By Ashley Dunkak
In the aftermath of Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera being ejected in the middle of an at bat for the second time this season, several ideas have been floated. Most have been critical of the umpire’s decision to toss Cabrera for arguing at the plate.
I’ve heard that the objection that umpires should not eject Cabrera because everyone comes to see him. I’ve heard the argument that Cabrera did not do enough to be ejected. I’ve heard the rebuttal that the rules about not arguing balls and strikes are just stupid.
Going through these one by one, let’s take a look at whether Cabrera’s ejection was – as Tigers manager Jim Leyland thought – unwarranted.
‘He’s A Star Player’
We heard this argument the last time Cabrera got tossed early in a game, back in late July. Many think it is wrong of umpires to remove from the game a player whom everyone comes to the ballpark to see. It is true that it would be a huge bummer to buy tickets, battle traffic, pay for parking, sit in the hot sun – or rain, depending on the day – and then see the most prolific hitter in the game of baseball sidelined within the first two innings.
Then again, should the umpires be expected to compromise their integrity by taking extra flak from certain players just because it is better for fan relations? The whole idea of having umpires is to keep players accountable, to enforce the rules, to make sure the game is fair. There are plenty examples of star players getting star treatment – Michael Jordan pushing off defenders, anyone? – but just because it happens does not mean it should happen.
Players are not allowed to argue balls and strikes. After Cabrera got ejected early in the game at Comerica Park this season, I asked a number of players in the clubhouse what they are allowed to say and the plate and what will get a player tossed. The responses lined up. Basically, you can clarify the pitch. You can ask where it was, if it was high or low, et cetera. Those kind of inquiries, done respectfully, can be okay. But you cannot question the umpire. You cannot call him a moron or tell him he made an awful call. Doing so is grounds for ejection.
Check out rule 9.02 (a) from the MLB rule book.
Any umpire’s decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions.
Not only are players prohibited from arguing balls and strikes, but even if the umpire admitted he was wrong, the call could not be changed. Contesting the umpire’s strike zone is a waste of time and breath. If anything, a player should let a position coach argue his case. A coach’s opinion would carry more weight, anyway, and that way the player will remain in the game regardless of how annoyed the umpire gets.
Star players like Cabrera should not be exempt from the rules. If Cabrera wants to stay in the game so fans can appreciate his greatness, he should quit arguing with the umpires. That would be the sure way to remain on the field. It is really that simple. If fans want to be upset, they should be upset with Cabrera, not the umpires.
‘He Hardly Said Anything’
Leyland disagreed with the ejection, even though he acknowledged that Cabrera spoke to the umpire about the calls repeatedly. The manager is usually going to stand up for his player, and that is understandable. Remember, though, that Leyland is biased. He wants Cabrera in the game – again, understandably so. The fact is, though, that Cabrera broke the rules.
it would be remiss to forget that this is the second time this has happened with Cabrera – two different umpires, two different situations, two different parks. I do not think the umpires are targeting Cabrera because he is a star player, selectively enforcing the rules against him. Umpires know that getting their names in the paper for “robbing” a player like Cabrera will only get them extra hate mail and name-calling. They do not eject him just to eject him.
There is a reason. No one in the media, no fans, no one except the umpire, Cabrera and maybe the other team’s catcher knows what transpires between a batter and an ump. Whatever Cabrera is saying, it has upset two different umpires. If it is enough to tick off two different individuals, it more than likely is enough to tick off most of them, and it probably warrants ejection as specified in the MLB rules.
‘Players should be able to argue balls and strikes’
No. They should not. Baseball is a three-hour game on average. Often, it lasts longer. With more replay being implemented in the coming year to allow for manager challenges, game times will increase even more. If you let players argue balls and strikes, you will need to change your address to that of the ballpark because you will be there forever.
It would take all day.
Plus, if you allow players to argue, you have to make another rule change where calls can actually be reversed, right? Otherwise, what would be the merit in arguing?
Just like players, umpires make it to the major leagues for a reason. Are they all perfect? Of course not. However, they have a difficult job, a job in which many, many people will be unhappy with them no matter what decisions they make. Allowing players to undermine umpires’ authority by letting them question ball and strike calls is ridiculous.