As we await the beginning of game two between the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit, I’ll say that I was a little more than mildly interested to read Roch Kubatko’s column on masnsports.com today regarding the theatrics last night between Bud Norris and Torii Hunter. A pool reporter goes into the umpires’ locker room after every game to take their comments on anything that might have happened over the course of the game. As one can imagine, there was some commentary after last night’s “situation.”
Crew chief Bob Davidson said the following:
“Kinsler hits a two-run homer and then the next hitter gets drilled. I thought Hoye handled it properly. I think that’s what anybody would have done. It’s a fastball that drilled the guy in the ribs, and I think Hoye did the right thing. That’s pretty much what it was. As an umpire, it wasn’t rocket science. I really think that that was the right thing to do.
“Torii Hunter didn’t like it and had some words, so James, correct me If I’m wrong, was kind of trying to tell Hunter to calm down, then he threw out (Norris).”
Home plate umpire James (Jim) Hoye (on the ejection):
“I don’t know exactly when I decided when to throw him out. When I did throw him, I guess that’s when I decided. I don’t know when, the sequence of events.”
All of these quotes and more are available in Kubatko’s column. However let’s read into these comments a bit – always more than meets the eye, right? If Hoye’s comments are to believed, he somehow decided after the fact to eject Norris. In my personal view, if you’re going to eject someone from a game (in any sport) it should be done immediately following his transgression. However the impression that
comment leaves is that Hoye was very indecisive about it. Hoye also went onto say that he waited to eject Norris until after it was obvious that there would be no fight on the field.
To some people that might sound reasonable. However the fact is that during that time frame Hunter was in the ear of several people, including umpires Hoye and Davidson. In fact, Davidson also said the following to the pool reporter:
“Norris said ‘(expletive) you’ to him or something, is what Torii told me he said.”
Again, if the decision to eject Norris allegedly come until later in the “kerfuffle,” does all of this not call into question the motives for the ejection itself? It’s certainly possible that everything Davidson and Hoye are saying is correct, and that they’re 100% on the level. However even if that’s true, one would be foolish not to admit that there’s an impression that Hoye was talked into tossing Norris.
Another thing that both Hoye and Davidson addressed was the fact that Norris sat in the dugout for the remainder of the half inning. Per MLB rules (and per the rules in every other sport I might add), a player that’s been ejected must immediately leave the field area – which includes the dugout – before the game can resume. I’ve seen many an MLB umpire wait until an ejected player or coach has retreated to the clubhouse before allowing the game to start back up again.
Davidson on Norris (staying in the dugout):
“I didn’t notice that he was in there longer. I didn’t see it, so as far as I’m concerned he left right away.”
Hoye on Norris (staying in the dugout):
“If he was in there longer, that’s my fault. I assumed he knew that he needs to leave.”
To Jim Hoye’s credit, he did admit a mistake on that aspect of the ejection. However in my view Davidson’s comment should be alarming to MLB and to fans. We talk so much about how Buck Showalter pays such close attention to detail and so forth; one would think that umpires would and should do the same. Davidson appears to be directly questioning a fact. When he says he didn’t see it…that’s part of his job as an umpire. When someone gets ejected it’s part of the umpires’ job to ensure he leaves the field. This falls more directly on Hoye, who actually threw Norris out of the game. (And again, props to him for taking accountability.) But for Davidson to say that Norris left right away so far as he was concerned…that contradicts facts.
Umpires need to ensure that they’re decisive and swift in these situations. Granted they’re put in positions whereby they have to judge intent, however if Norris was going to be ejected it should have come right after Hunter was hit – not after Hunter had his say on the matter. And while a player leaving the field after an ejection does come off as a minor detail, that calls into question how dialed into the game umpires are. If they’re letting a “minor detail” like that go, isn’t it possible that something larger and more important might get overlooked as well?