Friday, August 14, 2009

Ejected but not Dejected?

Tom Verducci has noticed that umpires seem to be throwing more and more players and managers out of games this season:
Does it seem to you that ejections and arguments are way up this year? It might seem that way after a wild past week in which umpires Ed Rapuano (long-distance ejection) and Jerry Crawford (blown gasket) called attention to themselves last weekend, Kevin Youkilis overreacted on Tuesday and four guys got thrown out of games Wednesday afternoon alone. Well, the answer is ... yes, just a bit, thanks to a lot of beefs about plays on the bases.

Through Aug. 11, there were 128 ejections, which at this rate would mean a 14 percent increase from last year. But, no, the increase does not come from throwing incidents or fights and bench-clearing incidents. The big jump is from arguments regarding plays on the bases. Such arguments have led to 33 ejections, already more than such ejections in any of the previous five full seasons. Consider the ejection numbers in the table [BELOW]...

Year EJ
2008 161
2009 128
2009* 183 [projected if pace continues]

It sounds like an issue others have picked up. There was an incident in May when Minnesota Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire expressed his displeasure:
You Oughta Know ...
That umpire Todd Tichenor made quite a name for himself in a big league cameo as a vacation replacement. Tichenor, a 32-year-old Triple-A ump, ejected both managers and both starting catchers in one inning of the Red Sox-Twins game on Thursday afternoon.

"Sometimes, those things happen -- everybody handles thing differently," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "It looked like he had his hands full today."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was tossed for the 43rd time in his career. An expert on ejections, he said that Tichenor acted too quickly. Tichenor did not make himself available to the media to explain himself.

In the top of the seventh, Twins catcher Mike Redmond argued with Tichenor after he called Jeff Bailey safe at home. Redmond got ejected, and then Gardenhire got ejected when he came out. In the bottom of the inning, Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett and catcher Jason Varitek both expressed their displeasure at not getting a called third strike. Tichenor ejected Varitek and then Francona, who came out to defend his catcher.

Now, that incident you could write off as inexperience, perhaps. In July, there was this incident with the oft-tossed Bobby Cox from the Atlanta Braves:
Several Braves players said they were surprised and even “shocked” to see umpire Bill Hohn bump fists with Marlins catcher John Baker after the final out of the Braves’ 6-3 loss Tuesday.

While other players and manager Bobby Cox either had no comment or would only discuss it off the record, third baseman Chipper Jones had a scathing review of Hohn’s game, including ejections of manager Bobby Cox and catcher Brian McCann.

“Shocking,” Jones said of the Hohn-Baker fist bump after Nate McLouth struck out to end the game. “But it kind of makes sense, [considering] how the ebb and flow of the game went, the way the game was called.”

“No comment,” Hohn told two reporters waiting near the umpires’ dressing room Thursday when he arrived for the series finale.

When a reporter said he wanted only to ask about the fist bump, crew chief Gary Darling said, “There’s nothing there,” before cutting off the interview and herding Hohn toward the umpires’ dressing room.

Having never really played much baseball, I do not know the ins and outs of being properly ejected. Is it really the worst thing in the world? Isn't it supposed to motivate players when they see their skipper go out onto the field to argue on their behalf? Doesn't it give the home crowd the opportunity to get a little more involved in what's happening? Some of it is theater. Some of it is just bad umpiring, too.

I do know tirades and temper tantrums--I have them virtually every day. I suppose that if an umpire followed me around all day, watching me stub my toe or knock over a lamp or walk in on Miranda using one of my best sweaters to sop up mink urine from the floor of the utility room, well, I would probably be facing a ten game suspension.

Someone has decided to "take back" the game from the players, and the umpires have either decided it on their own or they're getting the word from on high to create a little more drama in the game.

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