Sunday, August 20, 2017

WUA Secures Commissioner Meeting, Suspends Protest

World Umpires Association members will cease their wristband protest after the MLB Commissioner's Office agreed to meet with the union's governing board to hear the WUA's concerns.

Wristbands are off after just one day of protest.
The WUA's agreement to remove the protest white wrist band—which the union has described as a demonstration of "good faith" in exchange for MLB's willingness to meet with the board—comes nary one day after the WUA first announced its protest of what the Association declared, "The Office of the Commissioner's lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers. It's 'open season' on umpires, and that's bad for the game."

The white wristband protest, the World Umpires Association wrote, would continue "until our concerns are taken seriously by the Office of the Commissioner."

Based on the language of their last sentence in Saturday's statement announcing the protest, WUA's action in removing the protest band pending the requested meeting logically signifies that the Office of the Commissioner has satisfied the requested standard of "until our concerns are taken seriously."

Stated the WUA on Sunday, "We appreciate the Commissioner's willingness to engage seriously on verbal attacks and other important issues that must be addressed."

According to the nonprofit directory "Mission and Vision," The WUA as of tax year 2015 featured a nine-member Board of Directors, including Joe West (President), Fieldin Culbreth (Vice President), Jim Reynolds (Secretary-Treasurer), and at large members Dan Bellino, Sam Holbrook, Dan Iassogna, Bill Miller, Bill Welke, and Tim Timmons.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Injury Scout - Hallion Exits After Foul to Face Mask

A foul ball off the facemask in Baltimore forced plate umpire Tom Hallion's early exit Saturday night.

Home plate umpire Tom Hallion left his game.
With one out and none on in the top of the 2nd inning of the Angels-Orioles game, Angels batter Martin Maldonado fouled a 96-mph fastball from Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman back onto the top of Hallion's traditional-style facemask, the ball subsequently caroming out of play.

Hallion was replaced behind the plate by 2B Umpire Vic Carapazza as crewmates Chad Whitson (1B) and Mark Ripperger (3B) remained on the lines. Carapazza also took over as acting crew chief in Hallion's absence.

Relevant Injury History: Hallion most recently left a game due to a foul ball to the mask on July 1, 2015 and later took another ball to the mask (this time a direct shot on a 91-mph fastball) on August 14, 2015, although Hallion was able to remain in that game.

Last Game: August 19 | Return to Play: TBD | Total Time Absent: TBD | Video as follows:

WUA-MLB Relations Deteriorate with New Umpire Protest

The World Umpires Association has launched a protest against what the union decries as the League and Commissioner's Office's latest failure to adequately address escalating verbal attacks on umpires.

WUA released a statement Saturday afternoon in protest of MLB's decision:
WUA President Joe West wears a white band.
The World Umpires Association (WUA), the union representing Major League Baseball umpires, announced today that umpires are wearing white wristbands during all games to protest escalating verbal attacks on umpires and their strong objection to the Office of the Commissioner's response to the verbal attacks.
The World Umpires Association's Governing Board issued the following statement today:
This week, a player publicly and harshly impugned the character and integrity of Angel Hernandez—a veteran umpire who has dedicated his career to baseball and the community. The verbal attack on Angel denigrated the entire MLB umpiring staff and is unacceptable.
The Office of the Commissioner has failed to address this and other escalating attacks on umpires. The player who denigrated Hernandez publicly said he thought he would be suspended. Instead [he] got far more lenient treatment—a fine. He shrugged that off and told reporters that he has 'no regrets' about his offensive statements calling for an end to Hernandez's career. 
The Office of the Commissioner's lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers. It's 'open season' on umpires, and that's bad for the game.
Major League umpires hold themselves to high standards. We are held accountable for our performance at every game. Our most important duty is to protect the integrity of the game, and we will continue to do that job every day. But the Office of the Commissioner must protect our integrity when we are attacked simply for doing our jobs. 
Enough is enough. Umpires will wear the wristbands until our concerns are taken seriously by the Office of the Commissioner. 
How did we get here? Follow along for a timeline of the growing rift between Major League Baseball and its union of umpires. For additional background, you might want to consult the 2016 article, "Psychology & Marketing: Why MLB Discipline is Weak":

