Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An Unnecessary Umpire Instigation

  • Umpire Brian Runge deserves a fine and suspension:
In the days of yesteryear (before everyone was walking around carrying a video camera at
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the ready) cops handled minor infractions such as writing graffiti in a much simpler and quicker way by whacking the perp over the head a few time with his nightstick and warned him not to do it again. They saved time by avoiding the middleman for a piddly offense that would have amounted to no sanctions by employing some prudent use of street justice. Of course, using this technique resulted in some overzealous officers going overboard and it was once a similar situation for major league umpires; they could pretty much do and say whatever they wanted with impunity. The streamlining and consolidation of the American and National League umpires under the MLB brand put a stop to the separation of leagues and the suspension of umpire Mike Winters last
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year for his part in the late-season confrontation with Milton Bradley sent a message that the umpires weren't so untouchable anymore. After last night's umpire-instigated confrontation during the Mets-Mariners game, it will be interesting to see who gets the blame and the punishment.
In the fourth inning of what eventually became a Mariners 11-0 win, Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran respectfully objected to a strike call from home plate umpire Brian Runge. In general, the umpires don't mind if the batter complains while looking anywhere other than directly at him. In reading Beltran's lips, he didn't even cuss; all he said was that the pitch was "down". Runge stepped out from behind the plate, removed his mask and stood in front of Beltran starting a problem where there shouldn't have been one. Beltran kept his composure and manager Jerry Manuel came out to protect his player and was bumped by Runge for what
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appeared to be no reason. In a moment of completely justified anger, Manuel exploded and was ejected. Beltran soon followed suit and the Mets went on without their manager or number three hitter for the rest of the game. Players get fined and/or suspended for such infractions as bumping the umpire; will Runge be suspended for initiating the contact with Manuel? For standing in front of Beltran like some would-be tough guy in a bar who yaps and yaps and ends up getting his brains beaten in when he goes too far?
And what exactly did Beltran do that was so out of line? Has anyone ever seen Jeff Kent
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barking at an umpire while he's batting? In what seems to be every at bat, Kent disputes a call while staring down at the plate and unleashing a series of colorfully decorated complaints to the home plate umpire and gets away with it every time; from what I understand, Beltran isn't one to cuss much, if at all; what did he do to warrant such a reaction from an umpire who was obviously looking to assert some invisible code of manhood?
Winters's suspension last year was construed as a betrayal of the umpires by the league office, but it was applauded by those who have seen and been on the other end of an umpire's megalomaniacal power trips for years; is Runge going to be allowed to get away with going out of his way to start the confrontation and then in an unprovoked move, bump the manager who was just trying to protect his player? Beltran and Manuel are going to get fined when Runge is the one who deserves the punishment. The question is whether the league is going to turn a blind eye to one of their "cops", or are they going to send the message that some of these wannabe macho men had better tone it down a bit? At the very least, Runge deserves to be called on the carpet because he's the one at fault.
  • White Sox 6-Dodgers 1:
Derek Lowe has been getting raked around this year and his ground ball/fly ball ratio is far worse than what has been normal for him throughout his career. From memory of his mechanics while with the Red Sox and first couple of years with the Dodgers, he looks out of whack. In his good years, the ratios of ground balls/fly balls and line drives has been around
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2/1 or better; now it's about 1.5/1 or worse. I'd like to think I'm not disclosing anything that Dodgers manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt can't see for themselves, but here goes:
He's no longer turning his hips as prominently, nor is he pausing in mid-delivery as long as he once did and Lowe appears to be rushing his delivery from his leg lift. It used to be that he lifted his leg and pushed his throwing hand and glove together before breaking his hands and firing; now he looks like he's moving too quickly; because of that, he's short-arming the ball by not making as big a circle with his throwing arm to catch up and compensate to get where he's supposed to be. He also looks like he's dropped his arm angle and isn't getting on top of the ball as he did when he was at his sinkerballing best. If these mechanical issues are out of sync, of course Lowe's results aren't going to be what they once were; of course his pitches aren't going to dive down at the hitting zone and will be devoid of pop. What's most disturbing is that it took me such a short time to notice the problems and the Dodgers haven't corrected them already.
These things should neither be hard to spot, nor to correct. If Honeycutt hasn't noticed it, what good is he as a pitching coach; if Torre hasn't noticed it after all those years facing Lowe while he was with the Red Sox and Torre was managing the Yankees, I'd want to know why if I were owner Frank McCourt. Isn't their expertise why they're getting the big bucks?
  • Rays 6-Marlins 4:
The days in which Rays fans could be skeptical about the improvement of their team
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appear to be over; and the Marlins fans have proven that they have little interest in their team (no matter how good or bad they are) until they're actually playing in the World Series. Even with all of that, an announced attendance of 12,352 for last night's game between the two Florida teams is downright embarrassing.
  • An apology from J.P. Ricciardi to Adam Dunn...or not?
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Adam Dunn is denying J.P. Ricciardi's assertion that the two spoke in a phone call from Dunn to Ricciardi on Saturday----ESPN Story. Ricciardi is saying that he apologized to someone identifying himself as Adam Dunn and that he may have been the victim of a "prank". If that's not true, then someone's lying and given his history, my money's on Ricciardi. How much more are the Blue Jays supposed to take by way of off-field embarrassment and on-field mediocrity from J.P. Ricciardi, baseball's answer to Eddie Haskell?

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