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Something needs to change to avoid future incidents like Machado-Welke

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced that Padres third baseman Manny Machado was suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for “aggressively arguing” and making contact with home plate umpire Bill Welke after a controversial strike three call in the fifth inning of Saturday’s game against the Rockies in Colorado. The clip of the incident is below, showing that Welke’s call was poor. Machado’s behavior was also poor, as he indeed made contact — inadvertently or not — with Welke and repeatedly swore at him. Machado also threw his bat, though it was not in anyone’s direction and no one was put in harm’s way.

Machado chose to appeal his suspension, as is his right. While that matter is in the process of being resolved, the Major League Umpires Association put out a lengthy statement on Facebook and a shorter but hashtag-laden post on Twitter. The statements were problematic for a number of reasons, chiefest being that the union is publicly commenting on an ongoing matter. MLB can keep Machado’s suspension at one game, which seems likely, or it can reduce his suspension to zero games. The league can also choose to reduce or remove the fine as well. Once the matter is resolved, the MLBUA should feel free to comment publicly on the matter.

MLBUA’s statement was also poorly proofread, hyperbolic, and creates a very legitimate argument for bias against Machado and/or the Padres going forward. The MLBUA described Machado as “violently” throwing his bat “with no regard to anyone’s safety.” It continued, “It is NOT okay to throw a temper tantrum and physically touch someone of authority, just because you don’t agree.”

MLBUA then moralized, asking, “What does this teach the MLB’s immense and ongoing influential youth movement trying to attract young fans to the game? Major League Baseball has to always lead by example in all cases of violent behavior, on and off the field.” It closed out, saying that the union was “extraordinarily disappointed” in MLB’s “inaction.”

Among the hashtags MLBUA used on Twitter were “#TemperTantrum,” “#RepeatOffender,” and “#Nonsense.”

Major League Baseball then released a statement on Tuesday night, saying, “…we do not believe it is appropriate for the union representing Major League Umpires to comment on the discipline of players represented by the Players Association.” The league added, “We also believe it is inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”

Whoever put out the message on behalf of the MLBUA should have asked themselves, “What is my purpose here and for whom am I posting this?” The entire purpose of a trade union is to create a cohesive unit, establishing bargaining power on behalf of labor versus capital. So, MLBUA is not writing this for fans, for players, or for MLB executives; it is publicly commenting for umpires. An ancillary benefit might be to engender public support for umpires vis-a-vis Welke.

It must then ask itself if the statement creates solidarity among umpires. And I think that’s a solid no. Machado is not the first player and will not be the last to make contact with an umpire and to throw a “temper tantrum” of that magnitude. So why single Machado out and die on this hill today? I would be shocked if more than a handful of umpires outside of Welke and his closest confidantes appreciated the MLBUA reacting the way it did. It doesn’t help them achieve any union-specific goals and might actually hurt them. Repeatedly referring to Machado’s actions as a “temper tantrum” and “nonsense,” and calling him a “repeat offender” is unprofessional. It’s something an Internet commenter would write in the heat of the moment, not the representative of a trade union in one of the most profitable industries in the country. Furthermore, in singling out Machado, Machado himself as well as his teammates have a legitimate reason to believe Welke and his crew might be biased against them not just for the remainder of the season but for the foreseeable future.

On a more pedantic note, the MLBUA wrote that it is not okay for players to act the way Machado did against “someone of authority.” It’s not the power that should shield umpires from workplace violence; it’s their humanity. Machado should no more or less scream and yell at an umpire than he should anyone else in any walk of life. However you rank umpires, coaches, front office executives, teammates, opponents, fans, etc. — they should all be treated equally.

All of this being said, there was one part of MLBUA’s statement that rang true. As mentioned, Welke did suffer violence in the workplace. I disagree with MLB that the comparison was inappropriate. There is nuance to what constitutes “workplace violence.” Is it a mass shooting? Of course not. But in no other employment setting would it be appropriate for one person to scream, curse, and throw items across the room during a disagreement. The union correctly wrote, “Physical contact simply cannot be tolerated.” The crux of all of this is that Major League Baseball doesn’t discourage altercations between umpires and players/coaches. Things have gotten better since the implementation of instant replay, but some instances — especially ball/strike judgment — can turn into very heated altercations.

