Now let me paint the picture for you before we get into this. Bottom of the sixth inning, one out, Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt at the plate. Oswalt falls behind in the count 1-2. Oswalt works the count to 3-2 before Cubs pitch Doug Davis throws a low fastball clearly below the knees. Oswalt takes three steps towards first before stopping in his tracks and turning around the see home plate umpire, Al Porter, wring him up for the second out of the inning. Oswalt turns, chuckles, and walks toward the Phillies dugout without saying anything. As Jimmy Rollins steps to the plate, Al Porter turns to the Phillies dugout and ejects Charlie Manuel.
Now that we have the background information, let us delve into this a little further. First off, I was just as confused as Oswalt when I saw him get tossed. In fact, I yelled out “good work” when he worked a walk, or so I thought. Now, after the replay it is clear that Manuel is saying something to Al Porter. We don’t know what he was saying but let’s be clear; arguing balls and strikes is not allowed. Manuel, by rule, should have been ejected. But my question is what could have possibly said in that short period of time to get him run? Maybe he has been complaining all game? Very real possibility.
Now this wasn’t a one time tap and then Cederstrom stopped. As Manuel tried to talk/yell at Porter, Cederstrom repeatedly bumped and pushed Manuel away from Porter. Manuel was not acting in a threatening way towards Porter, he was just simply yelling. Cederstrom kept it up until, finally, Manuel gave HIM a piece of his mind. Now as Cederstrom is using his gut to nudge Manuel away, he is also using his arms to push Manuel towards to the dugout. This is where I have a huge issue. Umpires deserve respect and, in the same breath, the managers and players deserve the same respect. If Charlie Manuel had pushed Cederstrom out of the way to get to Porter, he would have been suspended for a long time and fined for his actions. I think that Major League Baseball should seriously look into how they judge players’ and managers’ actions compared to how they judge umpires’ actions. The umpires, had Cederstrom not gotten in the middle of it, would have handled the situation in the proper way. Porter did the right thing, Cederstrom did not.
I’m sure the argument that “Manuel got ejected and Cederstrom was just there to enforce it. Charlie was out of line… blah blah blah.” No, I don’t want to hear that. Porter could enforce it himself, he is a big boy. Manuel was not out there very long before he was cut off by Cederstrom. This is an issue because umpires should show players and managers the same respect they expect to receive from them. Umpires should be punished for contact with players and coaches just as players and coaches should be punished for contact with umpires.
This falls into another category, too, that Major League Baseball needs to take a look at and that is the conduct of the umpires. This is not designed to be a complete rant about how bad umpires are. I am a huge fan of umpires and not instant replay. I am consistently amazed at how many calls the field umpires make (e.g. check swings by batters, bang-bang plays on the base paths, etc.) Umpires are very good at what they do but more recently the trend of umpires refusing to ask for help as given control of the game to the home plate umpire instead of the players. Countless times this season I have watched as a player has half swung, thinking that it was a check swing (and many times it actually is a check swing), and the home plate umpire calling it a swing without asking for help from either the first or third base umpire. This has happened more this year than any other time in my memory. And, surprisingly enough, the home plate umpire is wrong a lot of times.
I do not know where this arrogance, that umpires have, has come from…. But I don’t like it. Outside of a few umpires (Cowboy Joe West), most of the umpires have been humble people who do not want to be part of the game (Jim Joyce). Umpires should not even be noticed during the game. They should make the calls and that is that. But more and more umpires have this “I’m above the game” mentality that allows them to think that they can do anything they want on the field. They have taken control of the game. Well Bud Selig, it is time to realize that they have taken control of the game when the game wasn’t out of control. You’ve cracked down on steroids, how about you crack down on the umpires and give us fans our game back.