The brawl and umpire incompetence

by billfer on August 11, 2009 · 56 comments

in 2009 Season

Rick Porcello should not have been ejected. Call it a homers take if you want, but he had no business being ejected. In fact if Kevin Youkilis wasn’t an immature moron and he hadn’t charged the mound, there would have been no ejection in the first place. So Youk charges the mound, and the Tigers starting pitcher gets tossed despite the fact that Tigers hitters had been plunked throughout the first 2 games of the series and no warnings had been issued.

That’s my take. Keith Law is at the game and had this to say:

This is Crawford’s second major incident of the month, after Friday’s egregious blown call and subsequent outburst against Arizona manager A.J. Hinch. While Crawford has yet to sink that low during this game — the night is still young as I type this — the crew’s decision to toss Porcello after he hit one batter with a three-run lead and no warning in effect was incompetence at best and cowing to a hostile Fenway crowd at worst. Crawford’s involvement in two on-field blowups, both featuring bad umpiring decisions, calls into question his fitness to umpire major league games, especially ones with playoff implications like Tuesday’s.

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Skip August 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Wow. I always liked Law, but this just made me like him better.
Then again, he is just stating the obvious (and that the ump sucks…)

RPS August 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Wow. Incredible to see this take from an ESPN contributor. Really confirms that the behavior of Youkilis and the umps was just as far out of bounds as we all seem to think.

I honestly think Youkilis using his helmet as a weapon merits at least 15 games of suspension. If he’s not dealt with quickly and harshly, someone’s bringing their bat while charging the mound eventually and… well, it gets ugly.

Titus Tiger August 11, 2009 at 10:13 pm

good post — after all the bean balls, the fact that there was not a single warning is clear that the umpire was not controlling the game

RoseTattoo August 11, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Amen, Hallelujah and Say It Brother!

Chris August 11, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I’m sorry, but Leyland should have told Porcello to stop with the retaliation after the 1st inning when he almost hit Martinez.

The team is in a pennet race, they are struggling on the road, the really struggle in Fenway, they are against Josh Becket tomorrow, Armando Galarraga is sick and probably not available tomorrow and the bullpen is a little thin right now… Under these circumstances, this was the worst thing that could have happened.

Rick Porcello did not need to do this… It was not constructive… It will not be a turning point in the season… There was nothing to gain… Nothing!

jb61973 August 11, 2009 at 11:28 pm

Agreed.

Adam August 12, 2009 at 2:10 am

If you watch the replay a few more times, as I have, take a look at Porcello’s body language immediately following the plunking. There is an exasperation, a “Oh man, I hit a guy,” and then he puts his arms out toward Youkilis in a placating motion. The whole thing screams “I didn’t mean to.”

Compare this to yesterday, when Jackson plunks Youk. What does Jackson do? He walks toward the batter and makes constant eye contact. There is no body language but intent, nothing to suggest accident.

It’s stupid to argue whether he should or shouldn’t have done it. Guy’s 20 years old and throwing in the upper 90s – we’re counting on him to put those in the catcher’s mitt. One slips away (and I really do believe this one did, it’s just sad there was tension brewing – and therefore added pressure not to hit guys) and it’s “Leyland should have told Porcello to stop with the retaliation”? Come on.

Jeff August 11, 2009 at 10:37 pm

The worst thing that could have happened was for the Tigers to sit back and let their best player get injured without retaliation. That would be akin to Claude Lemieux’s turtling and would have done far more damage to the team’s long-term prospects than losing tonight’s game.

jb61973 August 11, 2009 at 11:30 pm

No man. What did it get them. There is a time and place for retaliation. THe Wings didn’t respond to lemieux until the end of the next season. Besides, he had already sent the message to Martinez.

Adam August 12, 2009 at 2:14 am

Idiotic to say Cabrera’s hand is a retaliation-worthy offense. At least in this case. The ONLY reason Cabrera gets hit there is because he’s swinging his hands forward, INTO THE BALL. If he just stands there, the ball is high and inside, but it doesn’t hit him. If he’s trying to get away from the ball, he also doesn’t get hit.

Of course, he doesn’t do either of those. Tazawa, some foreign kid making his first Major League start, doesn’t hit Cabrera – Cabrera hits his pitch with his hands!

Come on men, let’s retaliate now that our own guy got himself knocked out of the game.

Jeff August 12, 2009 at 7:53 am

You’re missing my point, jb.

