New York Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt and plate umpire Chad Fairchild apologized to each other Monday night in a rare player-umpire exchange of mea culpas after an apparent missed call.
Bassitt and his Mets teammates started heading to the dugout in the fifth inning after what he thought was a called third strike against Atlanta Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson.
The 2-2 pitch was right over the plate and appeared to pass through the strike zone above Swanson’s knees, but Fairchild called it a ball, extending the at-bat and stunning Bassitt.
The Mets escaped the inning unscathed, as Bassitt retired Matt Olson on a popout after walking Swanson and hitting Ronald Acuna Jr. with a pitch. As Bassitt walked off the mound, he made eye contact again with Fairchild, who tapped his chest in a universal “my mistake” gesture.
“I knew it was a strike, but at the same time, I think umpires, they have one of the hardest jobs in the world,” Bassitt told reporters. “I have no problem if an umpire misses a call — that happens. But especially if an umpire just accepts that, well, what am I going to say? It is what it is.”
Bassitt said he also apologized to Fairchild because his initial reaction to the missed call could have been interpreted as “showing him up.”
“He said he was wrong. I said I was wrong,” Bassitt said. “I was like, ‘All right. Let’s move on.'”
Umpire performance, specifically calling balls and strikes, has been under heightened scrutiny in recent seasons because of the advent of strike zone technology.
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Umpires are graded for each outing by MLB’s private Zone Enforcement system. Sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan that the league’s system works by employing a team of auditors to set a unique strike zone for each batter.
MLB’s margin of error on each pitch, such as the one thrown by Bassitt on Monday night, are given a 2-inch margin of error on each side of the plate to be considered an “acceptable” call in the grading system, sources tell Passan.
“I say all the time that it was a strike, and then I go back and look at it, and they’re right,” Bassitt said. “So I ain’t going to be mad at no umpire, I’ll tell you that.”
Bassitt was charged with the loss Monday after allowing three runs over six innings in New York’s 5-2 loss to Atlanta.
Mets bench coach Glenn Sherlock, who was filling in for suspended manager Buck Showalter, praised Bassitt for how he handled the situation with Fairchild, saying “I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Bassitt said he has improved his overall relationship with umpires over the past year, when MLB’s increased enforcement of checking for illicit foreign substances prompted more regular interactions between pitchers and umpires.
“You can kind of have a human element without the cameras being on you,” Bassitt said. “I enjoy when the home plate umpire checks me, because I can talk with them almost off the record. I would say umpires are really good at admitting stuff, and they’re way better than I think people give them credit for.”
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