By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Torii Hunter could not believe it. Over 17 years as a major league baseball player, he had never seen anything like this.
The Detroit Tigers trailed the Philadelphia Phillies by two runs, and Tigers superstar slugger Miguel Cabrera came up to the plate with the bases loaded – a dream scenario for putting runs on the board.
Home plate umpire Chad Fairchild called the first pitch a strike. Cabrera looked over and said something to Fairchild. Cabrera said he asked what was going on, with no profanity. Fairchild’s comment was that Cabrera argued the call.
The next pitch, Fairchild called another strike. Cabrera spoke to the umpire again, and Fairchild emphatically signaled that Cabrera was ejected.
“It’s kind of weird,” Hunter said. “Never really seen that before. What can you do? Hopefully Major League Baseball saw that and they figure something out.”
Fairchild would not say what Cabrera said, but Cabrera gave his version of the events.
“I said, ‘That was horrible,’” Cabrera recounted, “and he said, ‘You called me horrible,’ so he threw me out.”
Viewing video of the play, it is hard to discern what Cabrera said, but some said they thought Cabrera’s account was basically accurate – with the possibility of an obscene adjective applied.
Whatever actually transpired, Cabrera was banished to the clubhouse. His rationale for the ejection was that the umpire did not want to be questioned, but Cabrera felt compelled to question because of the gravity of the situation.
“The umpire has to have control of the game,” Cabrera said. “I think he wanted to have control of the game and he didn’t want everybody arguing strikes and balls.
“You’re not supposed to do that, but that was a big situation,” he added. “We’re down one run. You want the RBI, you want to put some runs on the scoreboard, so it’s hard at the time. I don’t know what I can say.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who went out to speak with the umpire after Cabrera’s ejection, was also ejected, and he refused to comment on the entire situation after the game.
Teammates, though, all expressed shock that Cabrera was given the hook so quickly.
“I’ve been in the big leagues a long time,” Hunter said. “I’ve seen Paul O’Neil curse out umpires, I’ve seen a lot of players, and they never get thrown out during that at bat, and Miggy didn’t do much at all, and he got thrown out. That was probably, for me, that was probably the first ejection I’ve seen with one of the best players in the game, bases loaded, just the moment.
“How could you do it?” Hunter added. “I’m like, shocked. I’m like, ‘What the –?’ There’s a first for everything.”
Teammate Andy Dirks said that while he has seen players ejected mid-at bat, Sunday’s episode might be the mostly quickly he has seen someone yanked.
“It happens once in a while if it’s a continual thing where they keep jawing back and forth, but I’ve never seen one maybe that quick where the guys weren’t really face to face or anything yet,” Dirks said. “That’s just his judgment call, I guess, and in the end we won the game, so that’s all that matters.”
Fans who came to the game, however, might beg to differ. Cabrera mentioned that aspect as well.
“It was like 40,000 people here in the stands,” Cabrera said. “They want to see the Tigers win. They want to see something special every night, and they pay for that. To see that, I was kind of upset because sometimes you’re afraid you let people down when they throw you out and they expect more of you.
“I think it’s not time to blame anybody, to blame the umpire or blame something because you’re going to get upset, you want to fight, and you want to compete, and you want to do something special today and try to win games,” Cabrera continued. “I was kind of upset how he threw me out, but that happens, so you can do nothing about it.”