I was talking about the ’97 Avalanche, not the Wings. The Avs’ chemistry was undermined because Lemieux just sat there and turtled and didn’t fight back when McCarty took him down. There were numerous off the record comments afterward from Avs players about how Lemieux didn’t stand up for his team and how the locker room was in disarray all the way through their loss to Detroit in the ’97 Western Finals. People can talk about how the second HBP for Cabrera was an accident, but after the first HBP and after he left with an injury, there’s no option but to respond.

jb61973 August 12, 2009 at 8:16 am

Gotcha. I still disagree with you, but, hey, that’s life.

Tbone August 11, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Disagree. With the team’s star hitter in the clubhouse, Porcello decided it was payback time. He’s a young kid trying to stand up for his teammates, but it was a stupid decision. And don’t even try to tell me that one simply slipped out of his fingers.

Yes Youk was an childish idiot. He will get fined and suspended. But Porcello’s decision to fuel the fire took himself out of the game and effectively ended the Tigers chances right there. Youk could have done serious damage to him, thankfully he dodged that.

Don’t try to pin this one on the umpire. He deliberately threw at him and deserved to get tossed.

Adam August 12, 2009 at 2:25 am

I’m trying to tell you it slipped out. The only one who seemed ready for it to happen was Youkilis. Intention would indicate readiness, and neither Porcello or Avila seemed to know Youk was going to get hit.

So here it is: a guy gets hit. A guy charges the mound, throws his helmet at the pitcher, and gets taken down. Did the pitcher mean it? Circumstances say he did. But…the moment, the reactions, the way it all played out – suggest otherwise. The words “deliberately,” “decided,” don’t seem to jive with what I saw. Baseball is a game of inches. How many inches before you know a guy meant to do it?

Jeff August 11, 2009 at 10:40 pm

The fact is Porcello hit Youkilis on purpose, so he should have been ejected. There doesn’t need to be a warning — if you clearly hit someone intentionally, you get ejected whether there was a warning or not.

Did Tazawa hit Cabrera on purpose? If not, then there’s no reason why there would have been a warning.

Also, the fact that Tigers had been previously hit isn’t relevant to Porcello getting ejected – retaliating isn’t a defense to getting ejected.

Jeff August 11, 2009 at 10:43 pm

I disagree with “me”.

billfer August 11, 2009 at 10:51 pm

So the guy with the 3 run lead on a night when the team needs him to pitch deep into a game was clearly throwing at someone in the second inning?

Also, how is the fact that Tigers had been previously hit not relevant to Porcello getting tossed? If no Tiger had been hit and Porcello throws the exact same pitch does he get tossed?

Jeff August 11, 2009 at 11:00 pm

Ok. I didn’t know you were disputing that it was intentional, but instead whether he should have been ejected. If he wasn’t intentionally throwing at him, then you’re right. But when 1) it was the first batter after your star player was knocked out of the game, 2) it was right in his back, 3) you had just come inside on Martinez, and 4) you hit Youkilis yesterday, it’s pretty tough to say it wasn’t intentional with a straight face.

On the 2nd point, if it was intentional, yes. But you’re right in that you wouldn’t know it was intentional except for the fact that Tigers had been hit.

Kurt August 12, 2009 at 1:30 am

So you’re not allowed to pitch inside to a couple of the league’s better hitters? Kinda plays to their advantage, no?

Jeff August 12, 2009 at 1:39 am

You’re not allowed to hit someone on purpose. Coming inside on Martinez is fine, but doing that and then hitting Youkilis, and based on the other circumstances, suggests it was intentional.

Mat August 11, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Strong words by Law. Its hard to disagree, especially as a Tiger fan. If Beckett hits anyone tomorrow theres no question that the right thing to do strategically is rush the mound and maybe throw some lumber his way while you’re at it.

Ron August 11, 2009 at 11:07 pm

If KLaw thinks a 2-seamer got away from him, then I think a 2-seamer got away from him.

Greg August 11, 2009 at 11:10 pm

If Porcello wanted to throw at him, he would of thrown a 4 seam fastball.

Coleman August 11, 2009 at 11:38 pm

1. Porcello is a 21 yr old rookie. Ever see the un-highlight of him slipping and throwing the pitch that made it halfway to home plate?

2. Porcello is a rookie, on a training-wheel pitch count no less. He doesn’t throw at a guy unless someone tells him to. If someone told him to, Avila would presumably be in on it. Watch his (slow) reaction.

3. Eckersley said Porcello wasn’t trying to hit him. Eckersley knows these things. I mean he pitched for LaRussa right? And he works for the Sock People, so a tie goes to the Sock Person.