MLB needs a flat rule instructing players and coaches not to argue with umpires. The team of the offending person(s) would incur an in-game penalty as well as a potential fine and suspension. In exchange for this loss of power on the part of players and coaches, the umpires should be subject to actual oversight. As it stands, umpires are almost never punished in any way for any kind of behavior towards players and coaches, nor are they often punished for poor results in terms of correct calls made. The umpires already have the advantage with their authority; their lack of oversight puts that advantage on steroids, which is why there’s often so much frustration. Umpires instigate confrontations a non-negligible amount of the time. If they felt like they would actually be held accountable for it, they might be much more reluctant to act, for example, the way Ron Kulpa did towards the Astros in early April.

MLBUA helped gain that power imbalance for its members, so it isn’t likely to give it up very easily. I don’t see my utopian dream coming to fruition anytime soon. But that’s the crux of every umpire-involved confrontation: authority. Umpires and players/coaches need to be on a level playing field in that regard, and the rules need to be crystal clear on what kind of behavior is allowed from both sides. Until that happens, we’ll be seeing a Machado-vs.-Welke incident once or twice every year ad infinitum.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here’s where we stand:

  • The Cardinals won and the Brewers and Cubs lost, putting St. Louis’ lead in the NL Central back up at three;
  • The Twins lost and the Indians won, dropping the Twins lead in the AL Central to four;
  • The top three teams in the NL Wild Card race lost and the next three all won. That means the Nationals are in top Wild Card position, a game and a half ahead of the Brewers and Cubs, who in turn are both three games ahead of the Phillies and Mets. The Diamondbacks are four and a half back; and
  • The A’s, Rays and Indians and Rays all won, keeping the AL Wild Card race at status quo with Oakland two games over the Rays who are a half game ahead of Cleveland.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Cardinals 5, Nationals 1: Adam Wainwright allowed one run over seven, out-pitching Max Scherzer. Dexter Fowler robbed a home run too:

The Cards beating the Nationals reduces the Braves’ magic number to clinch the NL East to two. Which means that, for one of the first times in 16 years, the Braves trading Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals actually paid off some for ’em.

Mets 7, Rockies 4: The Mets were down 4-2 in the eighth but rallied for five runs in the final two frames for the win. The rally was pretty much all small ball too, with Pete Alonso — who had homered earlier — walking with the bases loaded and runs coming on ground outs and double play balls and a couple of singles. Jeff McNeil also homered for the Mets who passed their single season team record for dingers with 225. Something like half of all of the teams will set new home run records this year.

Athletics 1, Royals 0: Homer Bailey and Danny Duffy traded zeros for seven innings and the their relievers continued to do so into the eleventh. Jurickson Profar led off the bottom of the eleventh with a walk, however, stole second base and then scored when Mark Canha hit a walkoff double to end it. When the dust settled, A’s pitchers had gone 11 shutout innings striking out 19 Royals batters in all.

Diamondbacks 5, Marlins 4: Abraham Almonte and Christian Walker homered and Mike Leake bent but didn’t break in six and two-thirds mostly effective innings to give the Snakes the win. But who cares about a Marlins-Dbacks game? What you really should know is that I watched season 2, episode 1 of “Columbo” last night and it was great. John Cassavetes was the killer. I love him in everything. Blythe Danner played his wife. She was pregnant with Gwyneth Paltrow during the filming of this one and it aired ten days before Paltrow was born. They put Danner in bulky sweaters and stuff to hide it. The great Myrna Loy, from “The Thin Man” movies, was in it as Danner’s mom. Pat Morita had a bit part as the “house boy” even though he was like 40 when it was made. Racist much? Yeah, well, it was the 70s. George Gaynes — the guy from “Punky Brewster” and the “Police Academy” movies was in it too. The director of the episode was Nicholas Colasanto, who later played Coach on “Cheers.” And the mansion Cassavetes character lived in was the “Benson” mansion:

And yeah, that Jag served as a plot point too. Lovin’ “Columbo” these days, you guys.

