Former MLB player Will Middlebrooks recently spoke about the ongoing issue with umpires. He was frustrated in some aspects, citing an overall lack of accountability and incentive to get better. But he also pointed out that “it a very hard job” and asked a great question, “why does everyone else in the world have access to see whether it’s a ball or a strike except for the one guy that needs to know?” One could even argue that question is a defense of umpires. Veteran umpire Laz Díaz did not take it that way.
Díaz commented. And while Middlebrooks never mentioned anything about umpires hindering his own career, that’s the road Díaz took in his response.
— WAKE and RAKE Podcast (@WAKEandRAKEpod) June 29, 2022
MLB fans were quick to criticize Díaz for his defensive and off base reaction.
This is exactly what we’ve been screaming about for years. Stop making it about you! Just do your job correctly. https://t.co/twBsJSrxGi
— Banjo Frog (@joesghost99) June 29, 2022
Bring on the robots. Umps don’t deserve to have jobs https://t.co/26ZkK5y62V
— Luvberger (@ShitSteve0Says) June 29, 2022
— Tyler Sullivan (@SubaruTyler) June 29, 2022
Laz Diaz has 0 class https://t.co/xvTJtXNDXm
— Seattle Sports Diaries Podcast (@SEASportDiaries) June 29, 2022
MLB umpires attacking members of the media for calling them out for having zero accountability for being bad at their jobs. The ump show rolls on https://t.co/CzQ5fzuIWH
— Zach Coe (@Coe_Zach) June 29, 2022
Will Middlebrooks made it to the biggest stage of his profession and put up a 122 wRC+ and 2.0 fWAR in his rookie season.
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) June 29, 2022
But perhaps the greatest argument came from another former player, Trevor Plouffe. He pointed out that while Díaz was trying to defend umpires, he actually made Middlebrooks’ point.
Laz Diaz points out the biggest flaw in MLB umpiring and he didn’t mean to. Players are held responsible for their careers, regardless of injury or just playing poorly. If you don’t perform, you’re gone. Umpires aren’t held to that standard and it’s been showing a lot recently. https://t.co/k7GfFyBWql
— Coach Trev (@trevorplouffe) June 29, 2022
That’s hard to argue with.
The most you can say about Middlebrooks is that his career might have been extended for an extra year or two because of the hype he had coming in. But overall, Middlebrooks did have a disappointing MLB career — which ended before he turned 30.
Díaz has been an umpire since 1995, has umpired three World Series, four League Championship Series, seven Division Series, two Wild Card Games and two All-Star Games. Ángel Hernández, meanwhile, has been an umpire since 1991. He’s umpired two World Series, eight League Championship Series, 12 Division Series and three All-Star Games, despite consistently ranking as one of MLB’s worst umpires for more than 20 years.
As Middlebrooks and Plouffe both noted, bad players do not last long in the majors. Bad umpires are held to no such standard. Until that changes, the frustration will only mount, regardless of how defensive an umpire might be.