January 2011: MLB names former big league manager Joe Torre Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations. Torre's last team managed was the Los Angeles Dodgers, which promoted Torre disciple Don Mattingly to the managerial post after Torre left to go work in the Commissioner's Office.
July 14, 2011: Torre splits up the umpiring crew of Joe West and Angel Hernandez, citing too many ejections. At the time, West's five ejections in 2011 were tied for 3rd-most in the League, while Hernandez was tied for 5th-most.
January 4 & March 23, 2012: After resigning from MLB in January 2012 in order to pursue ownership of the Dodgers, which Selig ordered that Frank McCourt sell by April 30, 2012, Torre rejoins the Commissioner's Office after his bid came up short and competitor Guggenheim purchased the LA franchise.
May 15, 2012: Bob Davidson ejects Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel for arguing Davidson's positioning/entanglement with his catcher. Manuel leaves the dugout to argue and a shouting match ensues. MLB suspends Davidson one game for "repeated violations" of the Commissioner's Office policy on situation handling.
June 4, 2012: Phillies pitcher Jonathan Papelbon blasts umpire DJ Reyburn following a game against Los Angeles. Papelbon calls Reyburn "terrible," stating, "He sucked...he probably needs to go back to Triple-A," while criticizing Crew Chief Derryl Cousins for coming to Reyburn's aid post-argument. Papelbon was not suspended for his comments.
August 16, 2012: Angel Campos ejects Dodgers CF Matt Kemp and P Joe Blanton. Neither player is disciplined for post-ejection conduct, but Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly earns himself a two-game suspension from MLB disciplinarian Joe Garagiola Jr. for "excessive arguing." Kemp and Mattingly attempted to push through other umpires to argue—Kemp appeared to bump one. Torre purportedly called Mattingly to inform him of his suspension, and allegedly told him Mattingly that his first priority should have been to get Kemp "under control" before arguing himself. Although Kemp appeared to bump an umpire, Mattingly maintained that "Matt didn't do anything wrong." Campos was released after the 2014 season, with seven years and 585 games of MLB experience to his name.
July 28, 2013: Tim Timmons ejects Red Sox DH David Ortiz for arguing balls and strikes. Ortiz, who took a bat to and destroyed a Baltimore dugout phone, was not suspended for the incident.
August 18, 2013: In a famous GIF, Joe Girardi nearly punches Brian O'Nora following warnings in Boston. Girardi received a fine, but no suspension, while Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster received a five-game punishment for throwing at batter Alex Rodriguez.
September 14, 2014: West ejects Papelbon for a lewd gesture. The ejection turns physical and MLB suspends Joe West one game for initiating physical contact with a player. Papelbon was suspended seven games for his lewd gesture to the fans and for bumping West.
WUA-MLB's CBA runs through 2019.
December 9, 2014: MLB-WUA contract negotiations stall, leading to talks of a potential lockout of WUA umpires. The NBA and NFL have both experienced recent lockouts of their officials.
December 20, 2014: MLB and WUA reach agreement on the most recent (and current) five-year labor agreement. The 2014-era CBA is set to expire in December 2019.
August 2, 2015: John Gibbons returns to the field after being ejected earlier in the game by HP Umpire Jim Wolf. Gibbons receives no suspension.
May 9, 2016: Brian Knight ejects Nationals RF Bryce Harper. As the Nats subsequently walk off the Tigers, Harper returns to the field and curses at Knight. Harper receives a one-game suspension.
Bryce Harper is MLB's "Biggest Hothead."
May 15, 2016: Gibbons again returns to the field after an ejection (Dan Iassogna). This time, the League suspended him three games, but only one of those games was because he returned to the field.
August 22, 2016: Torre issues bulletin ordering managers to stop using video evidence (instant replay) in order to argue balls and strikes. The ploy effectively slowed manager ejections, but increased non-manager coach ejections to a point where overall ball/strike ejections of non-players did not decrease. As a big league manager, Torre himself was ejected 66 times, including 16 ball/strike ejections.
January 2017: MLB hires four umpires to the full-time staff, including Carlos Torres, whose 160 games of Major League experience at the time of his promotion was less than seven other MiLB umpires who were not hired to the Major League staff, including the passed-over Clint Fagan, whose 453 games of MLB experience were second only to hired umpire Adam Hamari's 461 games. For what it's worth, Fagan has not been seen in the Majors since July 2017.
Was Clint Fagan passed over for a job?
June 5, 2017: Hernandez files two charges of discrimination against MLB with the federal US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
June 20, 2017: West officiates his 5,000th career MLB game. In an interview with USA Today to be published in conjunction with West's 5,000th game, West responds to an interviewer's question by identifying Adrian Beltre as the league's biggest complainer.
June 28 & 29, 2017: EEOC issues to Hernandez a Notice of Right to Sue MLB for its discrimination.
July 3, 2017: Hernandez files a discrimination lawsuit against Commissioner's Office & MLB Blue Inc.
August 8, 2017: MLB suspends West three games for comments about Beltre. Beltre later says, "I don't think the suspension was necessary, I know he was kidding. I didn't think it was a big deal."
August 14, 2017: Hernandez ejects Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler for arguing a correctly called strike. After the ejection, Kinsler accuses Hernandez of "messing with baseball games, blatantly," and says of Hernandez, "He needs to find another job. He really does. He's just that bad."
August 18, 2017: MLB fines, but does not suspend, Kinsler. WUA issues a statement of support for Hernandez.

