Umpires get criticized everytime they miss a call and a few times when they don't miss one. And then when one sneaks a peak at a television monitor to make sure the right call is made he gets criticized for that, too.
Regardless of whether Frank Pulli was right to watch a replay of a hit by the Marlins' Clifford Floyd on Memorial Day, he got the call right. No matter how he did it, he got it right. Isn't that what umpires are supposed to do?
"I see nothing wrong with that," former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I wish to hell they'd had it in the 1985 World Series."
Herzog was referring to Don Denkinger's missed call in Game 6 that helped the Royals, who won not only that game but Game 7 as well.
"I think what Pulli did was a helluva move," Herzog said.
On the play, second-base umpire Greg Gibson ruled that Floyd had doubled off the scoreboard. Pulli overruled him, thinking the ball had cleared the scoreboard and should have been called a home run. To be sure, though, Pulli watched replays on a monitor near the third-base dugout. He then changed his call. Floyd went back to second base.
Herzog is not advocating an NFL-style replay system, adding: "I don't think they should make a farce out of it. But every once in a while, a call is blown by an umpire. They're only human, damn it. But get it right."
Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa praised Pulli, saying: "A lot of people should look at the intestinal fortitude that Frank Pulli had by doing that. I don't know how many other umpires would do it. Here's a guy with 28 years' service trying to do something that's right for the game and now he gets slapped [by National League President Leonard Coleman]. That's what bothers me about the game of baseball."
Coleman has instructed umpires not to use instant replay again. In a statement released a day after the incident, Coleman said: "Part of the beauty of baseball is that it is imperfect."
When Southern California newspapers reported that the Angels were about to extend Manager Terry Collins's contract, an unspecified number of players went to General Manager Bill Bavasi with complaints about Collins. "There are players who have issues with our field management style," Bavasi told the Los Angeles Times. "And it appears we have two groups. One group is disturbed by the management style, and one group is disgusted and dismayed that there is a group disturbed by his style."
Collins held a team meeting on Wednesday after hearing about the problem. "Basically, what I told them was my ego is not big enough that I can't listen," Collins said. "I'm not too proud to listen. I'm not a genius. I don't have all the answers. If something needs to be changed, we'll address it and change it. As I've said before, I'm a hard worker, not a miracle worker."
Ben's Bean Ball
The Cubs probably made the riskiest draft pick of all this week by using the 26th pick of the first round on Wichita State right-handed pitcher Ben Christensen. He was suspended for firing a warmup pitch at an opponent, who was standing near home plate. Evansville's Anthony Molina was struck in the left eye and still has blurred vision.
"Ben is an outstanding young man," Cubs General Manager Ed Lynch said. "Obviously, he's been through a lot in the last couple of months. I know he regrets the whole thing happened."
Christensen went 21-1 during three seasons at Wichita State. His fastball has been clocked at around 94 mph, and scouts believe he can be in the big leagues within a year. First, he'll have to show he can deal with the scrutiny that will follow him for many years.
"I feel bad about the whole incident," he told reporters after being drafted. "I haven't really been able to tell my side of the story yet because of the pending lawsuit. So it's kind of been one-sided in a lot of the stories that have been written and televised. It's been kind of tough on me that way. But baseball-wise, I feel bad that it happened, but it's not going to affect me playing ball."
The Cardinals took the son of pitching coach Dave Duncan with the compensation pick -- 46th overall -- for losing free agent second baseman Delino DeShields to the Orioles. Chris Duncan is a 6-foot-6, left-hand-hitting high school first baseman. "It's kind of neat," said the proud father. "To be drafted as high as he was drafted, it's a credit to him. But, actually, I was surprised that St. Louis picked him. Baltimore was really interested in him and San Diego had a lot of interest and both those clubs had a number of picks. I thought one of those two clubs would get to him first."
Peaceful, Easy Feeling
John Smoltz came off the disabled list Tuesday and promptly threw six shutout innings against Colorado. He also doubled and drove in a run, got the victory and said his right elbow -- the one that forced him onto the disabled list -- felt fine. The Braves are prepared to put him on the disabled list whenever his elbow flares up, and Smoltz has attempted to relieve stress on the joint by not throwing the split-finger fastball that had been so effective the last few years.
Meanwhile, the Braves got another terrific performance from rookie left-hander Odalis Perez, who retired the first 20 batters and allowed two runs in seven innings in a loss to the Rockies.
