COME ON, BLUE: The Baseball Gods Require Sacrifices, Coach

Mark DewdneyCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2009

DENVER - APRIL 23:  Pitcher Ray King #56 of the Colorado Rockies is restrained by catcher Danny Ardoin #55 as manager Clint Hurdle objects to his ejection by home plate umpire Travis Reininger after hitting Omar Vizquel of the San Francisco Giants with a pitch in the eighth inning on April 23, 2006 at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. King faced three batters in the Rockies 3-2 win in 10 innings.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

"COME ON, BLUE" is a typical preface to unsolicited remarks to an umpire by a player, parent, fan or coach who feels they or their player have been wronged. Mark will write a series of articles under "COME ON, BLUE" explaining various common baseball misconceptions.

 

Well, I don't know what it is this year, but the baseball gods have clearly taken a hating to me.

My Blue Jays can't win. My general manager can't trade baseball's best pitcher. Even my softball team's in tough, and it rains every time I'm due to step on a field (no kidding, 14 games cancelled thus far!)

Looking out the window at yet another rainfall, whining to my wife, I say, for the fourteen millionth time this year, "What am I supposed to do? Make a sacrifice?"

Rita promptly notes that I've been pretty well-behaved as an ump the last couple of years, not having ejected anyone, and then follows that observation up with a keen assertion;

"Maybe the Gods are displeased because you're not sending them enough managers!"

Good girl - I had to laugh - and I had to wonder.

 

It does seem that ejections water the tree of baseball. Your team scuffling? The manager can inspire a team by "gettin' his money's worth"—in other words, coming to the defense of a player he feels has been wronged by Blue—and getting ejected (sacrificing himself) in the process.

The worm seems to turn for teams after a good managerial blow-up and ejection; the team usually feels that, "hey, Skipper's really got our backs."

However, a lot of fans feel wronged! "Man, that @X$% umpire just tossed our boy," and automatically blame the umpire...let me try to set the record straight (please?)

 

So, why did that player or coach just get ejected?

There are a variety of reasons why an umpire can choose to send someone to the showers; easily the most common, far and away, is arguing balls and strikes.

That's a serious no-no, and yet, it's an integral part of the game. Umpires are human, too (oh, reeeeeallly?) and we get into slumps, just like players. I know, don't say it. 

At that point, the manager's got to back his battery up - but he knows that he could, at any instant, run afoul of the ump, who is backed up by Rule 9.02 (a);

"Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions."

You've also got to quote Rule 9.01 (d), which states that, "Each umpire has authority to disqualify (eject) any player, coach, manager or substitute for objection to decisions."

In other words, every once in a while, you've got to, er, properly motivate, your umpire...but if you do, you're probably gone—the ump can't allow you to question his eyesight. After all, if we allow you to do that, then the 50,000 umpires in the stands are going to get started, and we can't have that, can we?

A quick note; Players, especially pitchers, should never challenge the ump. You'll get ejected, the manager will get ejected, and the ump's ego will be terribly bruised for the rest of that game (and maybe the season!)

Let your coaches talk to Blue. If they get tossed out, no big dealit's part of the gamebut you can't win an argument with an ump, and getting suspended for being ejected is par for the course in most leagues!

 

So...sacrifice is necessary in baseball. Much like the tree of liberty being refreshed by the blood of true patriots, a manager's got to fall on his sword now and again for his players.

Okay. Don't question the ump's eyesight. What else gets my boy tossed from the game?

 

In Major League Baseball, players run into each other with surprising frequency for what is usually thought of as a "non-contact" sport. Spikes high on the double play? Running the catcher over, a la  Pete Rose? Sure. It happens...in professional ball.

Do that in amateur ball, and, not only can you get ejected, you might actually cost your team TWO OUTS on the spot—the umpires have to enforce the rules, and most times, the only penalty available to us is to throw you out - but we blow it sometimes, too.

Rewind. Two weeks ago, our local ballpark. I'm working third base for a men's league game, which means I have calls on the front end of the double play - second base. As you can imagine, these guys play hard - but they have to go to work the next day, too, so hard contact is usually not appreciated.

Now here's a double-play ball, and the runner comes barrelling into the shortstop. Now, I, bad judgement and all, thought, "ah, hard slide, went a little far, but nothing Pete Rose would have done."

I did call the batter out for the baserunner's interference—so that runner cost his team an "extra" out that he thought he was saving—but I should have also tossed the varmint out, thereby settling the issue once and for all, like the good field cop I'm supposed to be.

Whoops.

Two innings later, guess who comes back up to bat? Right. Charlie Hustle, the kid who I should have tossed out.

You can guess what happened next - first pitch whistled right past the kid's backside, then the second pitch does the job; the varmit wears Mister Rawlings right square in the thigh...and yet nobody gets ejected.

This, of course, prompts BOTH coaches to come out and get in all three umpires' faces; the home coach is upset that I didn't toss Charlie Hustle in the first place, and the visiting coach now wants the home pitcher ejected for throwing at his batter!

No-win situation, and, had I simply had the wisdom to see into the future, I could easily have seen the home team's train of thought; "Well, the ump's not going to punish him, so I'm going to have to make sure he knows - don't do that again, @X$%!"

One common misconception; we don't toss managers or player for cursing at us (with one notable exception; don't accuse us of performing oral sex. YOU guess which compound word I'm referring to!) That one's an automatic.

We also don't automatically toss someone who argues; if you're being (relatively) calm and talking about a rule, we will generally put up with you for a few minutes. (Don't push it.) As I pointed out, though, questioning our eyesight is a good way to go home early.

I like it when a coach asks to come down and see me; personally, I'll put up with a lot more at that point than I would if you just stormed up to me, bellowing incomprehensibly and spewing sunflower seeds (it happens a LOT!) If you draw attention to yourself (and therefore the umpire) we might not feel we have a choice but to get rid of you.

So. We all get entertained by a good ejection—it's part of the game—and it's even funny when a manager gets riled up and has to be restrained (so long as he's not a moron about it - it's embarrassing when a grown man chucks bases and kicks dirt).

Good umps don't want to eject anyone (I swear!) but will enforce the rules, including "dumping" a player or manager if the situation warrants it. We'll try to keep you in the game, but, once that line is crossed, it has to be "good night, Bubba. Enjoy your shower."

When you see a manager or coach ejected, you just know that he's done something wrong; he probably didn't question a rule—he most likely broke Rule 9.02 (a), and you're never allowed to question the judgement of an umpire—one of baseball's endearing little formal quirks.

 

 

Mark Dewdney is a failed player and, as a result, a long-time Canadian umpire, typically found on a midget, junior, or senior ballfield somewhere in Toronto.

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