There is an art to being thrown out of a baseball game. Before I started watching a lot of games at the park, I always thought it was pretty much the same – the umpire made a call, the manager came rushing out of the dugout to argue it, he got tossed. Now, I realize the real action is after the ejection, not before. First, the ejectee has a chance to make his case to remain in the game. This is usually replaced by a few choice comments about the umpire’s eyesight, upbringing or other attributes. Then, there is the walk of shame – at QTP, it’s all the way down the third base line, into the outfield to the far corner of the field to the gate to the clubhouse.
This walk can take quite a long time. Former AirHogs manager Pete Incaviglia would take a tremendous amount of time. It was his evening constitutional. Then, Pete would get so distracted thinking about what he had done (and I’m sure feeling remorse) that he would often leave the gate open. Unfortunately, the game could not proceed until the gate was closed. The umpires would tell the nearest AirHog to close the gate, but the players work for the manager, not the umpire. Eventually, someone would close the gate. Eventually.
There are actually rules about when someone can get tossed – theoretically, you can say anything about the call (“that was a horseshit call”, but not about the umpire (“you’re a horseshit ump.”) Ultimately, it’s the umpire’s decision, so like many decisions, ejections will be questioned, as in a couple of cases below.
Here are the three tosses from the past week and a half or so, two of which were in the same game –
Ricky VanAsselberg, AirHogs manager. The plate umpire had a strike zone that moved more than a popcorn kernel in hot oil. The batters were swinging in defense, and our pitcher was getting really flustered. Ricky headed to the mound to calm the pitcher down. After the usual pause, the home plate umpire waddled up to the mound to break it up. Ricky kept talking. Then, Ricky started discussing something with the umpire. Then, the hook. I’ve meant to ask Ricky what he said, but I’m sure it was something about if the umpire knew how to keep a strike zone consistent, Ricky wouldn’t be out there wasting time trying to calm down his pitcher. I’m sure it was reasoned and polite. Although, he did get ejected, so I’m pretty sure the term “horseshit” was used somewhere in the calm and reasoned discussion.
Antagonizing the umpire – Ricky stormed off towards home plate, and kicked dirt all over it. It was covered. This I find pretty funny, but it’s been done before. Then, he headed to the dugout to dump his equipment and put someone else in charge, since he was leaving. While this was happening, the umpire brushed off home plate.
Umpire’s Fatal Error – Home plate is between the dugout and the walk of shame. So, Ricky covered home plate in dirt. Again. His catcher was snickering as the umpire bent down to clean it off. Again. That was hilarious.
Mike Conroy, Wichita Wingnuts outfielder. Mike played with the AirHogs before, so I’ve met him a few times. He’s a very passionate guy, so you just stay out of the way, expect the usual outburst every now and then, and nobody will get hurt. He was up to bat, took a third strike, and dropped an F-bomb. It was “slightly” loud, since I could hear it from my seat by the first base dugout. Here’s the interesting part – he wasn’t actually challenging the call. He wasn’t even upset at the umpire, he was upset at himself. Then, the hook. WTF? What is he getting thrown out about?
Antagonizing the umpire – If you tell Mike Conroy “You’re outta here!”, I’m pretty sure he hears “Please tell me how you feel about my officiating, since you are now out of the game and can speak freely. Also, if you have any questions about the legitimacy of my birth or my mother’s alleged former hourly occupation, please feel free to discuss those as well.”
Umpire’s Fatal Error – After Mike discussed the call to his satisfaction and was storming towards the dugout, the umpire called for three more balls. He was signaling the bat boy, but Mike was happy to oblige. A handful of baseballs came raining out of the dugout. As Mike headed down the walk of shame, the bat boy was trying to gather them all up, and was having problems because he was laughing. If you can make someone laugh after causing them work, that’s a pretty good ejection.
Brian Rose, Wichita Bench Coach – I would have never known why Brian was thrown out, but we had lunch with him the next day, and it was being discussed, so I have the quote. Brian is the last person I would have expected being thrown out of a ball game. He’s a bench coach – the voice of reason. Brian’s a calm guy. (He was the AirHogs’ bench coach before he moved to Wichita, so we’ve watched him on the field.) Still, a player had a called third strike (in the same game that had seen Mike tossed a few innings earlier), and the player questioned the call briefly, and then returned to the dugout. So, that was that, until the hook appeared. At first, I didn’t know who had been ejected. It turns out Brian had asked a very innocent question – “How many more of those are you going to get wrong?” Apparently, the umpire took offense. Ironically, this is probably a legitimate ejection, since Brian was questioning the umpire. (He was not alone in this, but you can’t do it out loud if you’re in uniform.)
Antagonizing the umpire – After he was ejected, I really don’t think Brian was antagonizing the umpire as much as blowing off steam after having the same crappy officiating for six days. If you are the bench manager of a team, living on the road while battling cancer (visit Brian’s page for more info), I really don’t think you need a 19-year old working home plate, especially when he’s apologized for blowing calls before. It’s bad for your stress levels. That said, I believe Brian heard basically the same quote as Mike when he was ejected, “Say, since you’re leaving us, what do you think of my officiating? Do you have any constructive criticism for me?”
Umpire’s Fatal Error – You ejected Brian? He’s the one person keeping managers from killing you in the parking lot. That is not going to win you many karma points, dude.