Yunel Escobar was called out in tonight’s Reds-Braves game after getting hit by a thrown ball while running to first base in fair territory. It was the right call. However, lots of times, the umpires don’t make the right call there. (It only seems like it only happens to the Braves, I’m sure.) But I think I figured out why it doesn’t happen all the time, and it’s not because the umpires are incompetent.
Here’s the thing. If the umpires make that call all the time, then the pitchers, catchers, and first basemen who make the plays will have a fun time. They won’t have to try to throw to first base and miss the runner, and they’ll just nail the runner in the back. That’s probably something you want to avoid. So the umpires only call it sometimes. I’m not saying that’s the best way to go necessarily, but I’m guessing that’s why.
Bobby Cox was ejected for arguing (again, the right call). It’s his career 150th ejection.
“How many horrible calls can we see?”
Top of the ninth, Mets-Phillies; my bête noire, Jeff Francoeur, before hitting into his now-infamous game-ending unassisted triple play (who else could do that?) makes a nice sliding catch of a fly ball. The umpire, however, says that it’s not a catch, even though as the broadcasters say, it wasn’t even close. Jeffy, like the whiny little brat he basically is, throws a tantrum and gets in the umpire’s face. (He had a case, but I won’t ever give up a chance to make fun of Francoeur.) The umpires put their heads together and reversed the call.
Charlie Manuel came out to complain. I guess he had to, but normally when it’s that obvious the argument is only pro forma. But he kept at it, during the inning break, and eventually said the magic word or something, because Mark Wegner tossed him. Really, Manuel had to let it go. I’m with the umpires on this one — except for the idiot who made the terrible call to begin with. Maybe he should have been ejected.
Brian McCann just drew a walk on three balls and a strike. Not a strike that was called a ball — a foul ball strike.
Sorry for nothing this week, I have some health issues that limit my typing. Anyway, Tim Tschida just called the same runner out twice on a ground ball. Second time, he was right.
This isn’t my big Hit By Pitch essay, which I hope to write later this week and is basically an indictment of the entire umpiring profession. Last week, nobody reliever Brad Thompson was fined and suspended for throwing at David Wright. Soon after, star starter Matt Cain actually hit Wright in the head, sending the third baseman to the hospital with a concussion and jeopardizing his career. Cain was not punished.
There are two ways of looking at this. In one case, Cain was not punished because he didn’t mean to hit Wright, while Thompson, who didn’t hit Wright at all, did mean to. It seems morally questionable to me. “I didn’t mean to hurt him, it was an accident!” People get punished all the time for causing injuries they didn’t really mean to. To my mind, the question is less if Cain wanted to hit Wright than if he cared if he did. That’s the story of the great beanings throughout history. Carl Mays didn’t mean to hit Ray Chapman; he just didn’t care if he did.
The other way of looking at it is that Cain is a star and Thompson is a scrub with a 5.13 ERA who is about a week from being released.
LaTroy Hawkins, as if he didn’t have enough problems with the shingles, was fined last week — an undisclosed amount but enough that he thought it was too much — for saying that Mike Everitt “wanted” the Cubs to win a late July game. Everitt had ejected Hawkins for — say it with me — arguing balls and strikes. In point of fact, according to the Pitch F/X data, Everitt made a clear mistake on only one pitch Hawkins threw — an outside pitch he called a strike. However, three borderline high pitches, any of which could have been called a strike, were called balls. Hawkins works up in the zone.
Baseball is — understandably — very sensitive to any accusation that its umpires might not be neutral. Personally, I’m surprised that they didn’t suspend Hawkins. In other words, he should shut up and take his medicine. Obviously, if Everitt had decided who would win the game, that would be a huge scandal, but there’s really no evidence of that. Tempers run high.
Gary Darling ejected him this time. Apparently we’ve had bad calls and a reversal. More later.
UPDATE: It appears that the game was a badly umpired affair all around — but that Bochy was wrong and Darling right on the call at first leading to the ejection. On the other hand, Pablo Sandoval was apparently hit by a pitch — I have a long rant on HBP saved up, though I don’t know when I’ll be able to write it — but the umpire ruled that he fouled it off his bat. Nonetheless, there was a bases-clearing
brawl milling about after the pitch. And then in the top of the ninth, Darling pulled a rare two-fer, ejecting the Giants’ acting manager Ron Wotus, leaving the team in the hands of the third-base coach. Wotus was arguing a safe call at first on a Rafael Furcal grounder; Furcal probably should have been called out (it was very close, but I thought the throw beat him) and later came around to score the tying run.