Given all this, why would WUA take the drastic step of staging a white-wristband protest (for one, they can't go on strike per the CBA; second, the current CBA doesn't expire until after the 2019 season)? As I wrote in the 2016 why-discipline-is-weak article, "An umpire derives his/her authority from a league office, assignor, conference, UIC, etc., who entrusts said official with carrying out the umpire's duties on game day." Accordingly, the umpire "must be supported by the office/assignor/conference/UIC, lest the umpire's (and any other umpire's) jurisdiction be diminished and his/her ability to officiate compromised."

If the umpires feel they aren't receiving adequate support to enable them to satisfactorily execute their duties—and if, as Hernandez has alleged in his lawsuit, the misconduct has been going on since Torre's arrival in the Commissioner's Office in 2011—then this is a progressively more severe step to take than last week's "we disagree with the decision to suspend Joe West" or this week's "we stand with Angel Hernandez" comments. The only question, naturally, is...will it work?

No Joke - Gerry Davis to Umpire Little League World Series

In a Not the Onion piece of news, MLB veteran umpire Gerry Davis will officiate the Little League World Series for the United States winner's bracket game on Sunday afternoon at 2pm Eastern Time.

Gerry Davis will work the 2017 LLWS.
Davis' equipment and uniform apparel company, Gerry Davis Sports, made the announcement Friday evening, specifying that as part of Major League Baseball's "MLB Little League Classic" between the Pirates and Cardinals on Sunday night in Williamsport, Davis will serve as the second base umpire for two innings during a Little League game before departing for his Major League assignment on Sunday Night Baseball, working the plate for the main event.

Fortunately for Davis, Little League uses a modified version of the Official Baseball Rules, which is the code used throughout professional baseball, so the transition from the big to little stage shouldn't be too jarring.

Davis' crew for the weekend's Cardinals @ Pirates series (playing in Pittsburgh, PA on Friday and Saturday) includes Tony Randazzo, Rob Drake, and Pat Hoberg.

Injury Scout - Jerry Layne Hit in Wrist by Foul Ball

Jerry Layne left his plate assignment in Houston Friday night after a foul ball deflected into his wrist.

With two out and none on in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Athletics-Astros game, Astros batter George Springer fouled a 1-1 breaking ball from A's pitcher Chris Hatcher into the dirt, whereupon the ball bounced up and caromed into Layne's exposed left wrist.

Layne was replaced behind the plate by 2B Umpire Dan Bellino while crewmates Ryan Additon (1B) and Mike Estabrook (3B) remained on the bases, with Bellino assuming an acting crew chief role for the departed veteran.

Relevant Injury History: Layne has a history of head injuries (most recently: September 25, 2016), a leg injury (April 19, 2016), and hand injury (2013), but not an arm injury.

Last Game: August 18 | Return to Play: August 19 | Total Time Absent: 0 Days | Video as follows:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fined - Kinsler Not Suspended for Hernandez Comments

Ian Kinsler will not be suspended for his Angel Hernandez rant, MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre's department failing to issue a statement of suspension for Kinsler's comments. According to Tigers beat reporter Jason Beck, MLB instead issued Kinsler an undisclosed fine for comments to the press that included such barbs as "[Hernandez is] messing with baseball games, blatantly" and "He needs to find another job. He really does. He's just that bad."
Related PostMLB Ejections 134-35 - Angel Hernandez (1-2; DET x2) (8/14/17).

