ever been bad? Why even think? It’s not like you’re removing one of the most productive players on the team in the fourth inning and potentially changing the game.

5. I also love when, after a quick ejection, the manager gets ejected for being frustrated that his catcher just got ejected. You’re in it now. Go for broke. That’s the attitude I love to see.

6. I love decisiveness. You’re right, even when you may not be right. If someone argues a pitch that you called a ball, even though the evidence shows it was a strike, just toss them. Don’t even let them vent frustration. It’s your strike zone. Not the one that everyone else can see instantly on Gameday, making people wonder why you even need umpires for balls and strikes.

7. I love how umpires in baseball don’t put up with half the things that NFL referees do. NFL referees just sit there and take it, while doing their job of focusing on the game. Fans don’t pay to see refs blending into the sidelines and avoiding confrontation.

"I told you not to call me Omar Epps."
“My name isn’t Omar Epps!”

8. I love how MLB umpires are now influencing the NFL, to the point where coaches will start getting a 15-yard penalty if they go on the field and argue. From now on, every marginal call or worse will lead to John Harbaugh getting a 15-yard penalty for the Baltimore Ravens. That’s the MLB way.

9. I love how we have the capability for instant replay, but we don’t use it because it’s hard to be perfect and it delays the game. Meanwhile, an NHL style replay system would be extremely more efficient than the process of a manager arguing, an umpire refusing to over-turn the call or ask for an appeal, the umpire ejecting the manager, the manager continuing to argue, and then having to wait until the manager exits the game. I love this because that’s how it’s always been done, and why change anything? Especially if it’s the last play of a 19 inning game that would have normally gone down as an epic game filled with little girls screaming “Let’s Go Pirates” for multiple innings, drunk college kids stacking beer cups, and the best performance of Daniel McCutchen’s career. Who wants to remember all of that, when you can forever remember the name of an umpire you had never heard of before the game?

10. I love how Deadspin provides features of the umpires, like the one about tonight’s umpire, I love how ([Expletive] me. Accidentally copied something else). There are hundreds of sites to find out information about the players on the field, if that’s the sort of thing you’re interested in. I want to find out all of the top stats for the important people on the field: the umpires. I want to know their ejection rates, in what cities they are hated, and their biggest (alleged) blown calls.

The Pirates will hope to take the next two games against the Atlanta Braves, since apparently every win counts if you’re a contending team. I’m less interested in that, and more interested in knowing where…uh…tonight’s umpire will be working on the field the next two games. I guess you could hope for a great series between two winning teams, but that pales in comparison to a blown call at first and a few ejections to follow.

Links and Notes

**Save $8 On The Pirates Prospects Books With the MLB Draft Sale.

**Check out the latest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 6: The Battling Buccos, The Bullpen Usage, and The Pirates System. Tomorrow we will release the newest episode of the podcast, which will be a draft edition. It will feature an interview with Baseball America’s Jim Callis, who breaks down the potential options for the Pirates, including Reese McGuire, Hunter Renfroe, and D.J. Peterson. Also on the show, John Dreker and I will go over the site’s top 100 tiered draft rankings, which will also be released tomorrow.


**Third Mock Draft From Keith Law Has Pirates Picking McGuire.

**Baseball America’s Latest Mock Draft Has Pirates Taking Meadows.


**John Dreker saw West Virginia over the weekend and has a must-read report on all of the players he saw here: Prospect Notebook: Allie And Glasnow Top West Virginia Series Recap.

**Prospect Watch: Polanco Has a Three Hit Night; Hanson and Garcia Homer.

**Minor League Schedule: Taillon And Kingham On The Mound Tonight.

**Top Performers: Cunningham, Sanchez, Lambo, and Allie With Impressive Power.

**Top Performers: Gerrit Cole Is Finally the Top Weekly Performer.


**Pirates Playoff Odds: Hovering Above 50 Percent.

**Pirates Make Reid and Hughes Official, Option Presley, Irwin to 60-Day DL.

**Has Russell Martin been the Best Free Agent Signing?

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Lee Young

Btw, today’s comments show why umps and refs never discuss calls or games unless they absolutely have to do so.

We’re usually the lone dissenting voice, and it’s like going aginst a lynch mob out for blood. Our only hope is to run (to the locker room) and get out of town.

I learned that big time my first year. And this was after teener game. Freakin’ 10 yr olds and parents were going nuts. And I had made the absolute correct call.I look back and wonder how I stuck with it. It is a thankless job.

