Baseball is an entertaining game, but it’s also a relaxing, slow-paced game. However, once in a while there’s a close call that a manager will disagree with and that’s when things can get pretty exciting. Justin Gorman takes a look back at some ejections and whether or not the replay review system will reduce the number of ejections.
In every sport, at every level, there are officials ensuring that the game is played within the prescribed rules. In baseball, umpires have to exercise judgment to determine whether a player is safe or out and manage what should be an objective strike zone, but obviously has a human element involved.
These umpires receive their fair share of criticism from fans, players, the media and – of course – managers. The critics come in all forms – parents can often be found screaming at umpires at the local Little League field because their child was wronged by the ump’s call. The extreme, irrational fringe of these critics are the type who sent death threats to Jim Joyce after he made an admitted error in judgment when he broke up Armando Galarraga’s perfect game. In a hilarious example, there now exists a popular hashtag – #Umpshow – for situations where an umpire decides to make himself the center of the game being played.
Despite all efforts, both societally acceptable and not, there will never be a more amazing critic of the umps than the manager of a major or minor league ballclub. On June 2, after what appeared to be a couple of missed check-swing calls, Mariners’ catcher Mike Zunino took issue with the first-base ump’s call and got ejected. His manager, Lloyd McClendon, then pulled a “Classic McClendon” and got similarly run after a most beautiful tirade. This article by David Brown at CBS Sports really summed up McClendon’s antics perfectly.
Brown’s article also made me wonder if the 2014 expansion of instant replay may have reduced the number of manager ejections, as there is now a legal “appeals system.” According to closecallsports.com, who runs an Umpire Ejection Fantasy League (a concept that I applaud wholeheartedly), the following trend exists:
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The 2014 expansion of instant replay made zero quantifiable difference on the number of manager ejections. Additionally, if the trend continues and managers average 17 ejections a month over the remainder of the 2015 season, that would equal roughly 102 ejections for the year. This, even after MLB expanded instant replay even further before the 2015 season. #UmpShow, anyone?
Fortunately, baseball fans can rest easy! Despite MLB trying to make their lives easier through instant replay, managers will still get ejected and provide loads of entertainment. Hall of Famer Bobby Cox wore his as a badge of honor, holding the all-time record with 158 ejections. Cox managed a total of 4,505 regular season games – that averages out to one ejection every 28.5 games!
In comparison, Lou Piniella, whose managerial career spanned 23 years, was only ejected 65 times. His quantifiable anger quotient fell far short of Bobby Cox, as Piniella averaged a scant 54.6 games per ejection. However, when Sweet Lou got ejected, Sweet Lou made it count:
The most over-the-top ejection of all time occurred on June 1, 2007, during a Double-A game between the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Mississippi Braves. Mississippi manager Phil Wellman lost everything even vaguely resembling control. Some called his tirade immature and some said it was unnecessary. Luckily, it occurred during the smartphone era, so we can all judge for ourselves (do yourself a favor and watch that a few times).
Many have said over the years that a slumping team can get a morale boost from a manager losing their mind on the field to defend their players. Quantitative analysis of “manager ejection” to “reversing a losing streak” would take entirely too much time for me to accomplish. However, it doesn’t take a mathematician to conclude that just like hockey fights and NASCAR crashes, fans love seeing a good manager tirade. Luckily, early returns suggest that instant replay will not curtail this massively entertaining baseball tradition.