"His stuff is excellent," Greg Maddux said. "He's starting to get a feel for the pitching. It's not surprising. His stuff's that good."
Clothes Make the Man
Dodgers left fielder Gary Sheffield allowed two balls to fall in front of him during a game on Three Rivers Stadium's artificial turf this past week, helping ignite an eighth-inning rally for the Pirates. His explanation? He wasn't properly attired. "When you play with no sleeves, you can get rug burns," he said. "I've never dived on it in the outfield. I never did. You don't want to risk injury." . . .
Brewers Manager Phil Garner has started to fine players for things such as missing signs, overthrowing cutoff men and not getting bunts down. The fines are small -- around $25 -- but Garner hopes the message sticks. "My intent here is not to send anybody to the poor house or take away any kid's college savings funds," he said. "But I've got some guys that are pretty tight with a nickel. It's just there are certain things that need to be executed. We've continued to make the same mistakes over and over, and I don't want to see that." . . .
Pirates Manager Gene Lamont was back at Comiskey Park on Friday for the first time since the White Sox fired him as manager almost four years ago to the day. "I got over the firing a long time ago," he said. "I don't think about it any more. A lot of time has passed. I have a job managing the Pittsburgh Pirates and I'm very happy with what I'm doing now." First baseman Frank Thomas, second baseman Ray Durham, pitcher James Baldwin and outfielder Darrin Jackson are the only White Sox players left from his tenure. . . .
Angry that he didn't win the Cy Young Award last season, Padres reliever Trevor Hoffman has been dressing down reporters who left him off their ballots. And now, he already has blown three saves -- two more than he blew all last season. Scouts say he has lost some velocity, but otherwise can't explain why he is struggling. "There's nothing wrong with me physically," Hoffman said. "There's no one thing you can put your finger on."
BY THE NUMBERS
Cleveland's Manny Ramirez, right, is on a pace to drive in 203 runs, which would shatter Hack Wilson's major league record of 190 RBI in 1930.
Dodgers catcher Todd Hundley entered the weekend having thrown out 5 of 46 runners. Those numbers are going to get worse as word of this spreads among scouts.
Atlanta's John Smoltz needs one more strikeout to become the 52nd pitcher to reach 2,000.
Arizona's Steve Finley hit .530 with five doubles, four homers and 15 RBI on the Diamondbacks' recent six-game road trip. He raised his batting average from .246 to .284.
Arizona's Jay Bell and Matt Williams became the first teammates to hit 15 home runs in the first 50 games of a season since Hank Aaron and Rico Carty did it for the Atlanta Braves in 1970.
Baylor University seems to have a lock on the 16th pick of baseball's amateur draft. The White Sox used the 16th pick of the 1998 draft on Baylor pitcher Kip Wells. The Rockies used the 16th pick this year to take another Bears pitcher, Jayson Jennings.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Matchups to Watch
Mariners at Rockies
Monday through Wednesday
TV: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
If you like offense, these are the games to watch. Seattle entered the weekend with 107 home runs -- 26 more than National League-leading Arizona, 36 more than the American League's second-best team, Cleveland. Colorado has a 5.41 team earned run average, but that's better than Seattle, which has a whopping 6.24 team ERA.
Rangers at Dodgers
Monday through Wednesday
TV: Wednesday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
The all-former Baltimore Orioles managerial and front office matchup. Texas has Johnny Oates in the dugout and Doug Melvin in the general manager's office. Los Angeles has Davey Johnson in the dugout and Kevin Malone as the GM. And don't forget those former Orioles on the field: Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McLemore, Todd Zeile and Gregg Zaun for the Rangers and Kevin Brown and Alan Mills for the Dodgers. Or on the coaching staffs: Texas's Dick Bosman, Los Angeles's Rick Dempsey, Rick Down and John Shelby.
Cardinals at Royals
The I-80 Series resumes.
Indians at Reds
Ohio's teams square off.
White Sox at Cubs
TV: Friday, 3 p.m., WGN
The South Siders come north.
CAPTION: NL umpire Frank Pulli went to the videotape last week in a game between the Marlins and Cardinals.
CAPTION: After meeting Sammy Sosa and the Cubs this weekend, Manny Ramirez and the Indians travel to Cincinnati for another weekend series.