Kinsler will not be suspended for his actions.
Although MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLB Players Association states that the Commissioner or Chief Baseball Officer may suspend a player, without pay, for "making public statements that question the integrity of the game, the umpires, the Commissioner and/or other Commissioner’s Office personnel," Beck reported that the League has opted to forgo such disciplinary action and instead issue a fine.

By contrast, here are a few incidents that did result in player suspensions: In June 2017, Torre suspended Yasiel Puig one game for an obscene gesture, while Oakland's Matt Joyce received a two-game suspension earlier in August for anti-gay comments directed toward a spectator in Anaheim.

Ex-Manager, MLB's Joe Torre.
MLB's decision not to suspend Kinsler for his comments about Hernandez follows Hernandez's lawsuit against Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred's office, filed on July 3, alleging racial discrimination. The suit also states, multiple times, Hernandez's belief that Joe Torre has perpetuated a personal feud with Hernandez, and that Torre's personal animus toward Hernandez is unfairly affecting MLB's business operation as relates to its handling of matters concerning Hernandez.

Earlier in August, Commissioner Rob Manfred issued umpire Joe West a three-game suspension for comments West had made in June about Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre that Manfred felt created an "appearance of lack of impartiality." Manfred stated that he opted to suspend West two-months after the fact for violation of the umpires' Basic Agreement with MLB, the text of which is not public.
Related PostJoe West Suspended 3 Games for Beltre Comment (8/8/17).

Adrian Beltre: "I didn't think it was a big deal."
Following MLB's suspension of West, the World Umpires Association issued a statement in which it disagreed with the decision to punish Joe West "simply for quotes in media," which the WUA contended was a joking interaction between an umpire and player. In his own comments to the media, Beltre said he felt West's comments were in jest and did not believe the suspension was appropriate: "I don’t think the suspension was necessary, I know he was kidding. I didn’t think it was a big deal. It’s sad that it happened. I guess it was just some miscommunication." According to Beltre, he and West had already laughed it out during a series in Texas prior to the All-Star Break, a month before West drew the suspension.

Following Kinsler's comments about Hernandez, the WUA issued a statement in support of Hernandez: "The World Umpires Association stands behind Angel Hernandez! Angel has dedicated his career to the game. His integrity [was] wrongly impugned. A verbal attack on Angel Hernandez impugns the integrity of all umpires. We all stand by Angel!"

For illustration, here are the comments Kinsler was not suspended for:
I’m surprised at how bad an umpire [Hernandez] is. I don’t know how, for as many years he’s been in the league, that he can be that bad. He needs to reevaluate his career choice, he really does. Bottom line. If I get fined for saying the truth, then so be it. He’s messing with baseball games, blatantly. He’s changing the game. He needs to find another job. He really does. He's just that bad. I’m not mad at him. He just needs to go away...What is he doing on the field? What is he doing out there? It’s pretty obvious he needs to stop ruining baseball games.
And here are West's comments, for which MLB's senior-most umpire drew a three-game suspension:
[The biggest whiner has] got to be Adrian Beltre. Every pitch you call that’s a strike, he says, “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” I had a game with him recently and the pitch was right down the middle. He tells me, “That ball is outside.” I told him, “You may be a great ballplayer, but you’re the worst umpire in the league. You stink.”
Did MLB get it right with the Kinsler non-suspension? You make the call.

Commissioner Manfred Discusses Joe West

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement on the suspension of umpire Joe West, which West served last week.

In a response to the situation, Manfred stated that "umpires have to be beyond reproach on the topic of impartiality. That's why there are really specific rules in the umpire basic agreement about public comment. I was a bit surprised...I sat down with Joe West after his public comments. He and I agreed that a three-day suspension was the appropriate discipline for his violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement."

"Unfortunately, Mr. West decided that he didn't want to live up to that agreement. I assume with consultation with the WUA, given the statements that they've made, and we had to proceed in a different way."

"I did have a very specific understanding with Mr. West as to what was going to happen here and he was in agreement with what was going to happen here."

The WUA previously stated its public disagreement with the decision to punish Joe West for his quotes in the media stating the WUA's commitment to "fair play and solidarity with Joe West."

