With Opening Day coming up next week, time is running short for people involved with the pandemic-shortened 2020 MLB season to decide whether they’re in or out (though they can continue to opt out at any point throughout the season — it’s just a matter of deciding whether they want to take the risk initially). A not-so-small group of MLB umpires has decided to sit out the season as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across America, and others could soon follow.
BostonSportsJournal.com’s Sean McAdam reported Thursday that Scott Barry, Fieldin Culbreth, Phil Cuzzi, Kerwin Danley, Gerry Davis, Brian Gorman, Sam Holbrook, Tom Hallion, Jerry Layne, and Mike Winters have elected to stay home rather than taking the risks associated with the 2020 season. According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, Bruce Dreckman and Brian O’Nora could soon follow.
Source: MLB umps wishing to opt out for 2020: Tom Hallion, Mike Winters, Fieldin Culbreth, Phil Cuzzi, Brian Gorman, Jerry Layne, Scott Barry, Kerwin Danley, Sam Holbrook & Gerry Davis. @JonHeyman first to report some umps were opting out.— Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) July 16, 2020
Have also heard Brian O’Nora and Bruce Dreckman may not participate. Number of big-league umps out for 2020 is in 11-13 range so far (out of 76). Some are high risk due to age, some have family members who are high risk and a couple are are out with injuries. https://t.co/aqSGUTR9Zj— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 16, 2020
Umpires are quite possibly MLB’s most vulnerable population considering that the league’s coaching staffs have undergone a collective youth movement in recent years. Obviously, this is a noble stand by the umpires staying away from the game they love and forgoing the season in order to ensure their health.
With nearly a fifth of the umpiring force already having opted out of the 2020 season and the possibility that umpiring crews will be regionalized in the same way that teams have been due to the pandemic, it seems as if quite a few minor-league umpires are going to get their chances to shine in the big leagues this season. Of course, that opens the league up to the possibility that games will be adversely affected by the rulings of inexperienced umps. But since veteran MLB umpires are protected by de-facto tenure and seemingly keep their jobs no matter the quality of their work, it’s also possible that the quality of umpiring could actually improve in 2020 as some fresh faces are integrated into the workforce.