Umpires should not be discouraging emotion

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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.

Didi Gregorius will wear a mask during games

Gregorius will wear a mask
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Didi Gregorius will wear a mask during games this year. That’s what the Phillies infielder tells the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“We are trying to go through the guidelines and trying to do everything we can do to stay safe, so, that’s why people see me walking around with a mask on and stuff. I am keeping myself safe, wearing a mask everywhere I go. So, I have to keep it on me all the time.”

Gregorius will wear a mask both while batting and out in the field, he said.

A big reason for it is that he has a chronic kidney condition which makes him “high risk” under Major League Baseball’s safety protocols. He could opt out if he wanted to but Gregorius, who signed a $14 million deal with the Phillies last winter, is a free agent again this coming offseason. He is coming off of a down year in 2019, having hit .238/.276/.441 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI across 344 plate appearances. Gregorius underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2018 and didn’t make his 2019 season debut until June 7. A big reason he took a one-year deal was to reestablish his value for next season’s go-around on the free agent market and he doesn’t want the long layoff going into what could be his last significant payday.

Major League Baseball is not requiring players or umpires to wear masks on the field during games or practices, though it is reportedly looking into clear face shields for home plate umpires to wear under their usual protective masks.

Gregorius will wear a mask to keep himself safe, he said, but he also notes in the article that “I think it adds safety for everybody, for me and people around me.” Here’s hoping, given his vulnerability, everyone around him is being as safe as he is.