Red Sox manager Terry Francona did plenty of arguing with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez on Friday night, the result of a controversial balk call and a quick ejection. While Francona was displeased with the lack of explanation on the part of Hernandez, his real issues were with someone else.
Crew chief Joe West, not one to steer clear of controversy, got between Francona and Hernandez during the argument, going so far as to put his hands on Francona a few times while taking up the dispute on Hernandez's behalf. The actions of West were not well received on the Boston end of things.
"Joe, as we all know, always wants to be in everybody's business," Francona said of West. "That was me and Angel. Joe didn't have anything to do with it. Didn't appreciate what he did. I think he was wrong."
When asked about West getting physical, Francona reiterated his stance.
"He was grabbing me," he said. "I didn't appreciate that. I thought he was out of line."
The incident occurred in the top of the second inning of Boston's 9-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Starter Tim Wakefield, already trailing 3-0 and working with runners on the corners, made a fake pickoff move toward third and then spun and threw to first to seemingly pick off Twins center fielder Denard Span for the third out.
Wakefield was all the way to the dugout before he learned that Hernandez had called a balk. The runner from third came home, Span moved to second and Francona stormed from the dugout.
However, arguing a balk call results in an automatic ejection. Francona said he knows the rule, but in the heat of the moment he needed to know why the awkward call was made.
"It's kind of hard to sit there and not find out what happened on a play like that," Francona said. "I've seen Wake do that 30 times."
Abiding by the rule, Hernandez gave Francona an immediate heave-ho. Knowing his night was over prematurely, Francona figured that the least he deserved was a reason for the initial ruling. West's actions prevented that.
"Since I was already thrown out, I figured I would get an explanation," Francona added. "Joe wouldn't let me … You think you're out of an inning. I don't understand why you can't go out and see what somebody did. I understand if you go out and scream at somebody and get thrown out, but it just seems like a little bit of a silly rule."
Wakefield, who was told by Hernandez that he stepped toward the plate, said unconditionally he did not balk. Once out of the game, he watched the replay and remained confident that there was no infraction.
His teammates with the closest view of the play agreed.
"Tito getting ejected there, he's got a right to argue that because that wasn't a balk," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "I don't know how that call can be made from there."
To a man, the Red Sox said that the balk was not the reason they lost the game. Minnesota's starting pitcher Scott Baker, as well as 12 hits and five walks given up by Boston pitching, had a lot to do with that. But they will be shaking their heads for days at the controversial call made by Angel Hernandez and the even more controversial roadblock by his colleague, Joe West.