Howie Karpin grew up a die-hard New York Yankees fan while attending P.S. 96 near his Pelham Parkway home.
Little did that adolescent sports fanatic know that his career would be spent in the Yankee Stadium press box with a scorecard in hand.
Wrapping up his 20th season as an official scorer for Major League Baseball, Karpin covers about 70 ball games per season, split between the Yankees and another ‘major’ league team that plays in Queens.
Karipin saw nearly 1,500 Yankees games as a youngster before covering a score of seasons professionally.
One would think that folks sitting behind scorers table aren’t subject to the brutal criticism that their on-field colleagues in black, the umpires, receive.
“We have it worse than the umpires, at least when it comes to players giving an attitude,” Karpin said, mentioning how the MLB’s new appeal system more players are apt to challenge rulings that could hinder their own statistics. “Umpires can get you back in one way or another, us scorers are pretty much powerless,” he added.
Overall, Karpin, who played baseball for Lehman College, has managed to stay on the right side of history as far as scoring plays goes.
Except for one incident that got Karpin’s name in every daily newspaper in the city in August of 2006.
While the Yankees were in the middle of a 12-2 beat down from their East Coast Division rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, outfielder Jay Gibbons hit a pop-up that both Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter settled under; catching only some loud boos from a fed up crowd that saw the ball drop harmlessly to the infield dirt.
That botched pop-up seemed to be a simple E-5 error to A-Rod and that’s what Karpin scored the play originally.
After reviewing the instant replay, Karpin noticed that Jeter bumped into Rodriguez, and changed the ruling from E-5 to an error on our beloved shortstop.
“Jeter called me down to explain what happened and I told him that he got in the way,” Karpin said while joking about how scorers were allowed to use instant replay well before umpires had been given the same grace. “Later when we were all leaving the stadium, Jeter called me over again about the error, but I stood by it even though he seemed upset, but he took it out on the Red Sox the next game, so no harm done,” Karpin said casually.
Since Karpin’s 10 game ‘trial’ season in 1998, the game of baseball has changed dramatically.
Including the role that statistics and other metrics play into scoring and management.
Now that players and anagers can appeal errors and other rulings, Karpin has to defend his scoring against exit velocities along with other sabermetrics.
“I don’t care, if he should have caught it, he should have caught it,” Karpin defended his ‘old fashioned’ perspective, adding his view that teams relying on statistics to manage and operate is becoming the bane of baseball.
Now residing in Riverdale, Karpin’s biggest pet-peeve is that ‘statistically’ speaking, a runner on first is more likely to score on a hit than if he were at second base.
Karpin, as a fan, feels that the Yankees have fallen victim to that stat-heavy management style and it’s hindering the Bombers’ offense. He also opined that free agent lefty Bryce Harper could bring the team some much-needed balance and possibly World Series number 28.