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Play like a Cardinal, Play like an MVP

The decision of now semi-famous umpire Clint Fagan to eject both St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and manager Mike Matheny during Sunday’s third inning has rightfully drawn a lot of attention.

Many believe the young arbiter was completely in the wrong, displaying an incredibly short fuse by almost immediately ejecting the backstop for throwing his helmet after being correctly called out at first base.

Matheny did what he had to do in defending his catcher. Not doing that would risk damaging the support of his players, especially arguably his most valuable one.

Speaking of most valuable, Molina is rightfully being represented as a legitimate National League Most Valuable Player candidate for 2013. His leadership behind the plate with an unexpectedly young staff, his managing the running game and consistent offense all provide strong support for his case.

On Sunday, Molina did not carry himself like an MVP, in my opinion. The 30-year-old explained he was upset at himself for grounding out and ending a two-on, two-out threat with his team down by two runs at the time. Yet, the act of throwing his helmet was more Little League than Major League.

It is not the first time Molina has gotten into hot water with umpires. Molina missed five games due to suspension after inadvertently spitting on umpire Rob Drake during a heated August 2011 argument over balls and strikes.

It surprises me that especially given the importance of the catcher-umpire relationship, that Molina can lose his composure so completely at times with arbiters, even when the umps appear to be wrong.

The Cardinals cannot control the umpires, but they need to be able to control themselves. That is doubly the case for their team leader. Molina needs to learn to step back and let others less important to the outcome of the game argue his points.

It would be impossible to know if this latest incident will cost Molina any MVP votes down the road, but even more importantly, will this cost him any future games due to suspension?

First and foremost, Molina should remember his importance to the Cardinals by doing what it takes to remain on the field. Managing his temper no matter the situation has to become a part of that.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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25 Responses to “Play like a Cardinal, Play like an MVP”

  1. crdswmn says:

    Don’t disagree with your specific point; in a vacuum that is how it should be. But I also see Matheny’s point, these guys are not robots, sometimes the emotion of the moment overcomes their better judgment. I don’t think two incidents in 8 years or so signifies a significant problem. Carlos Zambrano he ain’t.

    And I think there is a point to be made about the umpire. I said as much in my blog post. There has to be some measure of context in these situations when you are making a judgment. A more experienced umpire perhaps would not have so quick a trigger. Umpires are not caught up in the realities of the outcome of the game like players are. I think some measure of circumspection is called for from them, more so than from players.

    I don’t condone Molina’s temper tantrum, I just understand how that happens in certain situations and think that context matters. I am not worried that this will become a pattern for him. I think he is smarter than that.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Control what you can control. I don’t mean to accept bad umpiring, but it isn’t like the call would be reversed by escalating the argument. The spark was the helmet throw.

      You mention context.

      A routine out at first base in the third inning of a two-run game in early June is not the time to go ape. Molina is not in a slump (in fact, just the opposite) and the team has been playing exceptionally well overall. His actions (and the bad umpiring) took him out of a game that appeared to be winnable and may have further ramifications.

      The whole incident seemed out of line on everyone’s part. I can expect more from Molina, but sadly cannot from the umps.

      • crdswmn says:

        Like I said, I don’t condone Molina losing it. It would definitely have been smarter just to walk to the dugout like he initially started to do.

        I just think it is easier for those of us who don’t play and are not caught up in the emotion of a hard fought game to pass judgment. We have time to look at it and contemplate it ad nauseum. Not so for Molina. In that split second of his frustration with himself I would bet he was not thinking of the inning or the month of the season, or any other logical sequence of thoughts before dumping his helmet. And I give credence to the idea that the umpire has to act (or not act) in a short space of time as well. But I think experience teaches umpires (those who want to be good at what they do) what is or isn’t grounds for giving the old heave ho. As Bengie Molina said, they get a feel for the game. Fagan didn’t have it in my mind, at least not in that situation.

        And yes, a temper tantrum would not change the call, that is absolutely correct. But maybe that and the subsequent discussion will give the umpire something to think about for the future that letting it all pass would not have. And I would be willing to bet it all gave Molina something to think about for the future as well.

        These are just my thought processes. I think there is merit to what you say, I just have a different take on it.

        • Brian Walton says:

          I agree that the short fuse decision should have been discussed on the field. I just wish Molina would have gotten (or been taken) out of the way so Matheny could handle it. Had that been the case, there would be no worry of suspension. Again, it is in a vacuum.

