I was watching some preseason NFL football tonight before begrudgingly switching over to the Cubs-Reds game. In case you haven’t been paying much attention to NFL news, the labor agreement with referees ended and replacements are currently doing preseason games. The NFL has come out and said they will hope to have the “pros” out there soon enough.

There was a brutal call in the Bills-Redskins game where the referees called a touch back, when the ball was downed at the three yard line. My twitter page was blowing up about the boneheaded call and it got me thinking, what would the reaction be if the umpires went in strike causing a need for replacements?

The only time in recent memory that a quasi work stoppage happened was during the 1999 season. Eventually things were smoothed out and the umpires created a new union to protect themselves in the future.  Now I realize that this couldn’t happen anytime soon because a labor agreement was signed in 2010 through the 2014 season, but let’s play pretend here for a few minutes.

Would the Showmanship Die?

I remember a few years ago listening to Mike and Mike in the Morning on my way into work and they were discussing the role of umpires in the overall entertainment value at a baseball game. Greenie said that the saying “We don’t pay to see the umpires/referees,” doesn’t always apply in baseball because ejections get people back into a game if they’ve dozed off before the seventh inning stretch. Golic disagreed emphatically stating that umpire blowups take away from the game.

I don’t have much of an opinion in this regard, especially in baseball. Ideally when I pay oodles of cash to see a live baseball game, I would rather see a well played game without any interruptions from the guys in blue. However the occasional umpire-induced manager explosion can add a different angle to a game that other sports really don’t have.

There is a love-hate relationship between umpires and teams that can’t be described in simple terms.

I’m not sure if much would change with replacement umpires, but perhaps it could. Odds are that MLB would pick hand-selected individuals from the minor league ranks, since like the players they are officiating, those guys are auditioning for The Show as well. Minor league umpires and managers have had their fair share of YouTube classics. Like this one. (Sidenote: I really need to get to a Mississippi Braves game now that I’m down here)

Would Call Quality Get Worse?

I believe that MLB umpiring has gotten better over the last few years and is trending upward with the assistance of replay. Whether or not replay expands to play a larger role in umpiring responsibilities remains to be seen, but overall they have done a good job of becoming accountable for their mistakes i.e. see Jim Joyce.

Some guys do believe in wild  Joe west justice when it comes to close calls and retaliation to players they don’t necessary like. This is something that I believe would end for awhile because of the lack of familiarity with the players and less ideas of entitlement.

From a balls and strikes perspective there would likely be growing pains, the same ones the replacement NFL referees are going through on the more subjective penalties. The players are already used to shrinking and growing strike zones from night to night already, so maybe there would be less transition than initially thought.

What say you about the idea of replacements? Would it work?

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