I watched last night's game from the comfort of an ER gurney (broken fibula), and I had plenty of opportunity to scream at the television... thankfully, in the bustle of a hospital I think my yelling bothered fewer people than when I watch at home.
Tim McClelland did not do an especially bad job last night. While his strike zone was microscopic, I thought he was fairly consistent, and he's a favorite among players. He's certainly no CB Buckner, nor an Angel Hernandez, nor a Joe West. But he seems to make consistent mistakes (I think it's telling that we only really learn the names of the lousy umps).
So why doesn't MLB sign umpires like free agents? Let a good ump sign for more money and more years, and give Angel Hernandez a one year deal to shot throwing everyone out of the game and do his job instead. Faced with a pay cut, maybe Joe West would finally ride off into the sunset.
How to construct the hiring committee would be a major negotiation (all MLB officials? rotate in club front office personnel? How do you keep MLB from just calling up every AAA ump to save money?). But I think it would make a lot more sense than the current system, in which the oldest (and often least valuable) umps get to hang around forever.
The biggest flaw I see is the lack of a counter bid- how do umps maintain their value if they're hired by the only (legit) professional league? So I'd develop a cross index of service time, QuesTex & Pf/x ratings, and player & manager surveys to determine salary.
At that points, it's just a matter of determining years.