Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Teachable - Feisty Ejections, Jerry Crawford Style

Today we look at two game management situations involving an all-time great, Jerry Crawford.

Jerry Crawford and Cubs skipper Don Zimmer.
For those who don't know, Jerry's father, Shag, umpired over 3100 MLB games and three World Series. Jerry worked nearly 4500 games including the postseason and appeared in five World Series. Let's take a gander at two plays where umpires could take control and lets talk a little about handling benches. While every bench jockeying situation is unique, there are some rules of thumb that may help you when you return to the field.

Frankly, I yearn for the days of when you could handle stuff the way Crawford does here, but those days are gone and they aren't coming back. If you can find the video when AJ Hinch is unmanned by Crawford (corresponding to 2009's Ejections: Jerry Crawford (3)) it's one of the great ones.

Video 1: Jerry Crawford ejects Cincinnati's Lou Piniella after a heated hit-by-pitch from Montreal.
Crawford and Piniella go nose to nose.
In our first video we witness a 2-2 offering to a batter with runners on first and third and one out with the defensive team, Montreal, leading 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth. On the surface, it doesn't make much sense to hit a guy to load the bases up a run and you can clearly understand why Crawford handled the situation this way, without warning or ejecting the pitcher. Like a good crew chief, Doug Harvey, who is enshrined on Cooperstown, takes some of the heat off Crawford. Piniella is sticking up for his guys because it's the second time they were hit in the game.

This is the kind of thing that just happens in baseball, a strange play that in the moment a team interprets as an attack by the other team, but in the grand scheme of things, intentionally hitting someone makes no sense here. Manager Piniella is trying to show some emotion (albeit contrived) and full well knows he will be ejected but does it anyway. Umpire can't look like he's weak so he must respond. Pretty textbook.

But what happens now? I'd like to think that if you tell a screaming manic something rational, he'd just go "ok," but that won't happen. If you eject, your supervisor or assignor may ask, "Did you warn him?"—that very question shows up on a lot of the ejection report forms around the sport these days, too. And every time I hear it, I throw up in my mouth a little. If I went to my boss and told him where he can shove his newspaper do you suppose he'd warn me or would he fire me? Think about it. I love that Crawford is completely in control until Piniella takes a cheap shot on his return to the hole. At this point, Crawford gives no quarter. He simply is one of the best at handing these types of situations, as "old school" as it might seem.

Video 2: Don Zimmer and Crawford have a back-and-forth after a three-pitch strikeout.
Zimmer and Crawford discuss a check swing.
Our second video is one of my favorites and if you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat: It's a heavyweight fight between Don Zimmer and Crawford (come for the Zim-Crawford argument, stay for the Joe West comments). I love this for a number of reasons. It's an age when if a player showed up an umpire, the umpire could let him know about it. We have a pitcher who didn't like strike two and shows up the umpire in my opinion. So, Crawford gets strike three on a borderline check swing—it's a 50/50 as they tend to be, and it is the plate umpire's call if he sees it. After being shown up on strike two, it figures the scales would be tipped toward a strikeout.

The manager will stick up for his batter, and it looks evident that Zimmer was ejected for, as Bill Klem would put it, crossing the Rio Grande with that one final gesture from the dugout. Now, whether or not you agree with the way this is handled, one thing is certain: Don't mess with Jerry Crawford. He gave you an honest day's work for an honest day's pay and you will learn that he is in complete control of his games. You probably noticed Joe West come in towards the end with Charlie Williams, but did you know Bill Hohn was the second base umpire?

So you've seen these videos and are thinking that Crawford must have had hundreds of ejections in his career. Nope, just 86. Even though we saw two very fiery Crawford ejections here, Jerry had one ejection for every 50+ games that he officiated, which is amongst the lowest rates in umpiring. Ted Barrett, Tim Timmons, Hunter Wendelstedt, Bill Klem...these are just some of the names who ejected more frequently than Crawford. So too did Jerry's dad, Shag (once every 41 games).
Related PostPolls: He Gone (Average Ejection Rate Results), 8/1/11.

A manager once told me he appreciated how I handled his opponent's dugouts. I thought it odd, but the next night while I worked third, with the heat off, I asked him what he meant. He said that the team he was playing was a bunch of crybabies and when they played a few weeks ago, the umpires bent to their will. Managers know who they can yell at to get calls and who will shut it down. You don't wanna be a guy who is knows as someone that gives calls after you get yelled at.

Now, don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying scream at the dugout. But don't allow them to run you over, either. Be stern, be fair, and most of all, be in control. Contrary to what some will say, I think Crawford knows exactly what he's doing in both of these videos. He's making a point that if you come at me, I'm going to let you know I'm here. In today's times, we can do the same thing. All situations are unique, but I just wanted to take a look at one of my personal favorite umpires handing two non-believers in a way that worked for him. Handle things based on your personality, but don't have your head in the sand and pretend nobody ever says anything to you. We'll be back next week with another teachable. Until next time: Happy Umpiring everyone!


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