I was rated to make playoffs most years, but lemme tell you…I had some bad games…esp right after my GF at the time left me. lol

Umps are human? You’re kidding? 🙂


IC Bob

Lee I was at the game and their were so many problems with the home plate ump. 1st he acted like he was going to call a strike only not to almost a dozen times. Almost always on 0-2 pitches. Classic ‘I am not going to give you that pitch on 0-2’ (this also happened to Medlen as well). Both pitchers and catchers were barking and complaining. 2nd Justin Upton upset after a 3rd called strike stood in the box for a moment then turned and argued with the ump. After that he flipped his helmet in the air as well as his bat. He probably deserve to be sent to the showers and no one would have been surprised if he had been. I was OK that he wasn’t until the same ump suddenly couldn’t handle Martin being upset with the call against the pitcher while not even arguing with him or making any public spectacle. I still think the biggest issue is the quick jerk of the shoulders every time their was a close pitch and the slight movement of the arm (starting the look of a called strike). Nothing exudes less confidence then a indecisive call. What made this even tougher was Burnett knew he needed to go 7 with our short bullpen and he has to contend with a lousy ump who either through incompetence or just having a bad day squeezes the zone. I hope we don’t get this guy again and if we do lets hope its someone like Jammar on the hill that doesn’t need to strike out batters to be successful.

Lee Young

I watched it on TV and saw the strikezone and the k-zone and I saw that Martin was getting upset.

I told my wife that I bet he ends up being tossed.

The ump may have had a bad night, but is he incompetent or inept? Nope. No more than Marte after his 5 K night.

It happens.

You guys need to get over it. The ump DID NOT cost us that game.

As one of the guys on one blog put it: Unless we start hitting, they could put Mr Magoo back there for our pitchers and it wouldn’t help.



Maybe they are just kind of incompetent Lee ? After all,that guy at 2nd base missed the Walker out call to make up for the out call on Marte where he knew he blew that one. So what does that make that crew ? In need of a kick in the ass ? Or someone to hold them accountable ? Ha ! Don’t make me laugh,that ain’t going to happen in this lifetime !

Lee Young

Actually he got the call right on Marte. Did you see the AGH cam.

And, umps DO NOT make up for a supposed blown call. That’s right up there with the ‘tie goes to the runner’ myth.


Lee Young

Jon6er…I HIGHLY recommend that you sign up fpr umpiring school..

SERIOUSLY! It would be eye opening, I’m sure.

Btw, I notice no Pirate fan complaining about the missed call at 2nd base when walker was called safe.

Stupid inept 2nd base ump musta had it in for the Braves!!!

IC Bob

That was after he called Marte out when he was safe

Lee Young

The AGH cam showed he was out.

In fact, Walkie even noted it. Thought the ump blew it and he was wrong.




Very good Lee. I realize the umps can be divas, but without the arbiters of the game we wouldn’t have much of a game at all would we??

Lee Young


Umps and Refs are the only people expected to be perfect all the time.


These guys don’t get paid chump change and the ump was deliberately making calls to punish one team and that is not professional. I see the umpires get proven right everyday on slam bang plays by slo-mo replays. But when they start being vindictive while umping a game they have crossed a very big line. I have played and watched baseball for 40 years on a professional level have never seen an umpire blatantly make bad calls to show a player up. Most unprofessional job I’ve ever seen by an umpire. I will give him one break though. Hurdle should have had Searage out there in the third or fourth inning settling AJ down.

Lee Young

Oh give me a break…making calls to punish one team?
Why would he do that? Makes no sense at all.
Why was he vindictive? It wasn’t because of Martin and AJ pissing and moaning, because, he obviously was missing those calls BEFORE they started moaning. He HAD to have decided on being vindictive before the game started.

Maybe he just doesn’t like tattoos or the fact Martin left the Team USA Canadian team?

Fans need to get over the fact that Umps and Refs are out to get them. Guess what? All teams have umps and refs that are out to get them. SURELY you know that after watching games for 40 years.
Blue Foo


It was the 5th pitch on the inside corner that K-Zone recognized as a strike that Mr. lasagna called a ball. One was during McCanns AB in which he homered on a 3-2 fastball. Burnett was hot. And should have been.

Then he called two strikes in a row as balls during Medlens AB. F’ing Medlen!
Never seen a catcher get tossed like that……

Lee Young

As a former ump myself, it is amazing how Kris Medlen was having no problems with the same ump. The guy must’ve had it in for the Bucs.

