If you were watching the Dodger game tonight, and my guess is that since they suck, you weren’t, you’ll have witnessed a prime example of what plagues officiating in all major sports; an inability by the official to exercise common sense.
In yesterday’s game, the Diamondbacks’ Gerardo Parra postured and showboated after homering off of Hong Chi Kuo, several pitches after a fastball from Kuo went high and tight on Parra as he squared to bunt. Clayton Kershaw, tonight’s starting pitcher, was shown on television yelling at Parra as he showboated, “You’ll find out! You’ll find out!” One would assume that he was letting Parra know that he could expect a little chin music next game, if not a shiny new baseball sized tattoo somewhere around his ribcage.
Fast forward to tonight’s game, Parra is leading off the sixth inning for the D Backs and on an oh and one count, Kershaw throws an inside fastball that hit Parra on the elbow. Home plate umpire, Bill Welke immediately gave Kershaw the heave ho. Now, one might understand the ejection given the events of the previous game… except that there are several facts that Welke, who is by all accounts a decent umpire, ignored. Kershaw is working on a one hit shutout and in a hot competition with Arizona’s Ian Kennedy for the NL Cy Young award, Parra made only a cursory attempt to get out of the way, and Kershaw, who has excellent command, would not have gone for Parra’s elbow if he was out for retribution. He would have gone right for the rib cage, where you can cause maximum pain with minimum risk of causing serious injury. Why should Welke have known this? Because, as a veteran umpire anyone would know, there is an art to drilling an opposing hitter intentionally.
How to do it: In the 2008 NLCS between the Phillies and Dodgers, Brett Myers was obviously headhunting. He nailed Manny Ramirez, who don’t forget hit .357 with 17 home runs for the Dodgers during the stretch run, and nearly nailed several other hitters including Andre Ethier with fastballs near the head. The next game, after Cole Hamels went high and tight on a couple of Dodger batters (though giving him the benefit of the doubt, there was very little if any ill intent by the Phillies’ southpaw on those plays) Hiroki Kuroda sacked up and whipped a 93 mph fastball about three feet over the head of Shane Victorino. The intent was clear. Stop hitting my guys. Sure, it probably would have been more appropriate to smoke Victorino in the backside, but Kuroda sent the message without allowing a baserunner… and more importantly, without seriously hurting anyone.
How not to do it: Earlier this year, the Angels’ ace Jered Weaver allowed a decisive home run to the Tigers’ Carlos Guillen, who uncharacteristically (Guillen has always been considered a classy dude) taunted Weaver as he jogged up the first baseline. A visibly irritated Weaver launched his next pitch, a 90+ fastball, at Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila’s head. Avila was lucky to avoid getting smoked in the earhole. Weaver was duly tossed from the game, and for good reason. Weaver risked causing grave injury to Avila, who had absolutely nothing to do with what angered Weaver to begin with. The proper way to handle this would have been for Weaver, the next time he faced Guillen, to nail him in the butt or ribs… or better yet in this blogger’s opinion, fan him and show him back to the dugout with a decisive point.
You’re just an idiot if: Remember a decade ago or so, when Mike Piazza hit a comebacker against Roger Clemens, breaking his bat in the process, and Clemens picked up the business end of the broken bat and winged at Piazza as the big catcher jogged toward first? And to make matters worse, claimed after the game that he was confused, in the heat of the moment, and thought it was the ball? Well, moron, if it had been the ball, wouldn’t you have lobbed it to Tino Martinez at first base for the out? Anyway, fast forward to the following season, the Mets were playing the Yanks in Interleague play and, lo and behold, at Shea Stadium, Clemens had to bat. The idiot the Mets had pitching (as always, beer is more) took two shots at Clemens. Both went behind Clemens’ legs. Understandably, he was tossed after the second attempt, presumably as much for the fact that he missed so horribly on both his retribution attempts that the ump wanted to put him out of his misery.
If you’re an umpire: In ice hockey, players are allowed to police their own transgressions with fighting, so long as the sticks and cheap shots from behind don’t get involved, with the penalty being a mere five minutes in the sin bin. In baseball, you should be allowed to make a statement when rules of etiquette have been breached. One statement that doesn’t endanger someone’s career or life. Even if Kershaw’s pitch that hit Parra’s elbow had been intentional, which is debatable at best, Welke had no business ejecting him. After all, there are rules.