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MLB's use of pitch counts in evaluations angers umps

The conflict between Major League Baseball and its umpires escalated Saturday when the attorney for the umpires union said baseball is engaging in practices with pitch counts that umpires consider unfair and irrelevant.

Though Larry Gibson, the union's attorney, didn't say, it seemed likely the World Umpires Association would file a grievance against Major League Baseball.

"I am not making any comment on any action that the union might be contemplating," Gibson said by telephone from Baltimore. But he also said, "I don't think this is the last you'll hear from the union."

In Saturday's New York Times, Sandy Alderson, executive president for baseball operations, said officials have been using pitch counts to help determine which umpires have not been using the rule-book strike zone. Gibson cited three practices that he said the umpires "strenuously object to."

"One, Major League Baseball has begun to compute and maintain pitch counts and pitch-count averages on individual umpires," he said. "We object to that as being an irrelevant number because pitch counts are determined by factors that umpires do not and should not exercise any control over.

"Two, (Alderson) admits they are considering to some extent umpires' pitch counts in their assessment of umpires. We strenuously object to that. Three, he admits to having communicated this information, their assessment based on pitch counts, that places improper pressure on umpires to reach for or strive for a particular average."

Alderson said looking at pitching counts is a legitimate way to determine if an umpire has a smaller strike zone than he should.