The often self-aggrandizing behavior of major league umpires has been a conversation topic of many baseball fans for years now. Instance upon instance of umpires aggressively confronting and prematurely ejecting players from games has led to many calling for baseball to switch to robot umpires as soon as possible.
These “ump shows” came to a head recently, when Gerry Davis ejected Adrian Beltre for moving the on-deck circle closer to home plate and Ian Kinsler publicly criticized Angel Hernandez for being bad at his job. Last week, some umpires decided to wear white wristbands to protest the ‘escalating verbal attacks’ against them – a move made to look even more self-absorbed and tone-deaf given the infinitely more important anti-fascist protests currently occurring in the United States.
The Blue Jays are no strangers to overaggressive showmanshimp or mishandling of situations on the part of umpires. This Tuesday, Kevin Pillar was promptly ejected from the game by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild (oh the irony) despite not even breaking stride or using swear words (umpires expect a PG-13 environment) while complaining on his way back the Jays’ dugout. With major league umpires doing their best to make everyone pay attention to them, here’s a look at some of the worst umpiring the Blue Jays have had to deal with in recent history. As if you needed another reason to loath the boys in (navy) blue.
Toby Basner Throws out Josh Donaldson After Mishearing Him – May 2016
When the Minnesota Twins dugout begin chirping Josh Donaldson after failing to run out a ground ball, Donaldson, who is more likely to quote Scarface than Toy Story, responds to the Twins’ bench as he is jogging back to the Jays’ dugout. Like most MLB umpires, Toby Basner assumes everything is about (or in this case directed at) him and promptly throws Donaldson out of the game.
The Jays were left without their best player for the remainder of the game (the incident happened in the first inning) and in an attempt to let us know that being obnoxious runs in the family, Basner’s wife Rachel, bragged about the ejection on Facebook later that afternoon.
Jim Wolf Fails to Handle Escalating Tensions Between Jays and Royals – August 2015
As the Blue Jays began their first pennant race in nearly twenty years, the team played a highly contested series against the Central Division-leading Kansas City Royals. After being (what Donaldson believed to be intentionally) hit by Edinson Volquez in the first inning, home plate umpire Jim Wolf warns both teams. Then Donaldson is buzzed up and in in his second at bat; nothing is done. Things die down for the middle innings until Royals reliever Ryan Madson hits Troy Tulowitzki in the bottom of the seventh. One batter later, Donaldson is buzzed up and in a second time, to which Wolf’s response is to eject John Gibbons when he runs on the field to complain about Wolf’s lack of response.
The next inning, Aaron Sanchez hits Alcides Escobar in the knee and gets tossed (and subsequently fined and suspended). The benches clear. Jays’ players and coaches are understandably furious with Wolf, who appeared to be watching a different game all together and decided to use a similar approach to de-escalation as Donald Trump does with North Korea. If Wolf had simply tossed a Royals’ hurler after hitting Tulo or any of the multiple times Donaldson was buzzed, the situation could have been avoided, and Aaron Sanchez would be just a little bit wealthier than he already is.
Will Little Ejects Marcus Stroman on Camp Day – Jul 27, 2017
July 27th of this season was Camp Day at the Rogers Centre: a mid-week afternoon game that sees kids flock into the ballpark in droves thanks to discounted tickets. In an attempt to make sure future generations of baseball fans grow up idolizing Will Little instead of Marcus Stroman, or at least so they know who was boss, Little ejects Stroman after no more than benign frustration over the strike zone. This is after Little has already ejected John Gibbons (which if we are being fair, getting ejected is kind of his thing). Russell Martin, who is rightfully frustrated with Little’s quick trigger finger, expresses his frustration and Little ejects him for good measure, marking one of the only times we will see an entire battery thrown out on the same play.
While Little likely believes the kids in attendance will remember the game for its umpiring, the next generation of baseball fans leave with the memory of an exciting come-from-behind Blue Jays’ win and the bad taste of an over zealous umpire that inserted himself into a situation he didn’t need to.
Angel Hernandez Stares Down J.A. Happ – Jul 28, 2017
The. Very. Next. Day. Speaking of inserting yourself into a situation, Angel Hernandez decides he’s going to one up the typical ump stare down with J.A. Happ when he thinks the Jays’ starter is disrespecting him.
Hernandez then begins to act like the drunk guy at a bar who is looking for a fight when he takes off his mask and begins walking towards Happ yelling “what do you want?” Martin, or in this analogy, Happ’s buffer, less-skinny friend, has to tell Hernandez to “put his mask back on”. When the inning ends, Happ again reassures Hernandez that he wasn’t doing anything to hurt his feelings. Unfortunately for Hernandez, Ian Kinsler wasn’t nearly as delicate as Happ and Martin were.
Vic Carapazza Calls Terrible Game, Throws Out A Whole Bunch of Blue Jays – Canada Day, 2016
Known for his notoriously inconsistent strike zone, Vic Carapazza had the Blue Jays and Rangers scratching their heads after his tour of duty behind home plate in the 2015 ALDS.
Next July, with Carapazza’s inconsistent zone on full display once again, he wastes no time ejecting Blue Jays, beginning with the typically mild-mannered Edwin Encarnacion.
Unlike the player who hit directly before Edwin for most of his tenure in Toronto, Encarnacion is not known for aggressively arguing balls and strikes. That didn’t stop Carapazza from almost instantaneously ejecting the Jays’ placid slugger when Edwin was upset with a called strike three in the first inning. Edwin responded by getting as red-hot as the Canada Day jersey the marketing department forced him to wear and we saw him angrier than at any other point during his time with the Blue Jays.
Carapazza continued to call a bafflingly inconsistent strike zone (even Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney, pressed into emergency relief duty thought it was bad) for the next 19 innings, ejecting Russell Martin and John Gibbons along the way.
Rougned Odor/Jose Bautista Fight – May 2016
It was no secret that the Rangers were not happy when the home run that unceremoniously ended their 2015 playoffs was punctuated with a Jose Bautista bat flip. Next year, at the very end of the Blue Jays’ four-game series in Texas and the last time the Rangers would see the Blue Jays (in the regular season), Matt Bush takes his revenge by drilling Jose Bautista in the eighth inning.
Instead of throwing Bush out of the game, home plate ump Dan Iassogna issues a warning. A WARNING. After months of listening to the crybaby Rangers bang on about their displeasure with Bautista and their intention to retaliate, all Iassogna does is issue a warning. Given the context, he should know a warning would be as effective as a Kendrys Morales stolen base attempt. Pat Tabler said it best: “that’s weak”. We all know what happens next. Luckily for us Jays fans, we once again got the last laugh. As the infamous sign said it best: “it’s better to get punched in May than knocked out in October”.
Umpiring is a difficult job and no one should be saying it isn’t. But umpires need to focus on de-escalating tensions between the teams on the field, not increasing them with their own confrontational behavior. And stop ejecting anyone who is the slightest bit critical of your performance – we all came to watch these guys play.
Be better umps, your ‘look at me act’ is wearing thin.
Lead Photo © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports