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Why C.B. Bucknor is not a good umpire

October 9, 2009

Indians Athletics BaseballHow you know he’s a bad ump:

1. Umpires that are in consistent spats with coaches, players.

Both coaches and players, for the most part, understand the job is hard as hell while hoping they (the umpires) know it’s the height of competition, adrenalin and testosterone during a game. The REAL good ones — Ed Rapuano, Terry Tata and a few others — they know that and they ALWAYS give you a chance to calm down and back off. The Greg Gibsons of the world are LOOKING for ANY chance to confront players. I’ve always felt it had more to do with a small [man] mentality than anything. These guys HATE players — Gibby does anyway — and they make sure to let you know that ASAP in any way they can. They will LOOK to make an impact call to draw attention, never getting that no one is there to see them, ever.

(FWIW, I don’t think C.B. is that guy. I don’t think C.B. is trying to draw attention to himself, I just don’t think he’s a very good ump and in his tenure in the big leagues has not improved even a little.)

2. When both hitters and pitchers are bitching.

Look, I loved, LOVED big strike zones. I never game-planned for one, but I sure as hell loved balls being called strikes. When I got them, great. Hitters are the reverse. Where we never differed was in our desire for consistency.

Large or small zone, my ONLY ask was that Strike 1 be Strike 3. You have the human element, and everyone understands that, that’s why I always knew that umps like Joe West were NOT going to give me a makeup call, they made their mistakes and moved on. Some others you KNEW for a fact would make up a bad call as soon as they could, both ways.

The MLB umpiring system is the most flawed thing in the sport. There is very little oversight or demand for a major league level of performance. Their out has been QuesTec and its scoring system, which I think most know my thoughts on.

I have an immense amount of respect for Sandy Alderson, but I think he’s failed horribly at implementing a system to FORCE umpires to improve their performance in the major leagues.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. Bobby permalink
    October 9, 2009 12:25 pm

    Good article, but I don’t think Sandy Alderson has anything to do with the umpires anymore. Mike Port oversees them I believe and things have only gone downhill since Alderson left.

  2. Trevor permalink
    October 9, 2009 12:29 pm

    You didn’t really explain why he is a bad umpire. Your first example excluded him from the creating drama charge and your second example was about balls and strikes and lack of consistency…without mentioning him.

    As a pretty big Red Sox fan and casual baseball fan of the rest of the league, Bucknor is one of the few umpires that I’ve even remembered their name and that’s due to so many egregious calls over the years.

    I wish you’d have given us some specific insight as a player as to what makes him so bad. His wikipedia entry says he was born in Jamaica…any truth to the rumor I’m starting right now that he umpires high on marijuana?

  3. Jeff permalink
    October 9, 2009 12:31 pm

    Curt, your headline doesn’t really match up to your content. All that may be true, but you don’t explain why C.B. Bucknor is specifically a bad umpire. Yes, we saw him make some really bad calls. Yes, he was twice voted by the players as the worst umpire in the league. But even above, you say that Bucknor is NOT fit into the first criterium. Okay, so what makes C.B. consistently a bad umpire. Is it poor positioning? Is it laziness? Is it malice aforethought?

  4. Marc R permalink
    October 9, 2009 12:34 pm

    What are the ramifications for an umpire who blew so many calls as he did last night? The first one with Youk where he tagged the runner, I could understand because he was shielded (but why wouldn’t you get help from the home plate umpire?

  5. jack bianchi permalink
    October 9, 2009 12:45 pm

    Great points 38, Ill give you a fans perspective. To watch the same umpires blow calls consistantly over a long period of time is damaging to the integrity of the game.To miss 2 simple calls like those last night, calls into question his agenda.Is he taking bribes or is he exercising his personal issues with a certain team.Those are the only two answers that make any sense.The red sox have had many issues with him and west over the years ,why wouldn’t MLB take that into consideration when scheduling the playoff crews.Or does MLB not have any say in the matter.

  6. big o permalink
    October 9, 2009 12:47 pm

    i don’t think that you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do .

    i came here to read your thoughts on why c.b. bucknor is
    not a good umpire .
    while you may be correct in your assessment/opinion , you haven’t validated it , here .