On the other hand–maybe Porcello figured ejection was preferable to the one-sided strike zone…

ouchudied August 11, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Well, I can take a couple positives away from this game.

1. Lambert lowered his ERA by 20 some runs. Great job.

2. Papelbon now has an ERA over 2. HA. Take that, Jonny.

Oh yea, and Avila is on fire right now.

Jeff Molby August 11, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Was it intentional? If it wasn’t, it was an incredible coincidence. Sorry, but I have a hard time believing that.

As for the tossing, how often does a guy get to stay in a game after throwing an intentional HBP that leads to a brawl? I think the ejections were basically SOP.

jason August 12, 2009 at 12:02 am

The question remains. Does Porcello get ejected if Youkilis walks to first base, like he should?

Jeff Molby August 12, 2009 at 3:04 am

No, definitely not.

Matt in Toledo August 12, 2009 at 12:00 am

At this point, I don’t care about the ejection. If Porcello gets suspended, I’m going to go insane.

T Smith August 12, 2009 at 12:57 am

It’s possible he was just trying to come up and in on him, as a warning, and wound up plunking him instead.

You don’t usually eject the pitcher without a warning. I tend to think if Youklis trots to first Crawford wouldn’t have ejected Porcello; he would have issued warnings to both benches. Which is absolutely retarded, because, in effect, you’re rewarding the other team for charging the mound and throwing objects at the pitcher. That makes no sense whatsoever.

It is a little suspicious that Leyland didn’t put up much of a fight – but it is equally suspicious that both Porcello or Avila were both caught off guard by the Youklis tantrum.

The bottom line is, here is yet another game the Tigers likely could have won, but didn’t. We get plunked relentlessly, lose Cabrera, Porcello gets ejected and we essentially are left to try to win the game with a mop-up AAA pitcher. The whole fiasco worked out fabulously for the Red Sox — they couldn’t have planned it any better — and likely resulted in a W for them instead of a L.

As for Youklis: what a girly-man. He charges a 20 year old rookie — yet didn’t have the guts to charge Jackson. I’m pretty sure after seeing him toss his helmet and storm the mound in a hissy that I could take him hands down in a bar-room brawl.

Skip August 12, 2009 at 1:02 am

If Youk took his base like he should have, and not
acted an insane gorilla and charged the mound, warnings would probably have been issued.
There would have been no more than that. Next guy to plunk someone would get ejected.

Skip August 12, 2009 at 1:07 am

The more I think about it, the less likely I think Rick hit Youk intentionally too…
I dunno… Youk was out of line.

I don’t buy into the whole conspiracy theories, but I do think the Red Sox (and Yankees) are heavily favored by MLB, and they have always gotten the calls other teams don’t get.

T Smith August 12, 2009 at 10:33 am

I’m not sure I’ll go so far as to subscribe to the conspiracy theory, but empirical evidence from last night (according to billfer’s post this morning) certainly supports the claim. Just sayin’

One thing is sure: Jerry Crawford is just horrible. He should be fired. He didn’t issue warnings — made numerous boned-headed calls — and had no control whatsoever over the game. And then he was (apparently) swayed by the chants from Boston fans (“throw him out!”) … if he was going to eject Porcello on the merits of Porcello’s actions, why didn’t he do it with authority right away? Apparently he needed the court of public opinion (from Red Sox fans) to help him make his decision.

I have absolutely no respect for him.

Coleman August 12, 2009 at 1:07 am

People can take the complaining about East Coast media bias to silly lengths; I’m sure I’ve done it before. But this is the official version of what happened once Youkilis charged the mound; you saw it, come to your own conclusions…

(AP) “Youkilis led off the second inning and was hit in the back with the first pitch. He dropped his bat and ran toward Porcello, throwing his batting helmet at the pitcher—and missing—before wrapping him up and bringing him to the ground. ”
(Yes, it really says Youkilis took down Porcello)

(And of course although the official media version may be that Youkilis took down Porcello, any MLB punishments will include as a factor the fact that Porcello took down Youkilis…that’s how it works…)

Brenden August 12, 2009 at 1:25 am

We lost this game because of awful umping. If Porcello isn’t tossed for a BS reason, we aren’t forced to bring up tee-ball Lambert, who I might add, has no business being in the majors. Just another East coast screw job….

rings August 12, 2009 at 8:48 am

Even further, Crawford’s strike zone was inconsistent and horrible. While never wanting to “blame an umpire for a loss,” compare the ball/strike calls on Polly’s AB and Inge’s three pitch K to Pedroia’s walk and the 3-0 count leading to Lowell’s tater.
Terrible performance by a “major league” umpire.

