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Technology Making Umpires Camera-Shy

October 11, 1998|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

The quality of umpiring has been a hot topic in the playoffs--so hot that it got Yankee owner George Steinbrenner a $25,000 fine from the league American League office for criticizing game officials.

With so many slow-motion television replays shown from so many angles, it's only natural more calls are being questioned, and Marty Springstead, executive director of umpires for the league, wonders how human eyes can keep up with the eyes of multiple cameras.

"With technology, everything is being dissected 55 different ways," Springstead said. "The technology we're up against is almost suicidal. If we get a call right, great, but if we miss it, we'll see it over and over for the next 25 years."

Asked how umpiring could be improved, Springstead said one step would be to reinstate full funding for a program to train and develop minor league umpires--it was cut dramatically earlier this year--and to upgrade pay for minor league umpires.

The top triple-A salary for umpires, according to Springstead, is $3,200 a month for five months a year, and with such little turnover among the league's 32 major league umps, there is little room for advancement. Big league umpires make between $75,000 and $220,000.

"It's an insane profession," Springstead said.

On that, he and Steinbrenner would agree.


Yankee Manager Joe Torre, hoping to spark his sagging offense, juggled his lineup Saturday, moving first baseman Tino Martinez from the fifth to sixth spot, DH Chili Davis from sixth to fifth, and replacing slumping left fielder Shane Spencer with Chad Curtis.

But Torre said he never considered benching Martinez, who entered Saturday with three hits and no RBIs in 24 playoff at-bats for a .125 average.

"He got us here, he led our team in RBIs for three years, it wouldn't be right to sit him down in the postseason," Torre said. "He's going to have to hit his way out of his slump in the lineup."

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