CB Bucknor proves that MLB umpires are essentially employed for life

Sporting News
Tuesday night wasn't just a bad day at the office for the veteran umpire. It was the worst bad day in a long string of bad days.

CB Bucknor proves that MLB umpires are essentially employed for life

Tuesday night wasn't just a bad day at the office for the veteran umpire. It was the worst bad day in a long string of bad days.

A lifetime job appointment is a great thing if you can get it. Unfortunately,it's really hard to get:It's really just reserved for Supreme Court justices and MLB umpires.

What? You didn't know MLB umps get lifetime appointments? Well, they don't, actually. But it seems the most logical interpretation of our present realityafter CB Bucknor's ridiculously bad showingover the past two decades Tuesday night in Atlanta.

Or, at the least, it presents another interpretation of our present reality: We've apparently still not seen a level of consistent incompetence necessary for an MLB umpire to lose his job. And, in light of Bucknor's latest poor showing, that's quite astounding.

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Bucknor was at his career worst at SunTrust Park as the Nationals beat the Braves. Media members who witnessed the debacle used the words"embarrassing," "travesty" and "rock bottom" to describe it. Lest someone appeal to cut Bucknor some slack, know this: Itwasn't just a bad day at the office.It was the worstbad day in a long string of bad days.

“This is my like my 14th year in the big leagues,” the Nats' JaysonWerth said after the game, which had two endings(!)thanks to Bucknor'ssevere misjudgmenton a swinging third strike. “You see a lot of things, but when it’s consistently not with the standards of the league, I think something needs to be done. I just can’t believe that every time it’s bottom of the barrel. Every time.”

Yes, the derision and disbelief over Bucknor's performance was universal.And yet, it was nothing new — because, again, everyone knows CB Bucknor is bad at his job. He's not the only umpire who's bad at his job, but his continued employment is perhaps the most glaring example that fuels the perception that MLB cares little about umpire accountability.

Umpires get a lot of leeway on judgment calls, and all of Bucknor's screwups Tuesday night fall into that category. So it's doubtful he'll face any fine or suspension, and almost certainly not the loss of his job. Even so, umpire discipline is rarelymade public. But an extreme showing of incompetence like what Bucknor displayed Tuesday is a good reason that needs to change.

Just as we usually know when players are benched or demoted for poor performance, we should know the same aboutumpires. Suspensions or demotions should be announced publicly, called for what they are (not vacations or retirements). We don't know what kind of reprimands Bucknor may have received since he entered the league in 1996, butit's hard to imagine his official performance reviews have ever been glowing.

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That's a pointthat can't be overstated:Bucknor's badness is nota recent development.We've known about it for a long time. It's notsomething talked about in hushed tones behind closed doors. No, it's universal knowledge within baseball circles.It has spoken publiclymany, many times every season.YetBucknor still takes the field to make important calls in the highest level of baseball the world has to offer.

And frustration is always expected.

"You've gottajust bear with what's gonna happen tonight behind the plate," Braves announcer Joe Simpson prophetically said Tuesday night, just four pitches into the gameafter Bucknor missed a strike right down the middle.

Yes, everyone knows what they're getting when Bucknor calls a game. MLB officials have to know, too.The question is whether they care.

But it seems clear that we already have thatanswer.

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