Monday, January 13, 2020

Umpire Scapegoating - The Case of AJ Hinch

When MLB announced then-Astros manager AJ Hinch's 2020-season suspension for video sign stealing, it brought full circle an umpire scapegoating mystery we discussed in 2019, proving the point that when a manager, player, or coach gets personal and throws a tantrum during a game, it tends to be disproportionate to whatever call that participant is at odds with.

When I wrote the first MLB ejection report of 2019 on March 15 that year, I—and many commenters—found it very notable that Hinch was ejected for arguing a strike one call to the first batter in the bottom of the first inning. To be that worked up over the very first strike call to go against one's team in Spring Training was quite unusual, as were Hinch's postgame comments targeting the umpires.
Related PostMLB Ejection S-1 - Angel Hernandez (1; AJ Hinch) (3/15/19).

During a subsequent podcast, Tmac remarked on how obscenely disproportionate Hinch's on-field tantrum was to the surrounding an situation around him, including the officiating crew's calm demeanor.
Related PostPodcast - Episode 11 - Angel, AJ, and Umpire Futures (3/18/19).

This motif carried through to Hinch's ejection on April 3, 2019, after a strike one call by Ron Kulpa in the top of the 2nd inning—another mid-AB, early-inning dismissal. It was in the podcast following this game that Tmac alluded to potential off-the-field problems for Hinch, for his erratic behavior in habitually attacking umpires over what could best be described as perceptually minor offenses, simply didn't fit into the logic of a baseball game.
Related PostMLB Ejections 007-08 - Ron Kulpa (1-2; Cintron, Hinch) (4/3/19).
Related PostPodcast Minisode 13M - AJ Hinch's Mea Ron Kulpa (4/4/19).

With news of MLB's discipline of Hinch for cheating, our story now comes full circle: in his ejections with Hernandez and Kulpa, Hinch employed one of our oldest talking points—umpire scapegoating—that had little to do with either umpire, and as is the case many times, Hinch's personal comments had little to do with facts.
Related PostGil's Call: The Blame Game (Umpire Scapegoating) (8/8/14).
Related PostEjected Duffy Makes it Personal in KC vs Tumpane Claim (6/18/18).

The following video reminds officials across all sports that the more irate, personal, and vitriolic a player, coach, or manager's response to an official's call is, the less likely the participant's actions have anything to do with the umpire or referee who is the target of abuse.

Quite often, as appears to have been the case with Hinch's Houston Astros, it's a guilty-minded manager who projects personally unacceptable feelings onto a third party, if only to avoid having to confront unpleasant emotions—in this case, a severely dishonest scheme that cost Hinch his job...once he got caught.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: AJ Hinch's Umpire Scapegoating - Cheating as an Excuse (CCS)


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