More umpires gone wild: Bill Hohn ejects Roy Oswalt

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Roy Oswalt ejection.jpgSomeone at Major League Baseball needs to stage an intervention because the umpires are out of control. Last week we saw Joe West and Bob Davidson decide that the game was all about them. Yesterday it was Bill Hohn’s turn.

The scene (which you can see here): the Astros-Nationals game. Hohn was behind the plate and had been rather erratic with the balls and strikes.  After Roy Oswalt registered his disgust with a call — with his back turned to the plate, mind you, so he wasn’t barking at Hohn directly — Hohn comes out from behind the plate, takes his mask off and seems more interested in confronting Oswalt than officiating a ballgame.

Maybe the lip-readers among you can tell me differently, but to me it looks like Oswalt, when he noticed Hohn approaching, said “I’m not talking to you.”  Apparently telling an umpire that you’re not berating him is enough to get you ejected now, because that’s what Hohn did to Oswalt.  In doing so he changed the complexion of the game, caused the Astros to unnecessarily tax their bullpen and likely affected the outcome of the next couple of Astros games.

Every single person in a position of authority, be they a boss, a teacher a judge or whatever is taught that to maintain respect and control you have to maintain your composure and be the more mature actor. Somehow the umpires never learned that lesson, because they seem to be picking fights right and left these days.

If Bill Hohn wants to make a point about his strike zone, the way to do it is to keep calling his game the way he wants to and let the complaints of others roll off his back. They’ll get the message quickly. Instead he decided that his ego was more important than his authority and he wrongfully inserted himself into the game.

It was yet another shameful display by an umpire. Baseball had better do something about it quickly.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

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We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.