Jones August 12, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Everyone is talking about the “retaliation” for hitting Cabrera in the first. Or you are saying Porcello is a rookie and therefore subject to throwing errors. What about the Sox pitcher? This was his second game in the MLB, his first start ever in the bigs. He’s less than a rookie. He hit a batter on the hand as the batter moved his hands forward. That really wasn’t the pitcher’s fault, and shouldn’t have started the Tigers retaliating. You can’t claim that that the Tiger’s pitcher is inexperienced, and then blame the Sox pitcher who has even less experience. The Sox pitcher didn’t deliberately hit Cabrera, he can’t pitch that well yet. Throwing at Martinez was enough of a “retaliation” for an accidental bad pitch. Throwing a Youk was just stupid and petty.

Coleman August 12, 2009 at 3:02 pm

You make a good argument that it’s more likely that neither or both pitchers were throwing intentionally than that one or the other were. In which case Porcello shouldn’t have been ejected, unless you think he should be ejected for not letting Youkilis beat him.

“Throwing at Martinez” is kind of making assumptions. Just because Martinez got all huffy doesn’t mean Porcello was throwing AT him. It was an inside pitch; it didn’t hit him; the umpires didn’t warn anybody, Francona didn’t make a fuss. In fact there were pitches that missed the strike zone as much as Porcello’s pitch to Martinez that were called strikes.

Ron August 12, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Whether Tazawa meant to hit Cabby or not (he didn’t) is irrelevant.

Ozzie – “…they hit two guys, not on purpose, but someone can get hurt out there. You can pitch in, but if you don’t know how don’t do it,” he said. “It gets to the point when they hit us seven times, 20 times in one week and we hit one and they’re the headhunters and that’s a [problem] with major league baseball.”

It’s about protecting your players and Porcello was right in throwing inside to VMart, which I think was intentional. I don’t think he meant to hit Youk. If Youk had acted civil, warnings would have been issued to each side and this whole thing would be done with Cabby and Youk both getting hit twice.

Andre in Chi August 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I agree with Jones here, and I don’t think that the Ozzie argument does anything to help a team out. In addition to disagreeing with anything Ozzie says on principle, his outburst is unlikely to have any real effect on opposing team’s approaches. That sort of statement is more about diverting attention from a team that isn’t winning and building team spirit.

“Whether Tazawa meant to hit Cabby or not (he didn’t) is irrelevant … It’s about protecting your players”

Actually, I think its very relevant. Cabrera got hit yesterday because of a checked swing, he didn’t get plunked in the back or something that would indicate intent. But that’s the whole problem with the notion that retaliation for hit-batters is about “protecting your players”. First, it assumes that if you don’t retaliate, opposing teams will just start drilling your players willy-nilly. Second, as yesterday shows, its hard to keep score; does the inside pitch count as retaliation or do you have to successfully plunk the other team? To me its too much effort to figure out what’s intentional vs. bad control.

I’d much rather people just take their bases, unless you’re playing in a fantasy league that doesn’t count OBP or BB…

EDIT: As a team featuring Verlander, one of the leagues premier plunkers for the last few years, we shouldn’t get so high on our “protecting-the-players horse” lest we reap what JV sows.

Mark@HOU August 12, 2009 at 3:49 pm

We’re forgetting the timeline.
Monday, Cabrera hit on purpose in my opinion to cool him off for the start of a 4 game series. Jackson correctly hits Youkilis right back. Warnings were issued for Monday werent they?

Cabrera hit, first inning continues we score 3 runs. If you think Tazawa hit him on purpose with 1 out and 2 on and 2 strikes, then I have a Nigerian Prince who wants to meet you and talk about getting his fortune out of Africa.

Porcello throws a purpose pitch to a left handed Martinez. Look throwing a cross your body it’s unlikely he made that big of mistake. Vmart has stern look and I think at that point, it was over.

However, Top 2nd, Cabrera can’t finish his AB and has to be taken out. I think Porcello decided to make sure to hit someone for them injuring out best player.
I don’t have have a problem with this especially since its the 2nd time in 2 games.

In no way should he have been thrown out, maybe if it’s the 6th inning, but with no warning it’s a joke. It gave the Sox the game.

