Eric Gregg’s lawsuit has been delayed yet again. Gregg, a former National League umpire, was one of 22 who (a) resigned in 1999 and (b) were shocked (shocked!) that the league actually made them stay resigned. Now he wants his severance package as if he were fired. (AP, Jul. 14; link via How Appealing).
Gregg’s case is a hysterical blend of personal responsibility — Gregg resigned out of principle, and wasn’t given his job back — and dumb luck, given his lackluster record as an ump. The story: Gregg claims that he wasn’t fired for cause: “There is no doubt that they are discriminating against me because of my weight.” (“Interview with the Umpire,” Philadephia City Paper, Aug./Sept. 1999). Ignore the fact that he resigned as part of a ploy to get MLB to choose between paying severance pay (why they’d have to pay out in cases of resignation is beyond me). But the reality is that a 1998 survey of players, coaches, and managers (run by the Players’ Association) rated Gregg as the second-to-worst ump in the NL; as Doug Pappas pointed out, “[n]o one needs statistics to conclude that the likes of Ken Kaiser and Eric Gregg don’t belong in the majors. (Pappas’ site, 1999). He was also rated one of baseball’s five worst umpires in a 1998 Baseball Weekly survery.
While his weight was made to be an issue — he was fined $5,000 in 1999 for being too fat — there could be a reason for that. It may have affected his on-field abilities. Never mind that he’d have to run into position to make a call. In 1978, Gregg bumped into a catcher trying to make a throw and called interference on himself. Almost two decades later, he was granted a leave of absence to enter a weight-loss program. (Thanks to Baseball Library for the background info.)