Umpires need to admit mistakes to restore their credibility

As the umpiring issues involving Fielden Culbreth and Angel Hernandez continue to rage, and as Major League Baseball continues to look into expanded replay, it would be nice if the umpires would stand up and admit mistakes after controversial calls.

That would go a long way in restoring their credibility with the players and fans. Instead, after missing a home-run call in Cleveland, and then refusing to change it after watching it on replay, Hernandez basically blew off the pool reporter wanting an explanation. He said he didn't want his comments recorded and he basically had no comment on the call.

Culbreth let Houston's rookie manager, Bo Porter, a former Nats coach, talk him into making a pitching change against the Angels without his relief pitcher throwing to a batter, which is unbelievable. It led to the Angels playing under protest. After the game, Culbreth wouldn't answer questions about the confusion, only saying that the commissioner's office handles all matters involving protests.

If Culbreth had apologized, maybe laughed at himself and taken responsibility for the error, the situation would have been calmer. Same for Hernandez, who should have explained what he saw in Cleveland on the home run replay and why it was different viewpoint that every baseball fan who watched the call.

Compare the situation to Jim Joyce, who apologized for missing the final out that cost Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Who has more credibility?

Umpires do an incredible job. They haven't gotten worse, but new technology and a hypercritical fan base makes their job difficult, virtually impossible. Expanded replay is on the way. That's good if it is done in a reasonable fashion. But, the fear here is that Major League Baseball will overreact and baseball will have too much technology.

Umpires need not answer to every mistake. The game is imperfection and no technology will make it perfect. Plus, why would any one want a robotic game run by square boxes on computer screens. But in high-profile decisions like the botched rule and the instant replay, an explanation or apology goes a long way to helping defuse the situation.

And as far as instant replay goes, the best solution is to put a fifth umpire in a booth watching the game. If there is a tough call, and the manager comes out to argue, the extra umpire could watch the replay and send a decision to the field umpire before the manager goes into argument mode.

Other observations:

* The Dodgers go into this week's series with the Nationals last in the National League West, and it's not a shock considering all the injuries, especially to their pitching staff. Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly are on the disabled list, and before they ran low on pitching, the Dodgers traded Aaron Harang to Seattle. The Dodgers have infielders Mark Ellis, Hanley Ramirez and Jerry Hairston Jr. on the disabled list. Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp aren't hitting, and the left side of the infield is weak as far as offense goes. Greinke, whose collarbone was broken April 11 when Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin charged the mound, could pitch Wednesday. If so, he's in line to face the Padres June 4 at Dodger Stadium.

* The Dodgers aren't the only Los Angeles team trying to keep afloat. The Angels would be in last place in the American League West if not for the Houston Astros, who are on pace for another 100-loss season. It is interesting to note that the team still owes Albert Pujols $212 million over the next eight years. The Cardinals are happy they didn't sign him, given they've used the money they would have paid to him to sign Adam Wainwright, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Allen Craig.

* Don't know if Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessey was out of bounds or not for asking Red Sox DH David Ortiz, who is hitting well, about possible steroids use. Ortiz has been tested five times. However, one of the fallouts of the steroids era is that players who are having explosive seasons when they are in the mid to late 30s automatically fall under the suspicion of steroids use.

* Lefty Francisco Liriano, who can be either brilliant or lousy, had nine strikeouts in his National League debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Who knows if Liriano, a talented pitcher with a nasty slider, will ever be a consistent pitcher, but if he does find his way in Pittsburgh, the Pirates rotation is going to have three solid lefties behind ace A.J. Burnett. The Pirates also have Wandy Rodriguez and prospect Jeff Locke in the rotation.