By Ashley Dunkak
Watching that video of a classic Jim Leyland tirade from 2011, it is understandable why Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter does not have a problem with the new instant replay rules as long as one longstanding baseball tradition remains intact – managers going out to argue.
With the new rules expected to go into effect in 2014, each team’s manager can challenge three plays per game – one over the first six innings and two over the last three innings. Hunter said such checks would absolutely be helpful in the postseason, but he hopes that routine challenges do not replace manager arguments that have been fodder for legend and YouTube alike.
“I hope not because that’s boring!” Hunter said. “That is so boring. I hope not because the arguments of Lou Piniella and all those guys, that’s what I want to see … I can only imagine the fans. They come and they see the arguments and they see guys kicking dirt and going crazy. That’s awesome, man. That’s baseball. Hopefully that doesn’t change.”
Aside from entertainment value, the passion with which managers argue calls often endears them more to their players. At least, that is the case with Leyland, the Tigers manager since 2006, who has said several times this season that he has made an effort not to get into it with umpires recently. For the players, though, it shows Leyland cares.
“He’s defending us,” Hunter said. “At the end of the day, he wants his troops to be on his side. When he goes out there and argues, he’s doing that, fighting for us, the respect for him goes to another level. I appreciate him doing that.”
The video above shows the Leyland meltdown that happened when the Tigers played the Toronto Blue Jays. Andy Dirks had laid down a bunt and been called safe at first. It was clearly the wrong call, but the umpire took more than the usual amount of time to make it, and then he reversed it after the Toronto manager emerged from his dugout with a loud call of “Bulls—!”
Leyland did not appreciate the apparent incompetence of the umpire in that moment. For the most part, calls are not overturned in baseball. This particular instance sent Leyland over the edge, launching him into a profanity-laden rant punctuated by gestures demonstrating the safe call and then the out call. He was promptly ejected but continued for awhile.
When he finally exited, he did so to a standing ovation. Just like missed calls remind people that umpires are human, a loss of temper – and perhaps a little dignity, in that case – shows fans that managers are as invested their teams as fans and get angry when they feel the team has been wronged just as much as fans do.
Had replay been in effect, perhaps Leyland would simply challenge the call, and there would be no argument, no ejection.
The positive side of that is the umpire has a chance to save face, and Leyland would not have to get all worked up about it, which he would probably prefer not to do.
The flip side, of course, is what Hunter points out: manager tirades, for most, are fun to watch. Check out Dirks’ facial expression as he stands on first base. It is clear he is trying to keep a straight face, but it looks like he is working hard at it.
Aside from potentially putting the entertainment value of managers in jeopardy, though, Hunter said replay might not be necessary over the regular season because there are so many games, but he added that in the postseason it becomes critical.
“Postseason, you make a mistake, we’re going home, and we might never get to the postseason or the World Series again, so I can see replay being good for the postseason,” Hunter said. “But as far as during the season, man, if they want to do that, that’s fine, but we’ve got games that we make up for it because you play every day, so you have a bad game – just like us as hitters, we strike out three times, we’ve got tomorrow to make up for it – and if they make a bad call, we’ve got tomorrow to make up for it. But you don’t have tomorrow in the postseason. You make a bad call, you lose, go home, think about it for a whole off-season. So it’s very pivotal that they have that in the postseason.”