I have long believed that an umpire is best seen and not heard, a line often used to describe children. Like children, some umpires tend to think they are the center of attention and their offenses are of the utmost importance. John Hirschbeck was among them this afternoon, when he went looking for a confrontation and found it in Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.
Harper check-swung on a 2-2 slider from Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez, which just barely escaped the edge of the strike zone. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson appealed to third base umpire Hirschbeck, who ruled that Harper had swung at the offering. Harper, exasperated, expressed his disagreement with the call some 100 feet away. Hirschbeck immediately threw up his hands and yelled at Harper, like a drunk guy looking for trouble in a bar. He walked towards home plate, continuing to gesticulate and shout as Harper quietly talked to Davidson from the batter’s box. Third base coach Trent Jewett intercepted Hirschbeck as he stomped towards Harper, but it was no matter as Hirschbeck ejected Harper from the game shortly thereafter.
This reminds me of an altercation a few years ago between Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and third base umpire Scott Barry. The circumstances were similar, though much later in the game. Barry, like Hirschbeck, was looking for a fight and got one. He ejected Howard in the bottom of the 14th inning, which forced the Phillies to use Roy Oswalt in left field.
I bring that up only as a secondary example to what happened this afternoon. An umpire should never be looking for a fight; rather, an umpire should always be striving to prevent one when possible. Like a customer service employee being yelled at by an unhappy customer, an umpire should stand statuesque, speaking calmly (or not at all). Hirschbeck’s behavior this afternoon is Exhibit A when baseball fans plead for less reliance on “the human element”.
Watch the conflict:
Troy Renck of the Denver Post has some details on the Rockies’ plans for Roy Oswalt after signing the 35-year-old right-hander to a minor-league deal yesterday.
According to Renck he’ll head to extended spring training and “is scheduled to make two or three starts there before probably going to Double-A Tulsa for more work.” Assuming he makes at least two starts at Double-A that would seemingly mean Oswalt is no fewer than three weeks from potentially joining the Rockies.
It’s also possible that they decide not to call him up at all, of course, but Renck notes that the Rockies were impressed by Oswalt’s recent throwing session and he’s been throwing “intense bullpen sessions” on his own to stay in shape.
As first teased by Roy Oswalt on his Twitter account, the Rockies just announced that they have signed the veteran right-hander to a minor league contract.
Oswalt is expected to report to extended spring training and will presumably join a minor league affiliate from there. The 35-year-old right-hander wasn’t in camp with a major league team this spring, so it might take him around a month or so in order to build his workload.
It’s worthwhile pickup for the Rockies, who are off to a surprising 17-11 start and have struggled to attract high-profile pitchers over the years. There wasn’t much interest in Oswalt this winter after he had a disappointing 5.80 ERA in nine starts and eight relief appearances with the Rangers last season, but he still managed a 59/11 K/BB ratio in 59 innings. It’s worth a shot to see if he still has something left.
Last night, Right around the time Roy Halladay was struggling through his second straight poor start, Roy Oswalt hopped on Twitter, announced his presence, and seemingly began campaigning for a gig with the Phillies:
Oswalt remains unsigned despite making it clear during the offseason that he planned to keep pitching, but unless Halladay is shut down with some sort of injury or they decide to ditch John Lannan the Phillies don’t really have a big need in the rotation.