Asking "why?" can be a useful strategy
when talking to umpires.
(Photo by Rose Palmisano/Orange Co.Register)
I always saw it as fairly pointless to just go out screaming about how bad the call was. If a coach just goes out and vents, all the umpire has to do is just stand there and listen. He doesn’t have to say a word. He just waits for the coach to be finished or if the coach goes too far, he just tosses him from the game. Usually my first sentence to an umpire on a play is going to include the word “why.”
- Why is my runner out?
- Why is that interference?
- Why is the runner safe on that play?
- Why is that an illegal slide?
When you start with a question to an umpire, you then get a chance to sit back and listen to him explain why the call was made. In a way, you are basically handing him a noose and stepping back to see if he puts it on. Some will, because in the heat of the potential confrontation, an umpire may explain the rule incorrectly. For example, an umpire may say “Coach, it isn’t interference on the batter because he didn’t intentionally lean over the plate after the swing. He just fell.” If he says this, now you have him because he just explained the rule incorrectly – (FYI: it doesn’t matter if it’s intentional or not). When you get the umpire to do the talking, you also get the chance to hear how sure of himself he is. His tone and/or body language may imply that he is not too sure of the call. If that's the case, I may press him to ask for some help on the call. If I just went out and started screaming about how terrible the call was, I never gave him the opportunity to hang himself or at least hear his uncertainty. Of course, on the other hand, if the umpire explains the rule and the play correctly and confidently, you have to be willing to just go back to the dugout. It then just becomes a judgment call and you don’t have much of an argument at that point. Either way, at least you forced the umpire to not only know the rule and what happened during the play but properly explain it to you under pressure. Not always an easy task.