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.

Mike Trout has been really good at baseball lately

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“Water wet,” “Sky blue,” “Dog bites man” and “Mike Trout good” are not exactly newsworthy sentiments, but once in a while you have to state the obvious just so you can look back later and make sure you were, in the moment, aware of the obvious.

And to be fair, “Mike Trout good” is underselling the Angels outfielder lately. He’s on the greatest tear of his great career lately, and dang it, that’s worthy of a few words on this blog.

Last night Trout went a mere 1-for-1, but that’s because the Diamondbacks were smart enough not to pitch to him too much, walking him twice. There was no one on base the first time he came up and he got a free pass. There was a guy on first but two outs the second time, so he was once again not given much to hit and took his base again. Arizona was not so lucky the third time. The bases were loaded and there was nowhere to put Trout. He smacked the first pitch he saw for a two-run single. They probably shoulda just walked him anyway, limiting the damage to one. The last time up he reached on catcher’s interference. Maybe Arizona figured that literally grabbing the bat from him with a catcher’s mitt was the best bet?

If so you can’t blame them, really. Not with the month he’s had. In June, Trout is hitting .448/.554/.776 with five homers. He currently leads the league in the following categories: home runs (23), runs (60), walks (64), on-base percentage (.469), OPS (1.158) OPS+ (219), total bases (179) and intentional walks (9). He currently has a bWAR of 6.5. WAR, in case you did not know, is a cumulative stat. When he won the 2014 MVP Award, he “only” had 7.6 for the entire year.

Sadly, one man does not a team make, so the Angels are only 9-8 in the month of June and have fallen far back of the red-hot Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners in the division race. For this reason I suspect a lot of people are going to do what they’ve long done and overlook Mike Trout’s sheer dominance or, even more ridiculously, claim he is overrated or something (believe me, I’ve seen it even this month).

Feel free to ignore those people and concentrate instead on the greatest baseball player in the game today, who has somehow managed to up his game in recent weeks.