    • Brian Walton says:

      P.S. You are right in that the heat of the moment can trump reason. Let’s hope there is a fine and that is the end of it from Molina’s side. We’ll probably never know if/what the umpires do. (Seems like letting anyone police themselves will lead to suspicion from the outside, even if administered fairly.)

  2. CariocaCardinal says:

    More than likely there is a history between these two which we will never know. It may be as simple as where this umpire puts hiss hand on Molina’s back when he is behind the plate and Molina constantly complaining about it.

    A better question is why baseball let’s players and managers throw temper tantrums. Do you see this in football? basketball? No, because they dont allow it. Further, this idea of a manager has to defend his players is ludicrous. If the player acts like idiot he shouldn’t have anyone defending him.

  3. blingboy says:

    I applaud Yadi for having fire in his belly that has not been squelched by the weight of his wallet. At the same time, I have no problem with an umpire who does not care to put up with a twelve year old.

  4. kray66 says:

    The ejection was uncalled for completely. I can understand if the helmet throw had been at home plate on a called strike or something, but it was obvious Yadi was frustrated with himself and not the call/ump. If Yadi had spiked his helmet at the umps feet and gotten in his face, absolutely, he’d deserve the ejection.

    I like to see fire in Yadi, but I think he kind of took it a little too far yesterday after he was tossed. I don’t know what/if the ump said anything to him that set him off, but his reaction was a little excessive.

    • crdswmn says:

      I didn’t see it, but some people said the umpire had a smirk on his face which might have set Yadi off. I did notice that at first Yadi walked toward the umpire with a questioning look on his face and then all of a sudden just lost it.

  5. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    “Umpires are not caught up in the realities of the outcome of the game like players are. I think some measure of circumspection is called for from them, more so than from players.

    I don’t condone Molina’s temper tantrum, I just understand how that happens in certain situations and think that context matters. I am not worried that this will become a pattern for him. I think he is smarter than that.”

    This absolutely does not work CRD. Sorry……………………… Brian’s position is solid………..’
    I will say this though…..the intensity of MM was directly proportional to keeping Molina from getting in some big trouble. He was struggling to stay between a guy who lost it Latin style…….. and a smallish ump who had taken the stance…………. Matheny knows that a 5 game suspension could effect the rotations stability………. the follow up “attitude” in the morning “had” to be calculated by the FO…………… This gives Selig an interesting opportunity……via Joe Torre……. gotta be at least a game………what if its 3…or 5…???… doubt that.

    • blingboy says:

      I’m guessing Cruz is here with Yadi’s blessing, for a reason. So I’m fine with him standing in for a few starts. Miss Yadi’s bat though.

    • Brian Walton says:

      A once-game suspension allows everyone to save face.

    • crdswmn says:

      Well it works for me, WC, and that is all that matters. 😉

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        Umps aren’t under any duress these days?????????????? With exactly the same “everything” going on, and he calls Molina safe, Yadi throw his helmet? …………….. Because that means that his lack luster effort was sanctioned by a major league ump?….. No problem? …… No that ump was under pressure,…. that was a close call which he got right………… he supposed to do what………. be the guy that missed the call………….because famous Yadi might have thought so ……… like all he was thinking was judging Yadi for being lazy? ……. He had nothing better to do…………. did you see Molina wait for his coach to restrain him before he blew up …………. that’s premeditated ….he was very clear headed then… so that he could then show up the ump..?????….. best thing that could have happened did…………. Molina’s is human,……..the temptations that engulfed Pujols lay right before him …………… best thing happened……..ends it right there…..

  6. JumboShrimp says:

    What an amazing player Molina is:
    Defensive star.
    Great handler of the pitching staff.
    Catches nearly every game, though he has a long-term contract and could lay around on the bench. Instead, he still works hard.
    Contact hitter, who only strikes out 10 percent of the time.
    Though slower than molasses, his batting average is .an otherwordly 350.
    He steals bases for extra credit.

    Molina is all about effort and hard work. If a rookie ump tosses him, its ok if Yadier tells the squirt off.

  7. JumboShrimp says:

    During the glory days of the 1930s, the Cards were known as the Gas House Gang, a rough crew.

    Times have sure changed today, when slow Yadier gets in trouble for trying so hard to leg out a basehit. Today, players are in a fish-bowl, their every behavior commented upon. Not like the good old days.

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