If people argue with you especially Sox fans. Ask them this. If Beckett hits Granderson, with the first pitch tonight does he get thrown out? I bet he doesn’t in this hypothetical. I bet he doesn’t even if Granderson charges, which he never would.

If a Tiger hitter gets hit tonight, they should rush immediately to get Beckett out of the game. This umpiring crew has set the precedent.

Andre in Chi August 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm

“Jackson correctly hits Youkilis right back.”

This is my problem with the whole retaliation business. Clearly Jackson’s *message* wasn’t heard, so what’s the point? Why risk having your own players ejected?

The only downside of the AL is all these innocent bystanders (batters) paying for the transgressions of their pitchers.

Mark@HOU August 12, 2009 at 4:37 pm

I think the message was heard. Hitting Cabrera yesterday was an accident. Pitchers still need to pitch inside.

Andre in Chi August 12, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I think you’re illustrating my point in saying that hitting Cabrera was an accident. When you get into keeping score with hit-batters, can you really separate the accident from the intentional? I mean, the Tigers are technically still behind in the series as far as hit-batters, should they plunk another Red Sock tonight, would that be the “correct” thing to do?

You say pitchers need to pitch inside, but seem all for the retaliation that occurs when those types of pitches aren’t executed well. For me the retaliation is the base awarded, no need to continue escalating things.

Jeff August 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm

So Porcello shouldn’t have been ejected for hitting Youkilis intentionally? I’m sure the league would love the precedent that sets. There doesn’t need to be a warning.

Coleman August 12, 2009 at 5:52 pm

There does need to be a warning. Should Jackson have been ejected for intentionally hitting Youkilis? Should Penny have been ejected for intentionally hitting Cabrera? Ramirez for intentionally hitting Inge? Tazawa?

Unless you’re saying you KNOW Porcello’s was intentional, whereas the others weren’t. Based on what?

And THAT is the purpose of the warning. Not to tell the pitchers they shouldn’t intentionally hit a batter (which should be sort of obvious), but to tell the pitchers, look, hit a batter and you’re gone, we’re not going to bother worrying if you meant it or not. The point of the warning is to remove the burden of guessing intention from the umpires and negate the whole retaliation game.

Jeff August 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Mark said he thought it was intentional but that Porcello shouldn’t have been ejected. I wasn’t arguing that it was intentional, but instead questioning this line of thought. My response was based on his statements.

Coleman August 12, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Gotcha, that makes sense.

billfer August 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Jeff -

I hear what you’re saying, but there is a precedent already where pitchers who intentionally throw at guys don’t get ejected. Is there any doubt that Jackson was retaliating the night before? Yet he wasn’t ejected and most the time pitchers aren’t. They tend to only get ejected either a) after a warning or b) if the batter charges the mound.

The precedent for an automatic ejection on an intentional HBP hasn’t been set yet.

Jeff August 12, 2009 at 7:20 pm

Yeah, everything you said is correct. I think the one exception to the two situations you noted is where it’s blatantly obvious, which is extremely rare because umps don’t want to have to make that call when a warning hasn’t been issued.

Look, we can all agree that had Youkilis not charged, Porcello — probably, though not definitely — wouldn’t have been ejected. But I think people arguing the ejection are standing on pretty weak ground:

– whether or not Youkilis charged doesn’t lessen Porcello’s culpability. if I swing at someone at a bar, I probably just get thrown out. But when the other guy decks me in response, starting a fight, we might both get arrested. It’s no defense that my provoking caused him to fly off the handle and that I wouldn’t have been arrested if he hadn’t reacted.

– also, it was foreseeable that this would happen – Youkilis had been hit the night before, you knew he was pissed about it, and you’ve already raised the tension by coming inside on Martinez. The Tigers had to have known there’s a good chance this would happen (whether youkilis was right or wrong to charge), so it’s hard to have sympathy for Porcello in light of this.

Stephen August 12, 2009 at 4:05 pm

This is not a disaster. Porcello, who we are always hand wringing about his work load, gets an extra day of rest. Big whoop.
Move on people, nothing left to see.

Andre in Chi August 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Agreed, with both teams appealing, this won’t take effect for some time, if at all — which is too bad, I’d rather have Youk’ out of the lineup for these last two games.

Ron August 12, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Scratch that, reverse it.

Chris August 12, 2009 at 4:16 pm

We need to replace human umps with robots

Coleman August 12, 2009 at 6:13 pm

Bad idea–hackers obsessed with winning their fantasy leagues will reprogram the suckers.

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