|Thursday, September 19
Company that runs system disciplined by regulators
By Darren Rovell
The World Umpires Association asked Major League Baseball to rid itself of its disputed computer evaluation program after a published report Thursday revealed that a key official involved with the company, as well as the company itself, had been disciplined by two stock exchanges and the New York State attorney general's office.
Umpires have objected to the monitoring system developed and maintained by QuesTec, whose former president Edward Plumacher was also a broker with Shearson Lehman Brothers and was permanently barred in 1996 from membership at the American Stock Exchange. Two years later, the British Columbia Securities Commission barred him from becoming an official for a public company for eight years, the New York Times reported. Under Plumacher's leadership, the company was twice charged and fined a total of $22,000 for selling securities without being registered.
While Sandy Alderson, the executive vice president for baseball operations, told the Times that he didn't "believe (Plumacher's past) should have a direct bearing on what he is currently doing for us," the World Umpires Association -- in a seven-page statement released Thursday afternoon -- cited the revelation as another shot to the credibility of a system they say is already flawed.
"The World Umpires Association objects to any further involvement of QuesTec Inc., the QuesTec UIS (Umpire Information System) or Edward Plumacher in any matter relating to Major League Baseball umpires,'' the statement read. "Their presence is an embarrassment to the game of baseball. ... It is time to throw out the Commissioner's gimmick! Baseball is a game between men, not a game of man against the machine.''
Baseball and union officials did not return calls seeking further comment.
In February, MLB signed a five-year contract with the company to monitor the accuracy of the umpires' calls. MLB agreed to pay the company $520,000 for the system, $30,000 for the installation in each ballpark and $200 for each game. Over the past couple months, MLB has used the information QuesTec provided in a lawsuit and the union has filed a grievance contending that the league is violating their contract by not sharing the system's information.
The union has reviewed QuesTec disks that have been issued to them this season and, according to the statement, "umpires have found that QuesTec UIS was wrong more than 80 percent of the times when it disagreed with an umpire's balls and strikes calls."
Part of the problem, the union claims, is that, at each of the eight ballparks where the program is currently running, QuesTec relies on the manually-recorded strike zone determined by company operators "almost none of whom has any experience in professional baseball."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org.