Carlos Zambrano was tossed from Wednesday's game against the Pittsburgh Pirates after a very close call at home plate with one out in the top of the seventh inning.
Zambrano threw an 0-1 pitch in the dirt to Nate McLouth on the first base side (inside to the left-handed hitter) which Geovany Soto slid over to block. In doing so, the ball kicked back to the third base side behind home plate.
While Zambrano ran home to cover the plate, speedy Pirates outfielder Nyjer Morgan bolted in from third base in an attempt to score.
Soto quickly got to the ball, which was no more than ten feet from the plate, and got the throw off to Zambrano low enough and in enough time to make a play plausible.
Zambrano blocked the plate applied the tag as Morgan slid in head-first. From replays, it looks as though he applied the tag at or near the same moment that Morgan's left hand snuck in around his back leg to touch the plate.
Home plate umpire Mark Carlson called Morgan safe, tying the game at two runs apiece.
Zambrano immediately showed the passion and intensity that he is known for (famously or infamously), yelling in the face of Carlson about the call.
It was as Zambrano was saying his last words before walking away that Carlson then walked into the Cubs pitcher with a clear intent to make contact. After doing so, Zambrano gave a mild push with his elbow and Carlson immediately ejected him.
As would be expected of the fiery pitcher, Zambrano became irate. He proceeded to "eject" Carlson from the game, throw the baseball towards the outfield bleachers (but only reaching the warning track), and take a bat to the water cooler in the Cubs dugout.
Luckily, the call and the ejection did not come back to bite the Cubs.
Reed Johnson hit a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to put the Cubs up by one run and another two runs scored that inning on doubles by recent call-ups Andres Blanco and Jake Fox.
The Cubs then entered the ninth inning with a three run lead and closer Kevin Gregg on the mound. A Freddy Sanchez baserunning gaffe that allowed him to be doubled up on a Morgan fly to deep right field and a McLouth strikeout ended the game for the Cubs' second straight win.
Still, the topics for discussion today are the actions of home plate umpire Mark Carlson and the subsequent ejection of Carlos Zambrano.
Why on earth is an umpire initiating contact with a player?
This is simply unacceptable. Umpires are supposed to be regulating action on the field, not creating it.
Unfortunately, this is only one of a string of incidents by umpires:
- 2008: Brian Runge bumped Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
- 2007: Mike Winters directed profanity towards then-Padre Milton Bradley.
- 2003: Bruce Froeming directed an anti-semetic slur towards an MLB umpiring administrator and John Hirschbeck subsequently threatened a senior official in the Commissioner's Office.
It's moments like these that make fans think that all umpires are on a power trip, looking to exercise their authority over whoever they can.
What's worse is that umpires are not held to the same standard as players and coaches when, in reality, they should be held to a higher standard.
Brian Runge recieved a one game suspension for his actions and Mike Winters was suspended for the remainder of the 2007 season.
Bruce Froeming and John Hirschbeck were both issued ten game suspensions for their actions in 2003, which actually seems to be the most fitting of the three suspensions.
What's wrong with these results?
Runge's suspension is equal to the suspension that Jerry Manuel recieved for the bill of his cap touching the bill of umpire Bill Welke's cap on May 7. Since umpires should be held to a higher standard, it would only seem fitting that the umpire get a longer suspension.
Mike Winters rest-of-season suspension would have been fitting if the season had more than five games remaining in it. I'm sure Winters knew about Bradley's hot-headed past, so the fact that Bradley suffered a torn knee ligament in his ensuing tirade should make the suspension for this case of baiting much higher.
John Hirshbeck (president of the World Umpires Association) served his suspension for threats against an MLB official, but the problem here lies more with Bruce Froeming. Froeming, according to a 2007 article on ESPN.com, didn't serve even one day of his suspension.
To look at the problem from another perspective, let's disect the impact of a suspension.
When a player or coach misses a game that they could have otherwise been a part of, it affects more than just that one game or that one person.
For a player, it could be the end of a hot streak that would have otherwise continued. It could be the difference between missing a ball that starts a rally and making a catch that keeps it from happening. It could be the difference between a game-tying home run or a game-ending double play. It could be the difference in how long the bullpen has to pitch.
For a coach, it could allow the bench coach to prove why he isn't a manager. It could allow a young coach to send a guy home when he should be held at third. It could allow a pitcher to stay in too long, leading to an injury.
One missed game can lead to multiple losses.
Aside from Tim Donaghy, officials have no peripheral losses when they miss a game. All they miss is a paycheck and day of heckling.
In this age of increased scrutiny on the actions of players and coaches, why aren't the same measures taken towards the men that are supposedly responsible for keeping the game civil?
After all, that was the whole intention behind the power to eject, wasn't it? To remove people from the ballpark who had shown that they couldn't restrain themselves?
How are players suppossed to feel that the game is being properly policed if umpires are only given quasi-punishment for their actions?
If anyone can answer these questions for me, please let me know. Right now, it just doesn't make any sense.