On C.B. Bucknor, the Phillies, and the Concept of More Than One Thing Being True
The Phillies got swept by the Rangers to open the 2023 MLB season. It was pretty ugly. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler had rough starts, then Bailey Falter settled things down on Sunday night, only for the bats to go silent.
On Saturday, the Phils got walloped 16-3 and we were treated to a C.B. Bucknor ump show at the same time, so it was a rather dreadful evening. The veteran ump missed balls and strikes and his scorecard graded out to a +2.63 run favor for Texas:
Not that +2.63 runs would have made much of a difference, since the Phillies got their asses kicked, which segues into this tweet I saw from Mikey Miss on Sunday morning:
I'm stunned that in the Inquirer game story, in which Phillies pitching gave up 16 runs blame was given to the home plate umpire. CB Bucknor isn't good, but come on. 16 runs.
— Mike Missanelli (@MikeMiss25) April 2, 2023
Mike is referring the Alex Coffey story, titled “Missed calls loom large as Rangers rout Phillies, 16-3.” Scott Lauber didn’t have a Saturday or Sunday byline, so it can only be the Coffey recap, which opens with a section about Bucknor and dedicates the most column inches to Bucknor, but also says this:
“According to Codify, Bucknor missed 351 ball and strike calls last season. He made mistakes on Saturday that hurt the Rangers, too. It’s hard to say just how much of an impact Bucknor had on the result of the game. The Phillies’ pitching staff gave up 27 runs through their first two games of this season. You can’t blame that all on an umpire. But the inconsistent strike zone certainly didn’t help.”
We can split hairs over the over of tone of Coffey’s story, and if you want to say there’s too much Bucknor focus and not enough Phillies sucking focus, that’s fine, but the takeaway from that game is really simple. C.B. Bucknor was shit and the Phillies were shit.
For some reason, we have a lot of trouble in this town accepting the fact that more than one thing can be true, and I’m not sure why that is. It’s like the ire can only be channeled and focused on one primary recipient. It’s a linear exercise in accountability seeking. My best guess is that people feel like blame is watered down if it ends up being spread out, but I honestly don’t know why we do this.
Obviously the line of thinking is flawed, because very rarely is any one single thing to blame for an unfavorable sporting result. In this case, in addition to Bucknor being terrible, the Phillies couldn’t score runs and couldn’t prevent runs. You could have had the greatest ump of all time calling balls and strikes and that performance still would have resulted in a loss. The Phils were that bad on Saturday evening.
Same application for the World Series. We can talk about Rob Thomson pulling Zack Wheeler, but the Phils got no-hit in game 5 and Aaron Nola’s starts weren’t great. There’s blame to go around.
Another recent case? The Super Bowl, where Jonathan Gannon took the majority of the heat for the loss. He deserves his share of the blame, but so do the defensive players, who didn’t make a single fucking play the entire night. The special teams unit gave up a backbreaker of a punt return and Jalen Hurts gifted KC a touchdown. Nick Sirianni had some 2nd half decisions that he might want back and the field was an abomination.
More than one thing can be true.
The problem with needing to place blame on any one thing is that it creates tunnel vision. It results in limited, black and white thinking. It destroys our ability to take multiple things into account at the same time, and it results in a lot of narrow-minded reaction and analysis, which ultimately lowers the discourse level throughout the Philly sports ecosystem.
Beyond all of that, it’s time for the robot umpires. C.B. Bucknor should be calling only two things right now – jack and shit.