Three improvements we’d like to see in our referees
Baseball rules are complicated. A lot can happen in a game. The role of the umpire is very important. They can call balls and strikes, outs and safeties, fair and foul, and sanction players for misbehavior. These are unique powers and duties that are necessary for fair baseball.
The most important role of an umpire is to call balls and strikes. In the Doosan Bears-Lotte Giants game in Busan on the 10th and the Hanwha Eagles-LG Twins game in Jamsil on the 20th, players and umpires got into an emotional fight over balls.
Based on my experience in many international games, the umpires in the KBO are not as good as those in Major League Baseball (MLB), but they are better than those in the minor leagues. Our umpires are much more accurate in calling half swings than in the past. They are more willing to call swings.
However, the left and right strike zones (S-zones) have become much wider in recent years due to the “speed-up” push. For a pitcher to improve, the left and right strike zones need to be narrower.
The S-zone also changes depending on the pitch count. I’ve seen balls in the same zone called balls in a 0-2 count and strikes in a 3-0 count. It’s a matter of judgment, both strict and lenient, depending on the situation. As a result, both pitchers and batters are often frustrated. The batter expresses his frustration to the umpire, and the pitcher sits on the mound and shakes his head. If Choo Shin-soo (SSG Landers), who has played in the MLB for a long time, were to see this, he would think, ‘That’s weird. It’s also important for umpires to make accurate calls to improve the quality of Korean baseball.
We also need to be stricter about the use of rosin bags. Our pitchers throw a lot of rosin during the game. Not only do they blow “hoo~” into their mouths after touching the rosin bag, but some players use so much rosin that the moment the ball leaves their hands, white rosin powder scatters into the air. According to the rules, only the fingers that throw the ball should be covered with rosin.
This habit has become so common that our pitchers have been warned about using rosin in international competitions. Our leagues should be just as vigilant. According to the KBO League Rules (Speeding Up the Game), “Pitchers must not use excessive rosin or apply rosin elsewhere (arms, hats, pants, etc.). If a pitcher does this, the first pitch will be a warning, and the second will be a ball.” The only person who can sanction this is the umpire. The umpire is the only one who can enforce this. Additionally, MLB has stepped up foreign body testing again this year, and we need to do the same.
The same goes for the pitching mound. Currently, all stadiums except for Kodak Dome use a double pitcher’s plate. We have another pitcher’s mound right in front of the pitcher’s mound. This is to prevent the pitchers from having trouble throwing in the dirt. Many amateurs have been throwing balls in this environment since they were young, so they are used to it. While the KBO doesn’t have a specific rule about this, according to the KBO, the MLB has done away with 안전놀이터 the double pitcher’s mound, and it’s a trend that’s also happening in Japan.
Some players have taken advantage of the double pitcher’s plate by throwing a little earlier. If the mound environment remains the same, the umpire is the only one who can sanction and caution.
If the S-zone, rosin bag, and double pitcher’s plate are only present in domestic leagues, they are also relevant to international competitiveness. Rules that are wrong or out of step with global trends should be eliminated. These are the small things that need to be changed to avoid embarrassment in international competitions. We also need umpires to make accurate calls and judgments.