Umpire tells Russell Martin he has to “earn the privilege” to throw new balls back to the pitcher

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Weirdness in Anaheim.

Last night Russell Martin and home plate umpire Laz Diaz got into it over balls and strikes early in the game, but no one lost their head and Martin was not ejected. Later, however, Martin said Diaz began to mess with him:

Martin says Diaz wouldn’t allow him to throw new baseballs back to his pitchers after fouls during New York’s 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night … Martin says Diaz told him that throwing the balls was “a privilege I had to earn.”

In explaining it, Martin used a colorful metaphor to describe Diaz:

“Even at the end of the game after I get hit in the neck. I’m like, can I throw the ball back now? He’s still like no. I’m like you’re such a (expletive). Like for real. Unbelievable. I even told him like when there’s guys on base, I like to keep my arm loose. No. I’m not letting you throw a ball back. That’s pretty strange to me … I was kind of mystified. I really didn’t get that. He was punishing me.”

I have never heard of such a thing. And while umpires sometimes throw the new balls out themselves, I have certainly never heard of an umpire either insisting on throwing them or refusing to allow a catcher to do so.

If this actually went down the way Martin says it did and Diaz was petulantly messing with Martin over their earlier dispute, the guy doesn’t deserve to be officiating major league games.

Ronald Acuna tops Keith Law’s top-100 prospect list

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ESPN’s Keith Law has released his annual top-100 prospects list. According to Law, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna is the number one prospect in baseball.

After blazing through High-A and Double-A ball last season, Acuna was the youngest player in Triple-A in 2017. He was 19 years-old all season long and put up a fantastic line of .335/.384/.534 in 486 plate appearances at Double and Triple-A. He then went on to star in the Arizona Fall League, leading that circuit in homers. Law, who is not one to throw hyperbolic comps around, says, “if Acuna stays in center and maxes out his power, he’s going to be among the best players in baseball, with a Mike Trout-ish profile.”

Acuna, who is 20 now, is likely play the bulk of the season in Atlanta, even if he’s kept down at Triple-A for the first couple of weeks of the season to manipulate his service time, er, I mean to allow him to develop his skills more fully. Or something. Given the presence of reigning Gold Glove center fielder Ender Inciarte, Acuna is not likely to man center for the Braves this year, but Law says he’d be a plus right field defender, which could make the Braves outfield Death to Flying Things in 2018. At least when Nick Markakis is not playing.

Number two on the list: Blue Jays third base prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. As law notes, the name may be familiar but he’s not very much like his old man. Mostly because young Vlad can take a walk. Which is better, even if it’s nowhere near as fun as swinging at balls that bounce in the dirt first.

For the other 98, you’ll have to click through.