By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
Earlier this month when Torontos Edwin Encarnacion was thrown out at the plate as the potential tying run in the ninth against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, ending the game and sending the Blue Jays to defeat. Manager John Farrell expressed his displeasure.
We should still be playing, Farrell said. That play is right in front of the home plate umpire.
We don't have the benefit of replay but the wide margin (with) which he missed the tag, (I'm) a little bit surprised that the call went that way."
Although not completely conclusive, replays appeared to show that Encarnacion was safe.
The Mariners have twice been victims of walks issued on three balls, including one that resulted in the only run in a 1-0 loss to the Padres.
Several players throughout baseball, and at least one manager, the Rangers Ron Washington, have called out the umpires for what is perceived to be poor performance.
Then Tigers manager Jim Leyland, in the wake of being ejected along with two of his players, commented on what he sees to be a heightened sense of conflict between umpires and teams.
There's just too much tension, Leyland told the Grand Rapids Press. You can feel it. Managers, players, coaches are on edge. Umpires are on edge. Its not a good situation. That usually causes blow-ups.
"Umpires miss a call. The manager makes mistakes. Players make mistakes. That's just part of the game. But I just think that for whatever reason, it seems to me this year we've been on a campaign to try to ease the tension, and it seems like the tension's more -- throughout baseball. I'm not just talking about the Tigers."
Leyland is not the only one that sees heightened tensions.
Yeah, Ive noticed it, said Jonathan Papelbon, who was ejected in the ninth inning of a game against the As last month, the first time in his career hes been tossed. Have you noticed it? A lot more run-ins, right?
There were 16 ejections in baseball in the first five days of July. But, according to SABR guru David Vincent, there were 118 ejections through July 19 this season, compared to 111 through the same date in 2010, a negligible 6 percent increase. Through the end of June there were 93 ejections this season, compared to 83 last season, a 12 percent increase, but down from 114 in 2008 and 116 in 2005, a 20 percent decrease for the same time period.
Commissioner Bud Selig addressed Leylands comments last week at the All-Star Game.
"Jim is right in some sense Selig told the Detroit Free Press. We need to remove some of that tension."
Because of Leylands stature and tenure in the game, his words carry weight.
Hes been obviously doing this a lot longer than a lot of us have, especially from that perspective, said Jason Varitek. Is there more tension? Id have to be out there every single day to say if theres more. Is there something on both sides that we could continue to do as players, as umpires, as managers, as coaches? Yeah, we can do a lot to make this game better in most regards.
What can be done about it?
I think John Farrell said it best when he said at the end of the day, the umpires dont have to answer to anybody and we have to answer to the media, Papelbon said. I think that was a pretty good statement.
Id like to see there somehow be a way of, theyve got to answer to somebody and theyve to have some kind of protocol to where if they dont do their jobs, theres got to be consequences and repercussions. Just as if we dont do our jobs theres consequences. If I dont get out there and make pitches, if Dustin Pedroia doesnt go out there and make plays, we lose our jobs. And I think its only fair you get the best people out there to do the best job.
I dont know what the answers are, Varitek said. But the goal is to continue to work together to better the product on the field. The product on the field is to see Mariano Rivera face Adrian Gonzalez in a one-run game with the bases loaded. How we continue to make sure that is the most important thing, both on the players side and on the umpires side, we need to continue it. If players have to be more respectful, we need to be more respectful. Whatever it is, I think in anything the lines of communication need to become more expanded, between all of the above.
The Sox and Orioles got through their three-game series in Baltimore without incident, unlike their four-game set in Boston before the All-Star break , when there was a total of five hit batters and eight ejections, including that of right-hander Kyle Weiland in his major league debut in the series finale.
Through 96 games the Sox have eight total team ejections this year, led by manager Terry Franconas three. At the same point last season, they had five. Of course, half of their ejections this season came in that Baltimore series. Varitek was ejected along with Papelbon in the game against the As in June. It was the fifth time he has been tossed and first since May 28, 2009. He takes responsibility for his most recent ejection.
Oh yeah, he said, when asked if he thought he deserved to be ejected. But that was part of the situation of different things that go in games and I had a responsibility. I was in a different spot to where I had to keep Pap in the game.
The players, managers, and fans often have the benefit of replays that the umpires dont. They are able to get several angles of a play in varying speeds, when the umpires must make a call immediately in real time.
There are times where there is tension, and there are some crews where its very smooth, said Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale. I was in a conversation with someone, I wont name names, but outside of the game, and one interesting thing is that TV, media, the power of the pencil, the blogs, the tweeting, you can scrutinize pretty quick, right at hand without putting a lot of thought into it. With replays, we can get four different angles. When I was speaking to an umpire, and I wont name names, but they get one view.
Theres a break in the action, so television goes to a replay. I say that because I think, not that it adds, but umpires know that youre able to go look at things, replays, and come out and start barking at them, start yelling at them. So I think in some ways maybe its not unfair but they know that thats happening.
And then on the flip side I think there is an ethic of personality: How do you deal with the person in a judgment situation? How do you talk to them? How do you come across? How do you handle yourself? How do you present yourself? Their reaction? I think all that plays a part. I think theres a mounting experience. You go through these periods, whether its young umpires, umpires getting more mature as they get into their eighth, ninth, 10th year, veteran umpires you kind of know their personalities and the line that you can step to. So I think its a number of things. Its just not one thing.
Varitek has spent his 15-season career working with any number of umpires, getting to know them, being able to read their personalities. As with any situation in life, there are different personalities involved. And those different personalities respond differently to different situations.
Theres times I had some enjoyable work back there, and that cant be forgotten in all this, too, Varitek said. I think the doors need to be open on both ends to allow communication to better the product. The end result of the product is that we get to see Mariano Rivera face Adrian with bases loaded with two outs.
Its probably just like any relationship. There are some days Im quiet as a mouse. Ive learned to talk more and theres other days where its a constant dialogue. I think the more there's a dialog the better you can learn each other and move on. I think theres a level of respect you have to have back there, because youre not dealing with them for two or three pitches. Youre dealing with them for a couple hundred pitches a night. Theyre going to make mistakes, were going to make mistakes. I may see a pitch a certain way, but you build. You let them establish what their zone is, and then you work with it, with what it is.
There are things that have been done, and are continuing to be done to improve the situation.
One thing Ive heard some players say, that if they get fined, its in the papers, its in the media, said Hale. And with umpires you dont know. But the umpires have communicated with us, the organizations. Different things come up, when you hear you should have handled that situation a little differently. And were dealing with that. Thats just their way. Unless you start changing the protocols, so to speak, we really dont know what happens to the umpires. But you got to think there is something, disciple or repercussions. We just dont know. Say what you want to, but thats the business.
As far as on-field stuff, organizations can send their comments about a situation, some stuff to the major league office. Thats the way it is.
I think where were at, at this level, and the people involved, I think they look at it. I think they read it. You have hearings about different things. So, your word or your opinion, I think it has some weight. I really do think so. Decision-making people thats up to them. But I dont think it gets ignored. Professionally, I dont think they do that.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.