The White Sox had some serious issues with first base umpire Joe West in today's game.
Starting pitcher Mark Buehrle was twice called for a balk. After the first call, Ozzie Guillen was ejected for coming out of the dugout to argue. After the second incident, Buehrle was ejected after dropping his glove, apparently "showing up the umpire".
This series of events drastically affected the game, though the Sox held on for a 5-4 win.
Instead of getting Buehrle's usual six or seven innings, their bullpen had to cover six and two thirds and will be drained for the next few outings because of conflict with an umpire.
Were either of them balks? It's debatable.
Under the strict interpretation of the rule book, you could argue when Buehrle lifts his right leg he is making a "natural motion associated with his delivery of the ball to the batter (that) commits him to the pitch without alteration or interruption."
However, Buehrle also clearly stepped towards first base before making both throws, which is allowed in the rule book.
During the broadcast, it was mentioned that Joe West claimed that Buehrle brought his knee back over the pitching rubber after making this motion. However, that is clearly not the case when watching the replays.
Mark has been using this move his entire career with solid results. He is very good at controlling runners and had only been called for one balk over the last three seasons before today.
Even after the highly questionable balk calls (in my opinion at least, balk rules are often debated), ejecting Buehrle was a bit ridiculous.
Mark was still on the mound, nowhere near an argument with West. He also didn't stomp around and throw a fit or slam his glove into the ground. He stood there, showing some frustration, and merely dropped his glove.
Ejecting the starter in the third inning has a drastic impact on the game; I would have hoped that a player would get a little more leeway in showing his frustration.
I generally try not to gripe about the umpires because so many plays happen very quickly or are subjective. However, this was a clear case of an umpire with a quick trigger.
And it seemed like he was trying to make a point with the second balk call.
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