Major League Baseball and the umpires union took one step closer to approving expanded instant replay by bulking up the umpiring corps. In addition to naming a director of instant replay, the league hired seven new umpires.
To be more accurate, they're new to full-time work in the big leagues, but we know most of them from their fill-in work over the past few seasons. There are a few we know better than everybody would like due to run-ins with the White Sox.
There's no way we can really determine the quality of these umpires from such minimal exposure, but we can get a head start on forming rash theories about their abilities and prejudices by reviewing the lowlights. After all, today is a day for honoring the human element. Plus it's fun to say "beef."
Listing them (not that kind of "listing") in order from least intriguing beef(s) to most intriguing beef(s):
Details: "Worked last season in the International League and has been on the job as a pro since 2001. He had his first Major League game on Aug. 13, 2010, and he has been on the field for 165 Major League games overall."
Sample gamethread comment: "David Rackley, whoever that is." -- mechanical turk
Details: "Began his umpiring career the same year as Estabrook and worked in the Pacific Coast League last season. He made his Major League debut on April 24, 2006, and he has worked 569 Major League games."
Notable beefs: During that hugely important White Sox-Tigers game at U.S. Cellular Field on Sept. 17, 2012, Muchlinski gave the Tigers an extra out on a blown call at first, which preceded the Tigers scoring the game-tying run. The Sox went on to win, so it didn't loom large.
He cancels it out somewhat with this Milton Bradley moment after a Matt Thornton strikeout. An ejection alone isn't noteworthy, because booting Bradley is one of the easiest badges for an ump to earn (well, at least before Bradley went to jail). It looks like your routine borderline strike three from the video:
But then you look at the other two strikes called, and Bradley had a point. Muchlinski had one wide plate:
Sample gamethread comment: "muchlinski is not covering himself in glory tonight." -- BuehrleMan
Details: "Is the veteran among the new umps. He began his career in 1999. Last year, he was on the staff of the Triple-A International League. Estabrook's first Major League game was on May 7, 2006, and he has been assigned to 698 Major League games."
Notable beef: Contributed to Thornton Luck on June 24, 2011, when he erroneously ruled Brian Bixler safe at first on an "infield single" in the 14th inning. The Nationals went on to score four runs before Thornton could get a fourth out, and the White Sox lost 9-5.
It's worth noting that Hawk Harrelson couldn't even get his dander up about it too much. Perhaps it was because they needed three replays to really see it, or maybe it was because the game was nearing five hours at that point.
Sample gamethread comment: "estabrook already on my list." -- BuehrleMan
Details: "Instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw that this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible. She was incurably dishonest. She wasn't able to endure being at a disadvantage and, given this unwillingness, I suppose she had begun dealing in subterfuges when she was very young in order to keep that cool, insolent smile turned to the world and yet satisfy the demands of her hard, jaunty body."
Notable beefs: When not behind the plate, he throws a piece of chewed gum into the outfield before the start of every half-inning, which is gross.
Baker also missed an out at the plate on May 14, 2013, in a game against the Twins. He called Justin Morneau safe on a ball that beat him to the plate because he thought Tyler Flowers missed the swipe tag.
Sample gamethread comment: Baker has not been mentioned by name in any gamethread.
Details: "Has been an umpire in the Minor Leagues since the 2002 season. In '13, he worked in the Pacific Coast League. Blaser made his Major League debut on April 24, 2010, and he has worked 346 Major League games."
Notable beef: Now it's starting to get good. With the White Sox trailing Baltimore 6-4 in the ninth inning on May 1, 2011, Alex Rios should have drawn a bases-loading walk. Instead, he had to settle for an incredulous ejection.
And if you wanted to see how it looked to Brooks:
Sample gamethread comment: "major BS call on a check swing again by cory blaser. one for each team." -- BuehrleMan
Details: "Becomes the youngest full-time MLB ump. He started his pro career in 2003, and last year he worked in the Pacific Coast League. Barrett debuted in the Majors on Oct. 1, 2010, and he has worked 237 big league games."
Notable beef: Barrett started a game against Seattle on Aug. 25, 2012 with a lopsided strike zone, and A.J. Pierzynski commented on it after catching another Jose Quintana pitch that didn't go his way. Barrett immediately ejected Pierzynski, and that set off a firestorm. You don't have to read lips with this one either, because you can hear Pierzynski telling him, "You're f---ing brutal!" Later, as Jim Joyce is trying to bump Ventura away from the young umpire, Ventura yells over him, "You know you missed the call, and you can't take it!"
Sample gamethread comment: "I can only conclude Lance Barrett's been comprimised by the Fellas." -- 3E8
Details: "Has umpired in the Minors since 2000, and he worked last year in the Pacific Coast League. He has worked 440 Major League games since his debut on June 10, 2008."
Notable beefs: He's responsible for the first true explosion of Robin Ventura's managerial career, which he recorded on the last day of the first half in 2012. Reyburn's lopsided strike zone frustrated the Sox all day, and Ventura reached the boiling point in the ninth inning, after Hector Santiago failed to get the kind of inside strike call that victimized Adam Dunn the inning before.
He also blew two calls at first base in one game in a White Sox victory over the Royals on Aug. 22, 2013. The second was a clear miss, and it cost the Sox a leadoff runner in the 10th inning. Alejandro De Aza was dismayed.
Instead of abject anger, Ventura resorted to a blend of contempt, resignation and condescension. You don't have to read lips, because his shoulders and neck do all the talking.
While we're prodding at small sample sizes for goofs and grins here, Reyburn strikes me as the kind of ump who could lead the league in Ventura PowerShrugs and derisive gamethread comments for years to come. Speaking of which...
Sample gamethread comment: "I was not surprised to find out D.J. Reyburn was the umpire that Papelbon tore apart in the media last month. He truly is awful. Are all AAA umpires like this? There’s no way." -- mikecws91