Whether in the major leagues or the minor leagues, angry uniformed personnel firing their protective headgear in the direction of the game’s arbiters is in the news this week.
One such occurrence was in the Cardinals system. On Friday night, Springfield manager Mike Shildt sent his struggling Double-A club onto the field at Northwest Arkansas in an attempt to break a nine-game road losing streak. It didn’t go well for the team or its skipper.
Following the ejection of the Cards’ first-year manager as the result of a balls-and-strikes argument with Texas League umpire Matt Benham, Shildt began to walk away. Then he chose to put an explanation point on the matter when he threw aside his protective helmet, worn when coaching third base.
Unfortunately, the airborne helmet hit the umpire in the head. The video tends to indicate that the result was unintended.
An embarrassed Shildt did not appeal his three-game suspension and began serving it immediately. In his first game away on Saturday night, the Cardinals broke their unenviable franchise-record road losing streak, which had grown to 10 games.
On Tuesday, Brett Lawrie of the Toronto Blue Jays had a comparable event set off by frustration over a pair of questionable calls in the ninth inning of his team’s loss to Tampa Bay.
After striking out on back-to-back pitches that appeared to be out of the strike zone, Toronto’s second-year third baseman reacted by screaming into the face of home-plate umpire Bill Miller. That was not surprising.
Lawrie didn’t stop there, though. When he slammed his helmet into the ground, it bounced up and hit Miller in the hip, which certainly will result in a suspension from Major League Baseball. The only question is how many games he will sit.
ESPN’s Keith Law, coincidentally a former Blue Jays employee, tweeted this reaction:
“The solution is not to suspend Brett Lawrie for ten or twenty games. The solution is to get the damn calls right.”
In an ideal world, that is of course the optimal solution. Here in the real world, however, that is entirely unrealistic. Improving umpiring quality is a worthy goal, but eliminating disagreements is impossible.
Frustration with umpiring is a long-standing part of the game, but so is the “hands-off” policy. No matter how “right” they might be, coaches and players, young and old, need to remain on the other side of that line at all times.