The right call on Winters 

September, 26, 2007
The consensus among baseball insiders with whom I spoke earlier this week mirrored my own forecast for MLB's reaction to the Mike Winters/Milton Bradley incident: There would be no action taken against Winters at all.

I was wrong, and I couldn't be more thrilled about it.

In this specific instance, it was hard to interpret the visual evidence in any way that exonerated Winters. He said something to Bradley that was bad enough for first-base coach Bobby Meacham to start moving toward him, only to change direction when he realized Bradley was also moving toward Winters. MLB concluded that he swore at Bradley -- if you can read lips, you can tell what he said from the Padres' broadcast -- and since he previously had another altercation with an African-American ballplayer [the Giants' Charlie Hayes in 1998], it was important that MLB take decisive action. Winters was scheduled to work the Padres' series this weekend against Milwaukee, which may have an impact on two pennant races, so the suspension has real teeth. It's not clear whether Winters' suspension extends into the postseason as well, but it should, especially since the Padres are still in a position to reach it.

But more importantly, this is the first evidence we've seen that MLB recognizes there is a problem with its umpiring. The sight of an umpire baiting a player, or even one following a player to prolong an argument, has become all too commonplace. Meanwhile, you still see wildly inconsistent and often retributive strike zones, and umpires completely out of position to make safe/out calls. The quality of umpiring this year has been down, and there is a lack of accountability in the system -- bad umpires are not fired, not punished, and are often still selected to work the postseason. I'm hopeful this is just the start of an attempt to retake the game from the renegades among the men charged with adjudicating it.