Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
I’ve written on this topic in fastpitch softball before, but with what’s been happening in both the MLB playoffs, college football and the NFL the last few weeks it bears repeating.
How many times have you seen a game come down to the last play only to watch the official blow the call? In softball it could be an obvious ball being called a strike, or not seeing a foot come off the bag early on a force play, or a runner being called out when the catcher obviously misses the tag.
Whatever the play, inevitably there is all sorts of consternation, wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth by the losing side. Coaches, parents and sometimes even players whine and scream that they were “jobbed” by the umpire, or that the umpire cost them the game.
While it’s convenient to think so, and it certainly helps deflect blame, the truth is unless that play is the ONLY play of the game, it’s never one play that costs you the game.
Last time I looked a regulation game runs seven innings. But even if you’re playing in a time-shortened game you’re probably going to get at least four innings of play in. That’s 12 outs for each side, 24 total. What the heck was your team doing for those other 11 outs?
Teams that lose on an umpire’s call seem to forgot about all the baserunners they left on base. They forget about the walks their pitcher (often one of the coach’s daughters) issued, or the errors they made in the field.
They conveniently forget about the slow runner the third base coach waved around only to get her thrown out by 15 feet — a play anyone in the stands could’ve called accurately. They forget about the easy ground ball that was bobbled that opened up a big inning for the opponent. They forget about the called third strikes, or the swinging strike on what would’ve been ball four.
The point is it’s never one thing. Sure, that blown call is the most obvious factor. But the team should’ve never put itself into a position where an umpire’s blown call decides the game.
Think again about that tag play at home, where the runner is called safe instead of out. If the team in the field had an eight run lead, no one would’ve thought twice about the blown call. They would’ve shrugged it off and told the team to get the next out and win the game. But because the team hadn’t managed to get that lead, that final play became of paramount importance.
Fastpitch youth coaches (not to mention a whole bunch of others) could take a cue from Mike McCarthy, head coach of the Green Bay Packers. (As a lifelong Bears fan it sits like dust on my tongue to give props to anyone with the Packers, but McCarthy absolutely deserves it.)
In the last game with the replacement officials, a blown call in the end zone cost his team the game. Unlike most of us here, coaching is McCarthy’s profession, and his won-lost record is extremely important to his making a living. He could’ve made a huge case out of it, and still be making it because it was clearly a bad call.
Instead, once he got over the shock, his take was his team should’ve never been in that position. Had they played better against the Seahawks that play wouldn’t have mattered.
If a professional making millions of dollars for coaching can adopt that attitude, so can the rest of us. Yes, it’s tempting to blame the men and women in blue for our losses, but it’s still only one play. Set a goal of not leaving the game in the umpire’s hands and you’ll not only win more games, you’ll be happier coaching overall.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.