John Hirschbeck’s ejection of Troy Tulowitzki was weak

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Last night, Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was called out on strikes in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was a borderline call but a pitch that is quite often called a strike and wasn’t the kind of hill you’d prefer your star shortstop to die on, but he beefed about it anyway. He and home plate umpire John Hirschbeck argued a bit about the call, Tulowitzki sat down and that was that.

Except that wasn’t that. When Tulowitzki went out to shortstop at the top of the eighth, he appeared to be talking to his teammates about it. Hirschbeck, all the way over by home plate, took notice. Tulowitzki later said that he told Hirschbeck that the pitch wasn’t a strike. I imagine he said something stronger than that. But whatever the case, after a very brief exchange, Hirschbeck ejected Tulowtizki. Watch:

 

The Blue Jays have, to put it lightly, taken considerable issue with the strike zone this series. They don’t really have a great case on that score according to PITCHf/x, but ballplayers complain about strike zones sometimes. Even if you’re not supposed to argue balls and strikes with umps. It’s baseball and it happens.

What doesn’t happen or, at the very least shouldn’t happen, is an umpire running a key player in a situation like that. Yes, if a player is up in his face or delaying the game or otherwise behaving obnoxiously he may warrant an ejection, but this was not that case. This was an umpire fully able, if he so chose, to ignore a whining player. Instead he chose to have rabbit ears and take personal insult at what the player said, allowing his ego to control the situation.

We can possibly ignore this stuff in July, but this was a playoff game. The AL-freakin’-CS, and Tulowitzki is one of the most important players in it. It ultimately didn’t matter much to the outcome, but baseball should not tolerate a situation in which an overly-sensitive umpire is allowed to have a key impact on a playoff game by virtue of running a player with whom he becomes displeased. The fuse in a playoff game should be way, way, way longer than it normally is. And, heck, even in a regular season game the fuse should not be lit by a player standing 80 feet away saying something that no one else in the ballpark can hear in between innings.

I know there will be many of you who say “hey, you’re not supposed to argue balls and strikes,” “Tulo is a veteran who should know better,” or “hey, it was a good pitch and he had no argument in the first place.” Sorry, not buying that. Umpires should not, in anything other than extreme circumstances which imperil their very control over the game (i.e. beanball wars, fights, extreme and excessive confrontations) be ejecting players from playoff games. The outcome should be dictated by the players on the field, not the officials exercising what they consider to be their power.

Know what real power for an umpire is? Making your call and making it clear that nothing the players who are mad about it say makes a lick of difference. A power move is to totally and 100% ignore someone whining like Tulowitzki was whining. To act as if you can’t even hear him and, even if you did, that it doesn’t matter anyway. That’s what an umpire should be doing in these sorts of situations, not having his attention taken from his in-between inning routine and showing how big a man he is by depriving one team of one of its most important players.

In almost every situation, the first person to raise their voice in an argument is the loser. The person who escalates a situation the weaker party. While John Hirschbeck is one of the better umpires in the game, he showed himself to be the weaker party here, and by doing so could have very easily affected the outcome of a playoff game. That’s simply unacceptable.

A flipped-script NLCS moves to Los Angeles for Game Three

Associated Press
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The book heading into the series was that the Dodgers’ starters needed to come up big for them due to questions in the bullpen and that the Brewers’ bullpen was going to dominate Dodgers batters, so they had best do what they can to score off of Milwaukee’s starters. So, of course, the Dodgers starters turned in performances of three and four and a third innings and eight of their nine runs the Brewers have given up have come from their relievers. I dunno, man. It’s baseball. It lends itself to anticipatory analysis worse than any other sport.

All I do know for sure is that this series has been as close as it gets so far, with each game being decided by a run and the outcome being determined late. The first two games have given me a sense that the teams are just feeling each other out and that the next three, in Los Angeles, will provide a bit more coherence to all of this. Not that there isn’t something a bit fun about incoherence when it comes to a playoff series.

Your viewing guide:

NLCS Game 3

Brewers vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 7:39 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin vs Walker Buehler
Breakdown:

Jhoulys Chacin had an excellent NLDS start against the Colorado Rockies, turning in five scoreless innings. If he does something approaching that tonight the Brewers will be in pretty good shape given that Josh Hader — who pitched three shutdown innings in Game one — is available again tonight. To the extent Craig Counsell needs to dig more deeply into his reliever corps, however, things could get dicey. Corbin Burnes, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel and Joakim Soria have combined to allow seven earned runs in four innings. Brandon Woodruff, who has been dominant thus far, throwing five scoreless innings, stands a good chance of being the opener for Game 4, so Counsell will likely try to keep him off the mound tonight. That puts a decent amount of pressure on Chacin to get the game to Hader with as few innings remaining as possible.

For Los Angeles, it’s Walker Buehler who, the grand slam he gave up to Ronald Acuña in the NLDS notwithstanding, was the Dodgers’ most dominant starter down the stretch. In keeping with the somewhat flipped script so far, however, the Los Angeles bullpen has been solid, allowing just two runs over their ten and two-thirds innings in Games 1 and 2. Not that Dave Roberts wouldn’t love to see Buehler go deep tonight too.