Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Blue Jays and the Boys in Blue

A couple of days ago, we started writing a post about the Jays and their relationship to the umpires. It was a general observation about how the frequent interchanges between the players and umpires seems to have crossed a threshold.

You expect to see the odd head shake after a call, or a long stare from a pitcher. Maybe even a convulsive, full body interjection that indicates the player's displeasure. Those things happen in the run of a game, but even to our partial eyes, the Jays were indulging in this beyond the point of good taste. We came upon an illustration of the topic after Brandon Morrow allowed  a run to score while in the midst of a hissy fit over a close play at first on Tuesday, though the topic still seemed a little vague as we worked on it.

And then came last night's ninth inning.

There's a lot of blame to go around in the aftermath of that sequence of events. Brett Lawrie twice attempted to make up the umpire's mind for him by running up the baseline before the pitch was called either way. Umpire Bill Miller made at least one and maybe two bad calls in a row, and made them with so much gusto that it is hard to imagine that he was doing anything other than admonishing the player for showing him up. And Lawrie returned the favour with an all-out freak-out that is certainly a suspendable offense, and isn't worthy of your attempts to minimize or explain it away.

(Seriously, if you are pondering what the outcome of the evening is if Lawrie's helmet had landed in just the right way so as to not hit Miller, you're missing the fact that he threw his lid at the umpire's feet with the intent of sending a message. If you head down that road, you can't be shocked when that's where you end up.)

But let's move from micro to macro: Last night's incident was the most egregious in a season-long campaign of the Blue Jays being overly demonstrative over too many calls, and it's time for it to stop. There has to be a more significant level of maturity on this team, and the patience to accept the fact that, all things being equal, the good calls and the bad calls will likely even out over the year.

Moreover, there needs to be a recognition that the constant complaining probably does more to harm their cause in the long run, especially when they take umbrage at perfectly legitimate calls. We're looking in your direction, Jose Bautista.

There's nothing wrong with playing the game with emotion, but we're not sure what the players hope to accomplish by embarrassing the umpires on a regular basis. There are ways of dealing with them that are more mature and more convincing than the petulant, spastic displays made nearly every game. Didn't we used to respect the players who pleaded their cases with dignity? Wasn't there at one point a level of respect for the guys who weren't pleading their case in a manner that conveyed their point to those at the top of the 500 level, or maybe in the neighbouring condos?

We don't want to overstate our desire for John Farrell to become a disciplinarian, but the manager probably needs to convey to his team that the current state of affairs is not tenable, and that they need to chill out and suck it up. Regardless of when and how the league deals with Brett Lawrie, Farrell would be wise at this point to park him on the bench for a came to cast a chill on all of the hot-headedness. It was out of hand before last night, and it's become a real problem.


loyalj said...


Capn said...

I agree. I think Jose has set the example so far this season, and it's gotten out of hand. It would do the team well for him to adjust his attitude toward umps and lead by a better example.

Voodoo_Matt said...

I agree with you that the Jays as a whole and Jose and Brett in particular need to calm down.

I find Miller's actions last night to be completely unprofessional and unworthy of working in Major League Baseball. We may be able to say that strike three was borderline, but it's clear that Miller had the intent to call Lawrie out. The worst of the night by Miller was what happened right after the pitch. Lawrie was tossed from the game before ever touching his batting helmet, he probably didn't say more than two syllables before he was tossed. It was completely personal between these two (assumedly) men.

James said...

I disagree with you thinking Lawrie "attempted to make up the umpire's mind for him". I really think it's an excited kid thinking "that's a ball, sweet a walk, we need it." but forgetting the umpire makes the call.

Anonymous said...

Jose started this towards the end of last year when he was struggling a bit. Wish logs were kept at SportsNet game chat where I said this was going to take the team a bad direction and everyone jumped on me. When he picked it up in his first at bat I thought, uh oh, this could be a long season.

I wish it was me that was wrong last year. I hope my premonition that it'll probably take a bit of a shake up to cure it is wrong. I hope last night was them hitting bottom and they swallow their pride and just play baseball.

Nav said...

I'm with James. Lawrie wasn't trying to make up the umpire's mind on that 3-1 pitch. He was trying to walk his ass to first base, because he'd earned a free pass. That was a ball. That was a ball's ball. And it's bullshit that Miller missed that call, when the Jays desperately needed a baserunner.

I do agree with you that the Jays need to show more composure, and more maturity. That being said, I'm not surprised that this happened. Young team, young, hot-headed future star player ... it was bound to happen. Lawrie will be suspended, and he deserves it. I just wasn't surprised, especially the way that game played out. The Jays beat themselves, again. Everyone was frustrated. Miller pushed everyone over the edge with his bogus umpiring.

Live and learn.

Fuck the Rays.

Stephen said...

Okay, in all seriousness, please explain this to me as though I've never heard of baseball before. How is it showing-up the umpire to begin your walk to first? Not that I think it is, but couldn't the argument be made the it was the umpire who showed-up the batter by calling a strike, just to make him come back?

