Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina was ejected after being called out on a bang-bang play at first base to end the bottom of the third inning this afternoon in a 4-2 loss to the Giants. After first base umpire Clint Fagan called him out, Molina took off his helmet and slammed it on the ground in frustration, causing Fagan to immediately eject Molina. Manager Mike Matheny rushed out to defend his catcher and he, too, was ejected. Fagan assumed Molina’s behavior was directed at him, but as Molina told the media after the game, that wasn’t the case. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch:
The frustration, he clarified later, was not at the out call made by first-base umpire Clint Fagan. In fact, he said the call was correct. The reaction was to the play itself, as Molina, when he made contact, first thought he had an RBI hit in a game the Cardinals trailed by two.
“It was a big situation,” Molina said. “I thought I got a base hit, and they made a play. I knew I was out. I wasn’t upset that he made the call. I was upset with myself. I tried to hold my helmet.”
Fagan’s assumption speaks volumes to the mindset of umpires particularly in recent years — that everything is about them. Players can’t possibly be frustrated with themselves or with the situation; only actions directly related to umpiring are enough to get participants emotionally invested.
The antics of players across baseball help make the sport interesting. Expressive players who would otherwise not stand out can endear themselves to fans. When I was younger, Javy Lopez became one of my favorite non-Phillies for a short while because I saw him snap a bat over his knee in frustration one time. If he did that in 2013, he would have been ejected on the spot and given an equipment fine. As umpires continue to crack down on even the tamest displays of emotion, they will push players closer and closer to each other until the only thing that separates one from the other is their on-field competency. And that’s boring.
Fans like Yadier Molina not just because he’s one of the best catchers in the game, but because he very clearly cares about the game. Molina’s passion is infectious (in a good way). Allowing umpires to reign in Molina and the scores of players with a similar level of passion for the game because their egos got bruised is actively harmful to the game.