On Sunday afternoon this week in Phoenix, Arizona, the Washington Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks played a rather intense game which featured four ballplayers getting hit-by-the-pitch and two pitchers getting ejected by home plate umpire Rob Drake.
Although the Washington Nationals ended up winning the wild Sunday game 9-4 in 11 innings, that was not the story of the game. The real story was the inconsistent standard, which home plate umpire Rob Drake used in determining the intentions behind each hit-by-pitch.
In the top of the fifth inning, Diamondbacks starting pitcher Ian Kennedy hit Jayson Werth with a fastball. That made Werth the victim of a Diamondback pitch for the third time in that four-game series. Drake the Decider decided to issue warnings to both dugouts that a subsequent beaning would result in that pitcher's ejection. Okay...so did Drake interpret Kennedy's beaning to have been intentional? If so, then why was he not ejected then? Whatever his reasons, Drake raised the bar for future incidents.
Then, two batters later in that same inning, Kennedy beaned Michael Morse. So, Kennedy got ejected right? Nope. Home plate umpire Drake interpreted that the beaning of Morse was unintentional and therefore did not warrant an ejection in spite of his absolute warning. Oh good! So, Drake the Decider became Drake the Mind-reader! Brilliant! I wonder if he gets extra collective bargaining rights for the double duty?
Forty minutes later with the Nationals clinging to a 1-0 lead, Nationals starter Jason Marquis began the bottom of the sixth inning striking out the first batter he faced before walking the next hitter on four straight pitches. That brought up Arizona's right-fielder Justin Upton to the plate. On Marquis' second offering to Upton, a pitch slipped inside and clipped Upton in the left side of his lower back. That prompted Upton to search for his inner Matt Damon and provide the entire stadium his rendition of the wounded victim as his 23-year old body folded like an accordion onto the dirt of the batter's box. I remind the reader that the pitch hit him in the lower back away from the spine! But just 7 seconds later, Upton the Actor became Upton the Reborn as he made a tremendous physical recovery to jog happily to first base.
In that entire sequence, Drake the Mind-reader hovered over Upton the Academy Award Winning Actor and determined that Marquis intentionally threw the pitch directly at the batter. Thus, Drake administered the maximum levy on the naughty pitcher...EJECTION! After all, it was perfectly reasonable to assume that Marquis wanted to put the tying run in scoring position and the go-ahead run on first base with less than two outs in a one-run ball game!!! Right? I mean, what pitcher does not think that is a good thing?
This is what happens when umpires become the mind readers. Jason Marquis paid the price. A pitcher working on a three-hit shutout in the sixth inning was sent to the showers prematurely and as a consequence of the umpire's actions is now facing a whopping 5-game suspension, which will require him to miss at least one scheduled start this season.
Want to discipline the game? Discipline the umpires.