Two men are standing toe to toe, staring daggers into each other's eyes while thousands upon thousands stand and cheer. Suddenly, a heated argument turns into a profanity-laced exchange, which is soon broken up by each party's corner.
No, this isn't a boxing match, an MMA event or even a hockey fight. It's an argument between umpire Bob Davidson and Rays outfielder Carl Crawford on Tuesday night in the middle of a divisional battle in St. Petersburg, Fla.
In the fifth inning of Boston's 2-0 win over Tampa Bay, Crawford didn't like a strike call and let Davidson know it. Yes, it was a bad call and unfortunately it wasn't his first and won't be his last. But just like every night in every stadium across the league, bad calls happen. I'm not one to defend a whining athlete who tries to belittle an official, but when will Major League Baseball begin to crack down more when it comes to the other end of the argument? And why do umpires get more slack than players for doing the same unruly action?
Many fans were predicting some Davidson fireworks as NESN cameras caught the ump mouthing off to a dejected Gabe Kapler as the veteran outfielder walked to the dugout after striking out just two batters earlier. Kapler struck out, offered his opinion on the matter and quickly swallowed his pride and headed for the dugout. Davidson? He decided to get in his final say, even if it was to Kapler's back.
Davidson was just as — if not more — vicious during the exchange with Crawford at home plate. Although it appeared Crawford made physical contact (a definite no-no) with the man in blue, can anyone argue against the fact that Davidson was just as responsible for the scuffle?
In fact, after the game, both Crawford and Joe Maddon went a step further and felt Davidson was to blame for the physical encounter during the exchange.
"It was close. He was definitely rubbing me also. It's hard to distinguish who exactly encountered or created the first rub," Maddon said.
"If anybody should be getting suspended it should be the umpire. I don't feel like I did anything wrong defending myself," Crawford added. "He was the one who got all defensive real quick. Normally when they get defensive like that, it's because they know they made a mistake."
Crew chief Tim Tschida is taking his co-worker's side.
"Carl didn't like the strike call and made his point," Tschida said. "They were hammering it back and forth, but Carl gradually started moving closer to the umpire. Bob's line was, 'Now you're coming into my space here. Back off.' When he said, 'Back off,' [Crawford] actually moved closer. That's why Carl was ejected from the game."
In 2008, umpire Brian Runge was suspended for one game for bumping New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel. In 2007, umpire Mike Winters was suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the regular season because of his confrontation with San Diego's Milton Bradley.
But since then?
Last May, when the Red Sox were in Minnesota, home plate umpire Todd Tichenor (who had minimal MLB time but was an experienced Triple-A ump) was a little trigger happy with his ejection switch to say the least. Tichenor tossed Twins catcher Mike Redmond and manager Ron Gardenhire in the top of the seventh before tossing Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek and manager Terry Francona in the bottom half. That's right, four heave-ho's in one frame; one has to wonder if Tichenor had to ice his shoulder after that contest.
As an umpire and representative of the game of baseball, if Tichenor feels the need to, he has every right to eject players, managers, coaches, vendors, ball girls, bat boys, fans, pets and in-laws. In fact, I'm all for the man in blue giving an ill-mannered player an early shower, but the manner in which Tichenor emphatically and egotistically rung Redmond (arguing a safe call at the plate), Gardenhire (sticking up for Redmond), Varitek (protecting his pitcher, Josh Beckett, who was mad at a call) and Francona (sticking up for Varitek) was unquestionably unprofessional.
Tichenor took it upon himself to pound his chest and stare down Francona as the alpha-male proudly rung up the experienced major league skipper.
On Wednesday afternoon, Joe West saw White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle flip his glove in frustration at West's balk call. Before the mitt could hit the grass, West was cocked and loaded, and the southpaw was gone in the blink of an eye. West didnt' stick around for explanation as he turned his back and stomped off with his head held high — and probably grinning ear to ear.
Good. For. You
The ump manual should be rewritten as the following: "If given reason to eject Subject A, do so professionally and immediately. Chances are, said subject is going to make a fool of himself on the way to the dugout, in the dugout and across media outlets after the game before finding a big chunk of change missing from his paycheck. In short, there is no need to pick a fight with said subject."
Some umps are doing it the right way — as seen in Dale Scott's missed call yet professional ejection of Francona earlier this year — but the league office should take a look into these ugly umpire run-ins, as they only appear to be getting worse. On-field officials need to protect themselves and have confidence in both their calls and knowledge of baseball, but nowhere in the rulebook does it state that an ump should become bigger than the game.
Such actions have been happening often in today's game, where umps feel the need to big-time the players simply because, according to the rules, they can. There's no Frank Drebin called-strike dances (yet), but umps are starting to abuse their authority and it's harming the game of baseball. Fans don't like it, players can't stand it, and coaches simply hate it.
So when is Bud Selig going to fix it?
Should umpires, like Bob Davidson, be penalized if they cross the line in arguments?
Share your thoughts below. The best comments will be read on NESN's Red Sox GameDay Live or Red Sox Final.
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