Also, why is arguing with an umpire considered to be an attempt to embarrass him? Who would be embarrassed by that?

Finally, why is it considered more classy to not argue? In real life, if someone makes a decision against you (especially one against the rules), and you have valid reasons for why that judgement should not have been made, shouldn't you stand up for yourself?

These are all honest questions -- I'm not trying to sound antagonistic or flippant in any way. I would love for someone to help me understand what I'm missing.

Patrick said...

Yes, the Jays need to calm down and show some maturity. Less talk, more actions speaking louder, etc. I agree. They have appeared vastly too whiny whether they have reason to complain or not. I miss Jose's quiet aggressiveness from the past two season with the occasional bark. He seems to talk too much at the plate now.

However, from what I've seen this season, there has been too many shitty calls by umpires, whether in Jays games or in other games, that frankly transcend the entire "human error/element" argument. This isn't "whoops, I'm human, my bad" followed by an appropriate owing up to such an error (re: Galaragga and Joyce). This is blatant poor job performance. Both strikes on Lawrie were not near enough to the strike zone to be considered difficult borderline calls. The umpire's hesitation in making these easy calls is disgusting, particularly when one factors in the umpire brotherhood's so called attempt to keep the game moving at a reasonable pace. The man is sitting behind the plate, looking at a pitch that was clearly a ball, taking his sweet time, why? Then he has the gall to call it a strike because the player is excited, wants to keep the game moving, and maybe create some momentum for his team? No, that is some poor job performance there. The old man should wake up and pay attention to his job.

The issue that I think you're skirting over is the lack of accountability for umpires in this game. Whether it is through the league holding them accountable by some measures and up to a certain standard or whether it is the umpire taking the initiative in acknowledging an egregious error (again, kudos to Joyce on this one). Umpires are a closely knit brotherhood of old, crotchety men who have no accountability and no standards. It is bringing down the quality of the game when the players have to battle the opposition and the officiating. This has to be remedied. Whether it is done by holding umpires accountable such that they start bringing up the quality of their officiating or by starting to use technology to provide umpires with better information and to leave less doubt about calls. Something has to be done. If the league is not going to do anything, then frankly that fan was entirely entitled to throwing his half empty beer in a plastic cup at the umpire. The umpire deserved that to be told he had failed to do his job, potentially ruining the game.

I understand that the strike zone requires a certain amount of personal judgment but frankly this was poor judgment and the most egregious of what has been some really bad strike zone judgments in the past few weeks in some of these games.

Lawrie should be suspended. He should be suspended to show that he made a poor decision in how he let his emotions control his reactions in that instant. It should not be a long suspension, maybe 5-7 games. He has to learn discipline, but he should not be punished so severely as to be made to think that he should damper his enthusiasm for the game.

Bill Miller should be reprimanded, potentially fined. If he doesn't want to lose his job, he should either undergo a few months of re-training or be dropped down to the minors. That was disgusting. If he goes unpunished, then he deserved the helmet and the beer.

The fan should be allowed to return to games. He paid his ticket to see a game of baseball, not to see umpires rule the day because they have their head so far up their own ass.

Capn said...

I disagree. Umps will always hold it against you if you take off to first without giving him a second to make the call.. Bad call, or not, you let him make the call first, and don't try to make it for him.

Anonymous said...

+1 to this post.

the only sensible take i've read across the blogosphere so far.

Anonymous said...

"all things being equal, the good calls and the bad calls will likely even out over the year."

All things are never equal.

Anonymous said...

Kids, lawn, etc.

Anonymous said...

Reality is this team is too comfortable. AA and Farrell have created that environment, where these players feel they can do as they please.

They need to shake things up, enough is enough

bakatron said...

i can't believe there are some folks who are defending lawrie, taking a piss on miller.

yes miller is a crappy umpire and theres a system that reviews his cock-ups and reprimand him for it but you can't exactly decide to go wallop an umpire thinking its okay to behave like a spoilt 5 year old child because nothing went your way.

its immature and its about time canada treats lawrie as a player accountable for his actions and other d-bag behavior and not as someone untouchable.

and yes, i do believe the canadian media has a different set of standards for lawrie as opposed to other players.

Anonymous said...

It's about time this team show some passion. Don't know why anyone would give a fuck about a stupid umpire.

Anonymous said...

What I would like to see is more umpires being suspended like Davidson was this week. It puts the umps back in their place and makes them realize that they are being paid way too much for what they contribute to the game (starting at 120K - 350K + 350/ day per diem). Lately it is like they feel that the fans come out to watch them. What they need to realize is a well "umpired" game is one where no one notices them AT ALL!
It is really time for MLB to send a message to the umpires union.
Lawrie was in the wrong and needs to control his emotions better or next time he will be looking at 10+ games.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Stephen and Patrick for saying everything I and lots more fans have been thinking.

An Ex-Expos Fan