MLB changes umpire supervisors
After a tumultuous postseason for umpires, Major League Baseball has shaken up the roster of supervisors entrusted with evaluating umpire performance.
Veteran umpires Randy Marsh and Charlie Reliford have retired and taken jobs as supervisors, and former supervisors Marty Springstead, Jim McKean and Rich Garcia were not retained, MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred confirmed to ESPN.com on Saturday.
Manfred, who oversees labor relations and human resources for MLB, said baseball is "always looking to make sure we have the best group of supervisors available." He cited three reasons for the changes.
"Because of early retirement, there were some quality people like Randy Marsh who became available to us," Manfred said. "When things go less than perfectly -- as they did in the postseason -- you're going to think about making changes. And part of it is just the natural turnover in an organization. It's no more complicated than that."
MLB umpires landed in the middle of several controversies because of missed calls in October. One of the most egregious came in the Division Series, when Phil Cuzzi ruled that a drive to left field by Twins catcher Joe Mauer was foul when the ball clearly landed in fair territory.
In Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, umpire Tim McClelland mistakenly ruled that Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher left too soon on a sacrifice fly. McClelland also missed a double play when Angels catcher Mike Napoli tagged out New York baserunners Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano at third base.
Umpire C.B. Bucknor came under criticism for some missed calls at first base during the Division Series between the Red Sox and Angels, and Phillies second baseman Chase Utley was credited with an infield hit against Colorado even though the ball struck his leg in the batter's box.
The October misplays led to calls for expanded use of instant replay. At their annual meetings in November, baseball's general managers declined to vote on expanded use of replay. But commissioner Bud Selig has encouraged his new 14-member committee of managers and baseball executives to discuss the topic and report back to him.
"I've encouraged this group to be very blunt, talk about anything they want," Selig said in January.
The World Umpires Association reached agreement with baseball on a new five-year labor agreement in January, and the deal reportedly gave Selig greater flexibility to dictate expanded use of replay.
Springstead had been an umpiring supervisor since 2000, while Garcia and McKean went to work for MLB in 2002.
Marsh, 60, had been a major league umpire since 1981 and appeared in five World Series. Reliford, 53, was an MLB umpire since 1989.
In September 2008, Reliford was crew chief at the first major league game where instant replay was used to settle a disputed home run call. Third base umpire Brian Runge ruled that an Alex Rodriguez fly ball over the left field foul pole was a home run. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon contested the homer, but a replay review determined that Runge had made the correct call.
Senior writer Jerry Crasnick covers Major League Baseball for ESPN.com.