The Blue Jays third baseman went a little cuckoo after being called out on strikes in the ninth inning of a one-run game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Lawrie flipped his lid — quite literally — slamming his helmet into the dirt, which then bounced up and hit home plate umpire Bill Miller.
Lawrie will likely be suspended for his actions, and quite frankly, he should.
Now that we've got that out of the way, it's also important to remember that this fiasco once again brings to light the fact that major league umpires need to be better.
The best-case scenario for Miller is that he blew two calls in that one at-bat. The 3-1 pitch to Lawrie was off of the plate, a few inches outside. That pitch is outlined below inside the black circle. (Please trust us, the ball is in there.)
That pitch is outside. It's off the plate. Fernando Rodney was on the mound for Tampa Bay. He averages more than a walk every two innings for his career, so he's not exactly Greg Maddux. The point? He shouldn't be getting the benefit of the doubt on a call like that.
If that call is deemed poor, the next pitch could be called awful. Here's one look at the called strike three to Lawrie.
Alas, Miller called both of them strikes, missing on both and in the process, punching out the Blue Jays' best player in the ninth inning of a one-run game against a divisional opponent.
That's quite the blow.
Where the real problem falls with Miller, though, is that you have to at least question his motives. Umpires are human beings, and if you hurt their feelings, they don't like it any more than you or I. If we go back to the 3-1 pitch, we'll see that Lawrie tries to sell the call — which would have been ball four — by moving toward first base.
For what it's worth, here's a look at how far Lawrie got down the first base line before getting the bad news from Miller.
At the risk of assuming too much, one could argue that Miller did not appreciate being shown up like this. Umpires hate being shown up, probably more than anything else. Had Lawrie simply turned in the box and took a little walk toward the dugout while simultaneously saying something over his shoulder, that might have been all right. Instead, by making a move toward first and then demonstratively turning around upon learning of the call, Lawrie shows Miller up in front of an entire stadium.
Naturally, boos rained down on the home plate umpire.
Did that factor into his decision to ring up Lawrie on the next pitch? Only Miller knows that, but that pitch isn't a strike on any planet, so you be the judge.
That's what makes disciplining umpires so difficult. It's impossible to know whether or not Miller had it set in his mind that if the next pitch was anywhere near the plate he'd call it a strike, but if he did, he wouldn't be the first umpire to do so.
We've seen an increase in this type of behavior from umpires in recent years. All too often they take things way too personally, and act accordingly. Is it a thankless job? You bet it is, but no one is forcing Miller, or Joe West, or C.B. Bucknor, or any of the rest of them to get out there and umpire major league games, either.
As we mentioned before, umpires are human beings. So, too, are players, and emotions got the best of Brett Lawrie on Tuesday night, something that happens to human beings from time to time. He'll get punished for that, too.
However, it sure looked like emotions got the best of Bill Miller, too. At the very least, he blew two calls at a crucial point in a game.
We'll never be able to prove that Miller's emotions got the best of him, but somehow it would be nice to see him and his umpire brethren have to start answering for their actions as players do.
Screen shots via MLB.com