  7. Rhayader permalink
    October 9, 2009 1:05 pm

    Those two plays Bucknor blew at first last night were a disgrace. Those weren’t close plays — there was no question what happened on either play, even at full-speed first look. I guess I just hope that one of his superiors called him on his BS afterward.

    As always Curt, it’s great getting your perspective on this stuff.

  8. Luke permalink
    October 9, 2009 2:13 pm

    Curt – As always, your in-game perspective is amazing. I write to say it is interesting that you name-dropped Terry Tata as one of the “good” umps – I met him several years back at a mutual friend’s funeral and he was a lone bright spot that day: I found him to be passionate and fascinating when it came to the art of umpiring. He “got” it (and got how lucky he was to be doing it for a living). Thanks for your input about the Sox-Angels crew, and CB in particular. Couldn’t agree more about Gibson: as a fan I can recall several instances where he seemed to “pick the fight.” Thanks again.

  9. victor permalink
    October 9, 2009 2:44 pm

    yea, you;re right Curt. John Lackey isn’t an ace! riiiiiiiiiight. in 2004 he wasn’t great against you guys, in 2007 he was pretty darn good, giving up 2 runs through 6 while his offense consistently let Lester off the ropes. Last night he was fantastic. And please don’t blame the umps for that because he got squeezed just as often as Lester did. In fact, i was thinking how we were again letting Lester off the hook one too many times last night…until that bomb from Torii.

    You know better about what it’s like to be in a clubhouse, but being at the game last night, i don’t know, Boston fans felt defeated when it was still 0-0. There wasn’t a single Red Sox chant the whole night. The Red Sox players looked flat and a little defeated. It felt different last night. In the years past there was always a sense that the Sox were going to get the home run or the blown call going their way. I’m sure with Bucknor behind the plate tonight he will have plenty of time to make up for his horrendous umping at 1st last night. Here’s to the Angels in 3!

    And props to you for being all over this umpiring crew. I cannot remember ever seeing so many blatantly blown calls in ONE game.

  10. Brian permalink
    October 9, 2009 2:57 pm

    How come I can’t find anything here about the horrible job Rick Reed did in Fenway last month? Oh, right, because he helped the Red Sox steal a win from the Angels.

  11. Bobby permalink
    October 9, 2009 5:35 pm

    Tonight should be very interesting with him behind the plate!

  12. STEVE FORNARA permalink
    October 9, 2009 6:33 pm


  13. Matt permalink
    October 9, 2009 8:49 pm

    Right on the money, Curt. This guy is atrocious and a menace.

    Enrico Pallazzo could call a better game than this clown.

    I’d like to propose the following word be added to the Webster’s dictionary:

    Bucknor (verb): To err badly. To completely and obscenely botch, bungle, blunder, blow, and do the complete opposite of what conventional wisdom dictates. Snafu. Fubar.

    Example usage:
    “My team was winning until the ump Bucknored the game”.

  14. M Spin permalink
    October 9, 2009 9:20 pm

    I know CB Bucknor personally from his days as a child life therapist in NYC at New York Hospital. He is an extraordinarily kind person. CB is passionate n whatever he is doing and even though I haven’t spoken to him in 10 years, I can tell you honestly, he is a person with absolutely no ego to feed. He just loves what he does whether it is working with sick children or with the babies in the major league.
    CB is one of the nicest persons I have ever met. In the 1990’s the children knew him as ‘Care Bear”. Everyone respected him at our institution. He has real passion.
    Good luck CB! You are loved! And I am a Red Sox fan!

  15. M Spin permalink
    October 9, 2009 9:30 pm

    I know CB Bucknor personally from his days as a child life therapist in NYC at New York Hospital. He is an extraordinarily kind person. CB is passionate in whatever he is doing. Even though I haven’t spoken to him in 10 years, I can tell you honestly, he is a person with absolutely no ego to feed. He just loves what he does whether it is working with sick children or with the babies in the major league.
    CB is one of the nicest persons I have ever met. In the 1990’s the children knew him as ‘Care Bear”. Everyone respected him at our institution. He has real passion.
    Good luck CB! You are loved! And I am a Red Sox fan!

  16. Big D permalink
    October 9, 2009 11:05 pm

    I find it interesting you reference Sandy Alderson with regards to the Umpires-he has not been in charge of them for 5 years. Oh by the way Terry Tata retired 10 yrs ago Curt-1999. Why not comment on what you thought of Jocko Conlan or Bill Klem’s zone…oh wait I think they retired a bit before your day.

  17. Travis Bickle permalink
    October 10, 2009 12:30 pm

    If you don`t think anything has improved as to the strike zone, just watch old video of Glavine and Maddux throwing balls a foot outside, but right to where thier catcher set up, AND getting those pitches called strikes. Or watch the game where Roberto Alomar spit on John Hirshbeck. I`m not saying he ever should have done that…but you`ll know why he was upset. It`s far from perfect but there is no doubt the width has been reduced. As for the foul line call in the Minn-NY game last night…That I will never understand.

  18. Elisha Hunt permalink
    October 10, 2009 2:41 pm

    How long has Terry Tata been retired? Nice reference.

  19. Johnny V permalink
    October 10, 2009 8:28 pm


  20. Mike Clarke permalink
    October 10, 2009 9:36 pm

    Was it you , on WEEI, (or was it another one of those arrogant know-it-alls on the station) who said that the Sox could simply “turn on the switch” when the playoffs started and that their end-of-season losses were meaningless? So … when are they going to turn on the switch? Or have they darkened the room so much by their end-of-season play that they can’t even find the switch?

  21. sawxnation permalink
    October 11, 2009 9:32 am


  22. JohnInMaine permalink
    October 11, 2009 6:26 pm

    I was watching GAME 2 of the ALDS with the Twins and Yankees and I was making self-comments about how terrible the umpires are in MLB these days.

    A ball called foul in an ALDS game with an umpire very close to the play and one could plainly see it STILL gets it wrong … well things need to be fixed.

    I remember one game this season where a Red Sox pitcher was given a warning for hitting someone with a curve ball that obviously slipped and in a point of a game where there were men in scoring position and a pitcher just wouldn’t be throwing at someone.

    I mean I am a 41 year old fan who watched baseball my whole life and I even know this so why do these umpires NOT know these things?

    Shouldn’t they know the game of baseball that they are officiating?

    I saw 2 terrible calls at the very least with the Red Sox and Angels series which did not hurt either team but the right calls should have been made.

    What happens in a game 7 and an umpire misses a fair ball when he is a few short feet away and a team loses?

    I am sure MLB will do what they always do ….NOTHING. You can tell that because the umpires who call the same 2 pitches in an at bat 1 strike and 1 ball taking the bat out of the hitter’s hands is just maddening as a fan.

  23. Austin Kelley permalink
    October 12, 2009 2:54 pm

    Dear Curt Shilling, I am a Wall Street Journal reporter trying to get in touch with you for a story about baseball psychology and the concept of “playing loose” or “tight”. Sorry to use the comments page, but if you get this and have a minute, please shoot me an email. Thanks, Austin Kelley

  24. October 12, 2009 3:28 pm

    Classic excuse. Just admit it. The Angels beat your beloved Sox fair and square. Papelbon blew it. The Angels play great. Enough with complaints about the umpires.

  25. j chase permalink
    October 12, 2009 7:28 pm

    Thanks for the great analysis from the inside. The officiating in the first two games of the Red Sox-Angels series was horrible! There is no excuse for that. I’m not making excuses for the Red Sox losses, they are what they are. What irks me is that we have two teams of athletes playing their hearts out, and we have bozos making crappy calls. Close calls can go either way, I understand that, but those calls were not even close.

  26. ump 85 permalink
    October 13, 2009 12:10 pm

    Ok so lets look at all the umpires and all the call that have been missed don’t try and single out CB Bucknor. Where are the comments about Phil Cuzzi. Was Bruce Fromming a good umpire when he couldn’t even run or even bend over or what about Hershbeck when his zone was so wide that he was spit on by players. So what do we have here. Lets look at all the calls since 1996 and see who has missed the most, then we can see who is the worst umpire. This is crazy to try and single out CB Bucknor. What about the supervisor’s who pick the umpire’s some of them weren’t that good and not there supervising umpires. Was Richie Garcia a good umpire when he kicked the call in New York?

  27. The Machine permalink
    October 22, 2009 11:40 pm

    CB Bucknor is the Roy Munson of Umpires…And by that I mean his alleged fixing a games is becoming and embarrassment…Someone needs to investigate this guys credit STAT…If ever there was a time for federal wire tapping…

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