Tigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected from Monday’s game after two innings following a bad call in Boston’s three-run bottom of the second.
With a man on second and two outs, Mike Aviles swung and tipped what appeared to be strike three, ending the inning. However, home plate umpire Jeff Nelson couldn’t tell if catcher Gerald Laird caught the ball and looked to first base ump Bill Welke for help. Welke ruled that the ball hit the ground, extending the at-bat. Replays showed that it was a clean catch by Laird, though.
Aviles went on to single, the first of three straight run-scoring hits for Boston that gave the team a 4-1 lead against Doug Fister.
After the inning concluded, Jim Leyland came out to state his case about the ball, likely arguing that Welke at least should have had the ball checked for dirt. When Leyland, Laird and bench coach Gene Lamont continued to argue from the dugout as the third was set to begin, Leyland and Lamont were both ejected, leading to another lengthy Leyland argument on the field.
Of course, we’re always told that instant replay would lengthen games. However, it would have taken about two seconds to identify that this pitch never hit the ground and might have shortened this game by a full 15 minutes, considering that the ensuing rally and Leyland’s argument wouldn’t have taken place.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.