Baseball players don’t have to keep their cool.
They’re playing their sport at the highest competitive level in the world, and emotions run high. The best in the world playing against the best in the world — chances are they’re going to be fired up.
Umpires, however, are held to a different standard. Given the stakes of the games they’re ruling over, and given the aforementioned high tensions, umpires are supposed to be a symbol of mediation. They are expected to make the right call to the best of their ability while participating as an objective, unbiased observer.
In that regard, Tony Randazzo failed — miserably — but instead of the umpire paying the price, it’s Jonathan Papelbon who’s been served with a three-game suspension.
Look, Papelbon charged at Randazzo and, likely, made contact with the ump. For MLB, that’s a black-and-white issue. You touch the ump, you get suspended, end of story.
So while there’s no real argument against the Papelbon punishment, there is a very strong case that Randazzo himself should be penalized.
The situation was this. Randazzo had a tight strike zone in the ninth inning, though his calls for balls and strikes appeared to be the right ones. Papelbon and catcher Jason Varitek, being competitors in the heat of competition, took issue with his zone. After Cliff Pennington doubled to cut the Red Sox’ lead to just two runs, Varitek argued with Randazzo about his strike calls. Again, in MLB, for whatever reason, that’s black-and-white as well. You argue balls and strikes, you hit the showers early.
Varitek departed, Papelbon continued to struggle, and the A’s tied the game at 7-7. Papelbon then started with a called strike to Ryan Sweeney. It was then that Papelbon gazed in at Randazzo, visibly frustrated by a strike call that he felt he should have gotten earlier in the inning.
But Randazzo just couldn’t handle it.
The umpire lifted off his mask and began yelling at Papelbon.
Not satisfied with just yelling from 65 feet away, Randazzo began walking toward Papelbon. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had to play the role of peacemaker, attempting to hold back the umpire from escalating the situation.
I’ll say that again: A player had to cool off an umpire.
Saltalamacchia continued toward Papelbon to have a mound meeting, but again, Randazzo wasn’t done. He gestured with his arms at his side, prolonging a confrontation that he himself started.
That Papelbon did, running at Randazzo and, obviously, earning himself a suspension. But Randazzo shouldn’t be off the hook. Just a month ago at Fenway Park, Joe West likewise overstepped his role as umpire when he put his hands on Terry Francona during an argument. While two incidents in two months may not signify a major issue, the fact is that these incidents should never happen. Never. Not once.
It was enough to get Peter Gammons to chime in.
“Does MLB have anyone administering umpires?” he tweeted that afternoon “Dreadful, with no interest in the sport’s integrity.”
Gammons is absolutely right in suggesting there needs to be a closer watch on umpires. If the players are held to a high standard and are punished for inappropriate conduct, it’s only fair that umpires be held to the same regard.
Was Tony Randazzo to blame for the confrontation with Jonathan Papelbon? Share your thoughts below.