Lawrie made headlines across the game after he freaked out, slammed his helmet on the ground and was ejected by home plate umpire Bill Miller after a couple of questionable strike calls. MLB then announced that Lawrie was to sit four games for his actions.
The league has long attempted to hold its players and managers accountable, disciplining them when they cross the line. What they have struggled to do, however, is hold the umpires accountable. The league sent a message on Friday morning that says that might be about to change.
MLB announced that it was suspending umpire Bob Davidson one game for “repeated violations of the Office of the Commissioner’s standards for situation handling.”
You know what? Good for baseball. It’s about time. It’s one thing to blow balls and strikes like Miller did on Wednesday night, but time and time again Davidson has been demonstrative, bordering on being a total jerk.
“Davidson is the game’s angry old man,” said the Major League Umpires Performance, 2007-2010, according to Deadspin. “His career ejection rate of 4.4 percent is twice the major league norm.”
The latest incident — presumably the tipping point — came earlier this week when Davidson went out of his way to provoke the Philadelphia Phillies during a game with the Houston Astros.
Cliff Lee struck out Jason Castro, but the ball got away from Phillies catcher Brian Schneider. He went to chase it down and attempt to throw out the runner, but Davidson was in the way, and by the time Schneider reached the ball, Castro had reached first base.
Whatever. It happens. Davidson was in the wrong place at the wrong the time. His transgression, however, followed after someone from the Phillies dugout got on his case about getting in the way.
To which, Davidson responded “Do you think I wanted to block his ass? What the hell are you yelling at?” in the direction of someone in the dugout. It was abrasive, no doubt, but it seemed like that should have been the end of things. It wasn’t. Instead, Davidson presumably assumed that everyone at Citizens Bank Park was there to see him — not one of the best left-handers in the game — and decided to keep the antics going.
Davidson then looked back into the dugout, just waiting, waiting for someone to accept his dance invitation. Good old Charlie Manuel was Davidson’s guy. Manuel must have said something (or anything) that Davidson didn’t like, and for his troubles, he got a point of the finger from Davidson. Seconds later, he got something else from Davidson in the form of an ejection.
It was so blatantly predatory, and it was abundantly clear that Davidson was looking for a fight. If that wasn’t apparent up to that point, the ensuing on-field argument probably confirmed it, at least the multiple “Eff you!” screams lobbed at Manuel.
See how it all went down below.
This is the type of behavior that makes umpires look like petulant, attention-hungry children. It’s straight out of the Joe West School of Umpiring. Most importantly, it’s bad for the game.
Umpires, or officials in any sport really, are to be seen and not heard. They take an unfair amount of abuse, no doubt, but that comes with the territory. If they don’t like that part of things, the world could always use more teachers. Or doctors. Or landscapers. Or whatever else. The point is, is that you know what you sign up for as an official.
You’re there to enforce the rules of the game, not to be the focus of the game. Far too often in all sports — particularly baseball — this golden rule of officiating is forgotten. Hopefully MLB’s disciplinary efforts in this one case help open the eyes of the men in blue and remind them of that. The game will be better off that way.
Screen shot via MLB.com