John Hirschbeck’s ejection of Troy Tulowitzki was weak

81 Comments

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.

Adrián Beltré is a slam dunk Hall of Famer

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
2 Comments

Rangers third baseman Adrián Beltré officially announced his retirement on Tuesday, ending months of speculation about his future. The 39-year-old put together one of the greatest careers we have ever seen, spending time with the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Rangers across 21 seasons.

Beltré will be eligible for the Hall of Fame five years from now. Given how much more analytically-literate the electorate has become in recent years, Beltré will very likely get the requisite 75 percent of the vote to earn enshrinement in Cooperstown. In a just world, he would get 100 percent of the vote, but no player has ever gone into the Hall of Fame unanimously.

Beltré retires having hit .286/.339/.480 with 477 home runs, 1,707 RBI, 1,524 runs scored, and 121 stolen bases in 12,130 plate appearances. Beltré hit for the cycle three times: in 2008 with the Mariners, and in 2012 and 2015 with the Rangers. He won four Silver Sluggers and made the All-Star team four times, both of which seem criminally low. He also won five Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves. For the bulk of his career, he was arguably the best defensive third baseman if not just in his league then in all of baseball. Injuries slowed Beltré in his 30’s, particularly in the last two seasons, but despite that, he showed when he was healthy that he could still hang with the young guns in his old age. No one would have been surprised if he hung around for one more season. Despite health issues, Beltré still hit around the league average with above-average defense.

Among Hall of Famers who played at least 50 percent of their career games at third base, Beltré’s career 95.7 WAR ranks behind only Mike Schmidt (106.8) and Eddie Mathews (96.6), per Baseball Reference. He’s ahead of Wade Boggs (91.4), George Brett (88.7), and Chipper Jones (85.2). Those six are the only third basemen in the 80’s when it comes to WAR.

As Jon Morosi points out, Beltré is the only third baseman in baseball history with 3,000-plus hits and 400-plus home runs. Individually, the 3,000-hit club boasts only 32 members while the 400-homer club has 55 members. Beltré’s 3,166 hits and 477 homes rank 16th and 30th, respectively.

Beltré’s numbers are absurdly good, but beyond that, he was a character. He took the game quite seriously, but he was still able to have fun. He became one of the most .gif-able players in the game. Beltré didn’t like his head being touched, so when he approached or went through the dugout collecting high-fives after hitting home runs, his teammates would oftentimes playfully pat him or rub his head. Beltré would pretend to go after them in revenge.

Beltré once borrowed groundskeeping equipment in order to avoid Gatorade baths.

Beltré wasn’t afraid to drop to one knee to hit a homer, either.

Beltré played games with his opponents after successfully swiping a base.

Beltré got into standoffs with opposing players, further proving he’s anything but an easy out.

Beltré made relevant cultural references.

Beltré once trolled the umpire, who asked him to get back into the on-deck circle, by moving the on-deck circle.

Happy trails to not only one of the best players of his generation, but to one of the most entertaining as well. Baseball will be poorer without Adrián Beltré. His Hall of Fame induction ceremony should be tremendous, though.