Video as follows:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MLB Ejection 139 - Chris Conroy (3; Joe Maddon)

1B Umpire Chris Conroy ejected Cubs Manager Joe Maddon (check swing dead ball strike call) in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Reds-Cubs game. With none out and two on (R1, R2), Cubs batter Ben Zobrist attempted to check his swing/bunt on a 0-1 fastball from Reds pitcher Wandy Peralta, resulting in the pitched ball hitting Zobrist's knee. This play is under review by the UEFL Appeals Board, the call is *PENDING*. At the time of the ejection, the game was tied, 6-6. The Cubs ultimately won the contest, 7-6.

This is Chris Conroy (98)'s third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Chris Conroy now has X points in the UEFL Standings (5 Prev + 2 MLB + X Call = X).
Crew Chief Ron Kulpa now has X points in Crew Division (-1 Previous + X Call = X).

This is the 139th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 69th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Chicago-NL's 3rd ejection of 2017, 5th in the NL Central (CIN, MIL 5; PIT, STL 4; CHC 3).
This is Joe Maddon's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since June 16 (Jeff Kellogg; QOC = Y-C [Replay Review]).
This is Chris Conroy's 3rd ejection of 2017, 1st since July 24 (Dave Righetti; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs, 8/16/17 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 138 - Chris Segal (3; Mike Matheny)

HP Umpire Chris Segal ejected Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny ("Time" call as a result of pitcher's unjustified delay; QOCU) in the bottom of the 9th inning of the Cardinals-Red Sox game. With one out and two on (R1, R2), Red Sox batter Eduardo Nunez prepared to receive Cardinals pitcher John Brebbia's 0-2 offering, Segal called "Time" following a lengthy delay out of Set Position by Brebbia. Replays indicate that after coming set, Brebbia remained in this pre-pitch state for seven seconds before Segal called time after feeling the delay was not justified pursuant to Official Baseball Rule 5.04(b)(2) Comment, the call was irrecusable.* At the time of the ejection, the Cardinals were leading, 4-3. The Red Sox ultimately won the contest, 5-4.

This is Chris Segal (96)'s third ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Chris Segal now has 15 points in the UEFL Standings (12 Prev + 3 AAA + 0 Irrecusable Call = 15).
Crew Chief Tom Hallion now has 12 points in Crew Division (11 Previous + 1 Irrecusable Call = 12).
*OBR 5.04(b)(2) Comment: "If pitcher delays once the batter is in his box and the umpire feels that the delay is not justified he may allow the batter to step out of the box momentarily." The batted need not request "Time."

This is the 138th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 68th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is St. Louis' 4th ejection of 2017, T-2nd in the NL Central (CIN, MIL 5; PIT, STL 4; CHC 2).
This is Mike Matheny's 3rd ejection of 2017, 1st since May 19 (Nic Lentz; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Chris Segal's 3rd ejection of 2017, 1st since July 26 (Bryce Harper; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Boston Red Sox, 8/16/17 | Video as follows:

MLB Ejection 137 - Lance Barksdale (2; John Gibbons)

HP Umpire Lance Barksdale ejected Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons (ball three call; QOCY) in the top of the 7th inning of the Rays-Blue Jays game. With one out and the bases loaded, Rays batter Steven Souza Jr took a 2-2 fastball from Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Loup for a called third ball before walking on the ensuing pitch. Replays indicate the 2-2 pitch was located off the edge of home plate and thigh-high (px -.971, pz 2.076; the pitch was centered over three inches off the plate) and that all pitches during the at-bat were properly officiated, the call was correct.* At the time of the ejection, the Blue Jays were leading, 3-2. The Blue Jays ultimately won the contest, 3-2.

This is Lance Barksdale (23)'s second ejection of the 2017 MLB regular season.
Lance Barksdale now has 2 points in the UEFL Standings (-2 Prev + 2 MLB + 2 Correct Call = 2).
Crew Chief Dan Iassogna now has 3 points in Crew Division (2 Previous + 1 Call = 3).
*UEFL Rule 6-2-b-1 (Kulpa Rule): |0| < STRIKE < |.748| < BORDERLINE < |.914| < BALL.

This is the 137th ejection report of 2017.
This is the 67th Manager ejection of 2017.
This is Toronto's 8th ejection of 2017, 1st in the AL East (TOR 8; TB 6; NYY 5; BOS 4; BAL 3).
This is John Gibbons' 5th ejection of 2017, 1st since July 27 (Will Little; QOC = Y [Balls/Strikes]).
This is Lance Barksdale's 2nd ejection of 2017, 1st since July 25 (Kris Bryant; QOC = N [Balls/Strikes]).

Wrap: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 8/16/17 | Video as follows: