Did he go? The answer is simple. “No he did not” OR “Yes he did.” Never was there such a simple answer for such a complicated situation.
For such a difficult call, we players don’t have much sympathy for the umpire in this situation. The call is usually followed by remarks like, “You’ve got to be kidding me” OR “That’s terrible” OR (some things I choose not to mention in this blog).
Judging if a batters swings or does not swing is more of an art than a science. It is probably one of the toughest calls an umpire has to make. There are equally tough calls like determining if a lefty balks when crossing the invisible 45 degree line or determining if a ball was trapped or caught in the air. The difference is that check swings occur much more frequently. When it comes to determining if a batter offers at a pitch, all sorts of ambiguity enters the equation.
How does an umpire make this call? I’ve heard: “It is a swing if the batter’s wrists break.” I’ve heard: “It is a swing if the bat crosses an invisible plane that extends across the front of home plate.” Do we really expect our umpires to see these things? There must be a better way.
I took it upon myself to settle this argument, and checked the official major league baseball rules out of my local public library. Surprisingly, there is no mention of a “check swing” anywhere in the official rules of baseball. Rule 2.0 states that “A STRIKE is a legal pitch when so called by the umpire, which is struck at by the batter and is missed.” That’s what our umpires are working with. Did the batter strike at the ball or did he not strike at the ball? It’s a judgment call. And, it’s an even tougher judgment call for umpires standing behind the mound.
So…the next time an umpire in your game remarks “No he did not” when you think he should have yelled “Yes he did,” maybe you should respond with “Tough one to see” or “Your guess is as good as mine.”