Ejections are actually on the rise this season
Unexpectedly, despite steps to get most every call correct with expanded replay
Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski wasn't too happy with young umpire Quinn Wolcott's strike-zone judgment in a game earlier this month, and he made his point in a way that only A.J. can.
"Give me a new ball," Pierzynski said to Wolcott after Asdrubal Cabrera had drawn a walk. "One you can see."
Funny line. But instead of a "haha," it earned Pierzynski the ol' heave-ho.
Evidently, choice words or otherwise ill-timed talking points are still in vogue in Major League Baseball.
Remember all that early-season talk about peace and harmony emanating out of the adaptation of instant-replay review? About how the ability to challenge close calls would essentially eliminate arguments with umpires?
"It's just turning into a lovefest," Rays manager Joe Maddon said in April. "It's almost like you can't get upset anymore."
Yeah, uh, about that ...
Would you believe ejections are actually up this year over last? It's true.
While replay might have changed the tone of the conversations, in reviewable instances, the numbers, culled from closecallsports.com's database, show there has still been plenty of room for disagreement. The "eject button," as it were, is still being utilized frequently.
Here are the numbers, through June 25 of each year:
2014 ejections: 107
2013 ejections: 83
The Nationals' Matt Williams and the Padres' Bud Black each earned their first ejection of the season on Monday night, and now all but three Major League skippers -- the Indians' Terry Francona, the Brewers' Ron Roenicke and the Orioles' Buck Showalter -- have been ousted at least once this year.
Why are there still so many differences of opinion?
There is one obvious explanation, of course. Replay doesn't cover baseball's time-tested, biggest source of disputes: the strike zone. Ball/strike arguments have accounted for nearly half (51 of 107) of the ejections to date. And nothing short of unimpeachable, infallible robot umpires is going to change that.
There are other judgment calls, such as obstruction or interference or balks or checked swings, that are not reviewable and have created the usual amount of discord. Another 15 ejections have emanated out of those instances this season.
And then, of course, there are the ejections that arise when pitchers are deemed to have intentionally plunked batters or guys brawl or behavior is otherwise deemed to be unsportsmanlike. These instances have accounted for 25 of the 107 ejections (and in this count, we're including the time in April when Bo Porter was ejected for arguing when a warning was issued to the Astros and A's).
Oh, and don't forget about that famous ejection of Michael Pineda for having pine tar on his neck.
Add it all up, and that's 92 circumstances in which umpires and either managers, coaches or players simply didn't see eye to eye. Those alone amount to more tossings than we had seen at this point in the calendar a year ago.
Then we've got a new wrinkle -- another 15 ejections have arisen out of replay itself.
The replay rules clearly state that "once replay review is initiated, no uniformed personnel from either club shall be permitted to further argue the contested calls or the decision of the replay official."
Fourteen times, that borderline has been breached by guys who took issue with the New York-based interpretation of events. Managers have, as you would imagine, earned the vast majority of these ejections, although a third-base coach (Boston's Brian Butterfield, who slammed his helmet to the ground when a call ruling Dustin Pedroia out at the plate stood) and a pitcher (the Reds' Homer Bailey, who argued from the dugout about a close tag play at first that stood). Umpires have exercised their right to show no tolerance toward whining about replay results.
But on Wednesday night, we had yet another first in the world of ejections: Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas was ejected for applauding a replay.
Teammate Pedro Ciriaco had been called out trying to steal second in the ninth inning. The Royals challenged the play, and Moustakas clapped when he saw the Jumbotron replay that showed Ciriaco was, in fact, safe (the call was overturned). Umpire Brian Knight tossed Moustakas immediately.
"He [the umpire] thought they were mocking him," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Maybe you think that the fact he realized, by the replay, that we now have the tying run on second base, and he might be a little excited?"
The lesson here, ultimately, is that while replay has ensured a greater degree of fairness (282 calls have been overturned), it has not robbed us of one old-fashioned human element of baseball: confrontation.