‘Bleep me’ got Martin tossed, but I have a feeling that Martin had been whining behind the plate and at his AB where he got called out. The Bleep Me was merely the final straw.

Way too many ballplayers blame their bad games on umps. Ballplayers are divas, also.

Do umps make mistakes? Sure. Do ballplayers make mistakes? Sure.

I had a fan once who always complained at games (and not just mine). He was gonna show us how it was done and went to ump school. He made it less than a month on the field. We never heard him complain again.

Blue Foo


What? I always give umps their due because it is a tough job. But since you claim you were an ump then you should know a umpire can’t make himself bigger than the game which is what Iassogna did. He simply was covering his own ineptness by tossing Martin and his holding 3 or 4 fingers up to Burnett before that. I’m a huge Burnett fan and I think he was showing the ump up a little to much but if anyone should be frustrated for a lot of reasons it would be AJ. I’ll tell you this at the end of the day nobody knows better than AJ that he hurt himself with his emotions but he will be back and be better after that debacle. He totally let the ump get in his head but he has to be a little frustrated with his teammates also and I thought is was actually a good way for him to get it out.

Lee Young

How did the ump make himself bigger than the game? NO ump, worth his salt thinks he is inept, so I doubt he was ‘covering for his ineptness’.

Very few umps like tossing anyone, esp when you have to see the same players the very next night. Personally, I have NO doubt Martin deserved it.

When players get tossed, it seems to always be the umps fault.

I agree that AJ owns up to his mistakes. You can’t let an ump or ref get into your head. I also refereed basketball and my favorite was “call ’em both ways ref”.
“Oh, so you think i’m cheating for the other side? Can you spell technical, Mr Coach.” I wouldn’t call it, but refs think it.

And, remember…Medlen and McCann were not having a problem with the strike zone. Apparently, the ump was only inept when AJ was pitching and Martin was batting!


David Lewis

Go to Brooks Baseball and look up the strikezone map for yesterday’s game. There are eight pitches within one ball-diameter of the inside edge of the strike zone to left handed batters. Six thrown by Pittsburgh pitchers were called balls. Two thrown by Atlanta pitchers were called strikes. Easy to understand why Medlin and McCann didn’t have a problem with the strike zone.

Steve Zielinski

There’s data somewhere that shows the umps consistently jobbing the Pirates pitchers — namely, the Pirates pitchers have a smaller strike zone than their opponents have. Then there is CB Bucknor, who once blew a call in a Pirates-Yankees game and justified by saying something to the effect that “it’s only the Pirates.”

Lee Young

wow! you guys are right!

The umps are out to get us!!!

what hope do we have?


Lee,do you think that Martin was ” showing up ” Lassogna ? Hell no he wasn’t whatever he said,as long as nobody else heard it and it wasn’t personal,means he should have NEVER thrown Martin out like he did. If he didn’t have the guts to throw AJ out,like he really wanted to,he should have told Martin to shut up and left it at that. Case freakin’ closed. If the ML umpires heard half the stuff that is heard in the NHL and NFL,they would run home crying.

Lee Young

I’m sure that was the FIRST complaint Martin said to the ump.

Yep….and if you believe that, I have stock I want to sell you.




Tim: Iassogna is the biggest horses ass in the game. The pitcher fell back on both pitches and the umpire reacted that they were balls because the pitcher fell back. That said, Burnett was nowhere near in command last night. He threw a few good pitches that very well could have been called strikes, but was pitching from behind even without the umpire’s help. The same thing happened in the last start after the Pirates got him the lead he came out the very next inning and was in a totally different world with his pitches. It is like he loses his concentration – in that game just for one inning. Last night was a struggle for him after the ump got into his head, and the Pirate hitters because Medlen has great offspeed stuff and that almost always ties them in knots. I think it could have been different if Neil Walker was able to do something with men on 1st and 2nd with no outs right after the Braves had taken a 2-1 lead. An offspeed pitch leads to a popup to third on the first pitch thrown, and it was downhill from there.

Mike C.

what?!?! take out the human element?!?
you must be another souless basement dwelling stat geek!

when will MLB ever learn.
all mlb needs to do is invest a lil more money and training time but won’t ever happen as they think this wont help their profit margin.

Kevin Sweeney

Good for you Tim. Saying what needs to be said. Living in the era of Diva umps

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