Ejection Tantrum: Joe Mikulik Meltdown Shamefully Typical of Baseball Blame Game
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Joe Mikulik has served as manager of the minor league Asheville Tourists since 2000 and has been an embarrassment to professional baseball on the national stage since 2006.
A former San Jacinto Junior College walk-on, Mikulik was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1984, sputtering around the minor leagues until retiring in the early 1990s, never having made it to MLB action.
Despite his stalled playing career, Mikulik endeavored to assist others in achieving their dreams, turning to coaching and accepting a position with the Canton-Akron Indians in 1995 before his promotion to manager of the Burlington Indians in 1997 and finally landing with the Asheville Tourists—a Colorado Rockies affiliate—in 2000.
Though as altruistic as the minor league player-turned-coach story might be, Mikulik appears to have never quite gotten over the pill of retirement, as evidenced by two significant meltdowns since taking the job.
Michael Erwin of CareerBuilder advises employees not to curse in the workplace—57 percent of surveyed employers said swearing could cost an employee a promotion—but don't tell that to Mikulik, who has been the Single-A Asheville Tourists' manager ever since.
On June 25, 2006, Mikulik was ejected from a game against Lexington after arguing a safe call at second base.
Cue the insanity.
During his '06 temper tantrum, Mikulik—and get ready for a long list of misconduct—threw his hat, yelled, dove into second base before picking up the base and showing it to the umpire, threw the bag toward center field, kicked chalk and dirt on home plate—indeed covering the plate with dirt by using his hands—threw bats from the dugout onto the playing field, dumped water on home plate before pretending to be a catcher, spiked a water bottle on the plate and untucked his jersey before finally retreating to the clubhouse, where he knocked over several water coolers and slid a batting practice screen in front of the umpires' dressing room door.
Mikulik, who was fined $1,000 and suspended seven days for his histrionics, chalked it up to frustration, via ESPN.com: "I don't think I ever lost total control ... It was just frustration and I obviously went a little bit too far. I apologize to fans and to the umpires for my actions, and I regret what happened."
Apparently, Mikulik was not sorry enough: Fast forward to July 27, 2012 and "Mikulik Meltdown Part II."
To his credit, Mikulik's tantrum was tamer this time around, with the manager only kicking dirt, throwing his hat and running wildly toward third base before picking up the bag, handing it to one lucky fan before tipping his cap to the crowd en route to his club's dugout.
Yet acting like a buffoon is not limited to Mikulik.
In 2007, then-Double-A Braves manager Phil Wellman famously created an improvised grenade with a pitcher's rosin bag before walking away with both second and third base, blowing kisses to fans as he exited through an outfield wall.
In 2010, South Georgia Peanuts manager Wally Backman launched a profanity-laced tirade and threw a bucket of baseballs along with some bats toward home plate—not safe for work—a tantrum featured in the documentary Playing for Peanuts.
Backman also forfeited a game by pulling his team off the field following a bench-clearing brawl. Backman had been ejected in the first inning of that particular contest.
And then there's former MLB manager "Sweet" Lou Piniella, famous for base-hurling, dirt-kicking, cap-throwing tirades.
Sure the Mikulik and Piniella tantrums make for riveting television—and the oddest of music videos—in a train wreck sort of way, but such meltdowns are an absolute disgrace to the sport: In an Umpire Ejection Fantasy League poll, just 13 percent of respondents agreed that tirades were pure entertainment. The remaining 87 percent of voters pegged such tantrums as at least partially disgraceful, with 49 percent describing them as purely disgraceful.
Baseball, in its ideal state, is intellectual—from sabermetrics to strategy, baseball is a brainy person's game, whereas the brawny sports of football, basketball and hockey feature brutal contact, towering strength and speedy burliness.
Yet tirades and hissy fits detract from the great baseball paradigm, injecting immaturity into a sport distinguished for its classy and classic nature—while hockey fights are commonplace and accepted, and hard fouls and hits are par for the course in football and basketball, baseball is remarkably gentlemanly.
When a manager or player airs his frustration with an umpire's call by employing childish tactics—though statistics prove that MLB umpires are right 99.5 percent of the time—he promotes the stereotype that baseball is "dumb."
When Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon sounded off on umpire D.J. Reyburn after surrendering a game-winning triple to Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon earlier this season, the veteran reliever bashed Reyburn in a flurry of Freudian-like puerility, calling the umpire "terrible" instead of taking responsibility for his own shortcomings.
During a recent interview on FOX Sports Radio's Petros & Money, longtime umpire Joe West described baseball as "typically American," for according to West, "they're always looking for someone to blame ... The sport is so good, it has a place on the scoreboard for errors. There's no other sport that has that."
Enter the human element and the psychology of blaming umpires: There is always fault to go around.
When an umpire's call adversely affects one's team, it is the arbiter's fault—even when instant replay deems the call correct.
Even when an umpire reverses a call for—as they say—the explicit purpose of "getting it right," this is apparently an excuse to complain and induce an ejection.
And it does not stop at calls of "ball," "strike," "safe" or "out" either.
In another case of managers wanting umpires to "get it right" only when the call doesn't go against their own team, Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel was ejected for arguing Joe West's use of instant replay to declare spectator interference during a 2011 contest, resulting in an official protest and denial at the hands of MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, who publicly supported West's replay-aided endeavor of "getting it right."
West is right—baseball is "typically American," though unfortunately, when baseball turns into a giant finger-pointing affair, it stops being a sport and regresses into a silly, infantile game.
Gil Imber is Bleacher Report's Rules Featured Columnist and owner of Close Call Sports, a website dedicated to the objective and fair analysis of close or controversial calls in sports.
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