Sunday, August 11, 2019

Why Umpire Chris Segal Ejected Brett Gardner

After HP Umpire Chris Segal ejected Yankees CF Brett Gardner in Toronto, he claimed the ejection pertained to a profane personal insult. While video suggests the "you're f*ing terrible" comment did come from New York's dugout, Cameron Maybin—not Gardy—appeared to be the offender. So why did Gardner get run? Reputation has a way of latching onto people in baseball (just ask Angel Hernandez) and for Brett Gardner, such a reputation—primarily earned within the span of three weeks—most likely did him in, seducing the scourge of mistaken identity.

By now, the ejection report is familiar—Segal ejects Gardner in the 4th after a couple of contested ball/strike calls from the Yankees dugout—but to understand the full nature of this ejection, we travel back to July 18, 2019, and later on, we'll travel back to 2009 to see how another MLB umpire handled a similar situation.
Related PostMLB Ejection 157 - Chris Segal (1; Brett Gardner) (8/9/19).
Related PostMLB Ejection 123 - Brennan Miller (1; Aaron Boone) (7/18/19).

Gardner's Groundwork: In July, Brennan Miller ejected Aaron Boone at Yankee Stadium for arguing a strike one call to DJ LeMahieu, which had followed a contested strike call to Gardner during a preceding at-bat. This was the infamous "f*ing savages' ejection linked above and this ejection had everything to do with what happened in Toronto.

While Boone took the ejection in July, the modus operandi—the circumstance of ejection—is what's most important, as several elements appeared both in Boone's July ejection and Gardner's August dismissal.

Videos like Ortiz's spread across the league.
Umpires Talk: Just like players, coaches, teams, and fans, umpires are aware of what goes on in baseball. From the formal "Heads Up" reports designed to alert crews of the potential for bean balls or bench-clearing brawls to the informal "look at this video clip of a balk call" and beyond, events such as a player taking a bat to the dugout (e.g., the Big Papi dugout phone incident) get seen by umpires, if for no other reason than a tangential interest in what's happening around the league in order to build situational awareness.
Related PostMLB Ejection 105: Tim Timmons (5; David Ortiz) (7/28/13).

July's ejection was very similar to August's.
Thus, there are three key pieces here to observe in regards to the Miller/Boone ejection from July: First, Gardner is unhappy with a ball/strike call and hits his bat on the dugout ceiling in protest. Second, bench jockeying occurs in concert with Gardner's bat act (specifically, Boone yells at the umpire while Gardner takes his bat to the architecture). Third, the argument takes place or continues into another Yankee player (e.g., not Gardner)'s at-bat.

Back to Toronto: On Friday, August 9, Segal saw Gardner banging his bat against the dugout ceiling, Boone yelling about the strike zone, and an argument concerning a preceding batsman's strikeout (or ball/strike call) continuing into a subsequent at-bat. It was the same MO in Canada as it was in the Bronx. The criteria for a powder-keg was there.

Ejectable Offense: With Segal already on alert from this prolonged strike zone argument, he hears "you're f*ing" terrible" from the Yankees dugout. Pursuant to the MLB Umpire Manual's Standards for Removal from the Game (e.g., the umpires' guide to "when to eject someone"), this is quite nearly an automatic ejection: a profane personal insult directed at an umpire is a straight ejection—no warning necessary.
Related PostEjections - What and Wherefore? Standards for Removal (3/29/17).

Segal didn't buy Boone's sacrificial attempt.
Anonymous Assailant: Having established that someone in the Yankees dugout committed an unsportsmanlike act that requires an ejection, Segal needed to figure out who the guilty person was. Nearly any umpire around the game long enough (and Segal has nearly 600 games of MLB experience) should be able to pick out a manager's voice without looking.

The problem of course is that the plate umpire is trying to concentrate on the game at hand. Segal calls "strike" and isn't expecting to hear an ejectable profane personal insult from the dugout. So when he does hear it, knowing he must eject, he doesn't immediately know who said it—he wasn't minding the dugout (which oddly enough is often a complaint from fans and broadcasters), he was concentrating on the game. The reason he tuned into the dugout is because someone from the dugout yelled out at him and brought his ears toward the bench, thus distracting him from his pitch calling task at hand.

Through process of elimination, Segal likely knew Boone's voice and knew Boone wasn't the one who exclaimed the ejectable phrase (that's why when Boone tried to save his player by telling Segal that he was the one who said it, Segal gave him the option of being ejected with his player, as opposed to instead of his player...Segal knew Boone didn't say it).

Gardner did not want to take Maybin's ejection.
Segal Guesses Gardner: Based on the MO from July, Segal's educated guess was that Gardner's voice verbalized the vile vulgarity...but Segal didn't count on one thing: That a third party—Cameron Maybin—stepped into the fight and was the one who appeared to have conveyed the curse. That's why Gardner, after the game, said that Segal "lied" to him when Segal explained that Gardner had been ejected for saying something that he didn't actually say.

Sidebar: SHOULD Segal have taken the opportunity provided by Boone and ejected the Bronx boss instead of Gardner? It depends how sure Segal was that Gardner did something ejectable. Clearly, Segal was confident in something that appears to be contradicted by video evidence.

Conclusion: So, why did Gardner get thrown out? Because of circumstance: He wasn't the one who actually said the magic words, but his bat-banging combined with Boone's blabbing led Segal to surmise that Gardner was the guilty party...and Gardner was indeed guilty of some degree of unsportsmanlike conduct...he just didn't plant the straw that broke the camel's back. His offense was somewhere underneath that pile. Maybin should probably pay Gardner's ejection fine...and maybe Boone should help out as well.

Maybin's pants and socks...a new MLB trend?
Someone on the Yankees deserved to get run (likely Maybin), and Gardner happened to be guilty by association.

When an Ump Must Stash: In 2009, another umpire behind home plate heard an ejectable phrase from a dugout, but didn't know for sure who said the sacrilege sentence; the difference was that this umpire didn't immediately eject anyone. That blast from the past was Bill Hohn, who ejected Bobby Cox on July 29, 2009 after a balls/strikes dispute in Miami Florida.
Related PostEjections: Bill Hohn (7, 8) (7/29/09).

Bill Hohn handled the situation differently.
Braves batter Brian McCann had just grounded into a double play following McCann's own strike zone disagreement earlier in the at-bat, and the complaint carried over into a subsequent at-bat. Hohn called "Time" and walked to Atlanta's dugout, but didn't immediately eject anyone. Instead, he spoke with Cox and eventually ejected Cox from the game (Cox likely took the ejection on McCann's behalf).

Atlanta media at the time decried Hohn for inserting himself into the game (this is pre-#UmpShow), but what fans failed to realize is that Hohn by speaking with Cox as the captain of the ship actually saved a Braves player from an ejection. Darned if you do and, well...

No Good Deed: In the end, a player given a second chance can either take it or double down, and McCann chose to waste his reprieve, approaching Hohn immediately upon exiting the dugout to take the field after the third out (he was the catcher, after all), and getting himself ejected just seconds later.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: History and reputation explain why Birdman ejected Gardy (CCS)


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