Indians 2, Tigers 1: Death, taxes, Columbo acting befuddled, getting under the hubristic murderer’s skin with his constant questioning and then, just as the episode is about to end, putting it all together and catching the criminal in their web of lies and deception, and the Indians beating the Tigers. This time in extras with Yasiel Puig hitting a walkoff RBI single.

Angels 3, Yankees 2: CC Sabathia only lasted two and two-thirds innings in what was his final regular season start in Yankee Stadium. Maybe even his final game there period as there’s no guarantee he makes the postseason roster. He allowed two and Adam Ottavino gave up an unearned run in the sixth, but it was via his own throwing error and that was the difference in the game. The Angels bullpen tossed five shutout innings.

Mariners 4, Pirates 1: Four M’s pitchers combined to allow one run on six hits while Kyle Lewis and Tom Murphy each homered. The M’s have won four in a row.

Blue Jays 11, Orioles 10: Baltimore led 7-1 heading into the sixth, the Jays rallied to make it close, the O’s scored a couple more to make it 9-5 heading into the ninth but the Jays rallied even bigger, scoring six in the final inning — four of which came on a Randal Grichuk grand slam with two outs — to take an 11-9 lead and then held on 11-10. All of that offense saved Clay Buchholz‘s bacon. He allowed 10 hits, seven for extra bases, in three and two-thirds innings but got the no-decision. His ERA on the season is now 6.48 in ten starts. His nice 2018 season in Arizona seems like it was a hundred years ago. His heyday in Boston seems like a million.

Giants 11, Red Sox 3: The Giants win gave Bruce Bochy his 2,000th victory as a manager. That puts him in pretty exclusive company as he’s only the 11th guy to do that. Every single guy ahead of him on that list is in the Hall of Fame as Bochy will be too one day. Giants starter Jeff Samardzija took a no-hitter into the sixth inning while Boston pitchers for tagged for 15 hits. The Giants scored two runs in the eighth and five more in the ninth to make it a laugher. They go for the sweep this afternoon.

Phillies 4, Braves 1: Zach Eflin allowed only an unearned run while working into the seventh and was backed by homers from Bryce Harper and César Hernández. Jean Segura drew a bases-loaded walk too. The Braves have dropped three in a row.

Padres 2, Brewers 1: Padres starter Dinelson Lamet, who missed all last season with Tommy John surgery — struck out 14 dudes in six one-run innings and got just enough offense behind him — in the form of a two-run homer from rookie Seth Mejias-Brean — to make that stand up.

White Sox 3, Twins 1: Eight Sox pitchers took a combined no-hitter into the sixth inning and ended up allowing only one run on three hits in all. Zack Collins homered and Yoan Moncada doubled twice. And check out this play-off-the-wall and throw to third by Adam Engel, cutting down Eddie Rosario who was trying to stretch a double into a triple:

Worth noting that Rosario would’ve made it if he didn’t take a moment to admire what the initially thought was a homer. And, of course, if he stays on second he’s fine and the Twins have a chance to draw closer in a tight game.

Reds 3, Cubs 2: The Cubs came into this series having won five straight but the Reds have dropped them twice in a row. That’s not idea. Here José Iglesias smacked an RBI double in the top of the tenth to give Cincinnati the win. Reds pitchers played a big part too, of course, with five of them, led by Tyler Mahle, combining on a four-hitter.

Rays 8, Dodgers 7: An eighth inning Cody Bellinger homer gave L.A. a 6-4 lead but the Rays rallied for two runs off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth. Which sort of resets the recent “Jansen is back!” narrative that had begun to form. Austin Meadows led off the 11th inning with a homer and Ji-Man Choi hit a sac fly for an insurance run that, thanks to one more Dodgers run in the bottom half, ended up being needed, as the Rays held on for the victory. Just one more thing: eighteen more pitchers used in this one, which went four hours and forty minutes. At least this one was closer, seemingly more riveting baseball than the previous night.

Astros 3, Rangers 2: Gerrit Cole struck out ten and allowed only two runs in eight innings to pick up his 18th win. And, en route, picked up his 300th strikeout on the season. Cole has not lost a game since May 22, you guys. Yuli Gurriel and José Altuve each homered, supplying all of the offense.