By: Holly Horning
Ok, I will admit that I had a blog already written for today. But then, I couldn’t escape the Umpire Uproar all day yesterday. It filled many a social media thread and was the hot topic on MLB Radio and tv all day. So I gotta go there. I just hope I don’t get thrown out of somewhere.
Gone are the days of affable Ron Luciano or the chuckles we got when an umpire threw out the organ player because he played “Three Blind Mice” after a particularly bad call. This is serious stuff now, folks! And a possible division title and playoff berth are riding on it.
And the thing that hit me today was how differently all the fans interpreted Saturday night’s Umpire Elimination Challenge of the Tigers’ organization. Fans who saw it totally the fault of the umpire, the players, the manager and even the entire umpires’ union. Rob Manfred also took his lumps.
But after hearing numerous discussions in the media from former players, umpires and GMs, it appears that this may be a case of a lot of men behaving badly. Let’s go wallow in the mess, shall we?
Here’s what we do know and what the experts were saying:
· Umpire Everitt has a long reputation of calling pitches as he did last night. Even the broadcasters thought there weren’t that many mistakes made, however they deemed the pitches as being “50/50” and open to interpretation for the most part. Yes, some of the griping was justified, but some of it also wasn’t.
· It was noted that the Tigers’ dugout was chirping from the first inning. Everitt gave them no warnings at all until the first ejection.
· Several GMs mentioned that from their experience, it’s up to the umpire to issue warnings first to a team’s manager. He’s supposed to tell him what’s at stake and suggest that the manager communicate this info to his players. Everitt did not do this. But these same GMs also said it’s up to the manager to manage his players and keep them from getting into trouble.
· The GMs also said that at this time of year, umpires must understand the stress that players are under to make the playoffs and how they need to take this into consideration and cut them some slack. They all agreed that umps need to step back here and not impact a team’s ability to stay in contention.
· It was evident that VMart was not going to go quietly into the night. He showed his intent to fight the umpire by immediately putting his hands behind his back (a fine old baseball tradition) as he turned angrily to Everitt.
· Despite Brad’s explanation that he gives veterans some leeway, he was slow going to Victor’s rescue and put consideration of one player over the priority of the team and their stretch drive. His failure to go out right away when he saw trouble potentially could have been responsible for the loss of his DH’s bat.
· VMart’s momma is coming with the soap after what he said to the umpire. From experience in reading lips, he used the f-bomb at least 4 times including the multi-syllable version considered to be the third rail in cursing. But swearing is not punishable, according to MLB’s rules handbook, until you personalize it to the ump – and that’s when Victor added the word “you” after his curse words. And just in case he didn’t make his point clear, he also threw his helmet out of the dugout which is also punishable.
· Not known was what Wally Joyner said as most of his tirade came during a commercial break. Left to ask is whether Everitt looked to see if the hitting coach had a bat in his hands before he threw him, and his boss, out of the game.
· JD Martinez appeared to be the only good guy in this whole debacle, which unfortunately didn’t mean he’d escape. No swearing, no staring, no angry looks and no questioning the balls and strikes. JD just asked a question in his attempt to help normalize the situation and then was asked to repeat what he said. Baited by Everitt who now appeared to either want his pound of flesh or decided that Brad, Wally and Victor needed a fourth for bridge.
The big question to ask is whether the Tigers considered the consequences of questioning balls and strikes. The rules are clear that this behavior results in ejection from the game.
As all the analysts mentioned Sunday, everyone involved had better hope that one game is not the deciding factor as to whether the Tigers make the playoffs. If it is, Saturday’s game will be remembered and the repercussions won’t be pretty.
But 4 ejections indicate a bigger problem than a single one does. And it doesn’t say good things about either the team or the umpire. What were their motivations? What was the spark that set a whole series of actions into motion?
Was this a failure by the manager and coaches to remind players to stay cool and focused? Was it due to deeply competitive fires burning? Or was it because of overwhelming pressure to gain some ground in the standings? And what was the umpire’s motive?
And in true Totally Tigers form, we’re not supplying the answers. You are. What are your thoughts? Don’t be shy – but please be polite. We don’t wanna have to throw you out of the conversation!