Kahn: For Argument’s Sake

By Andrew Kahn

Thank you, Joe Girardi. You reminded us how fun manager tirades can be. And how rare they are in the replay era.

During the Yankees’ 9-5 loss to the Rays on Saturday, Girardi was ejected by home plate umpire Scott Barry for approaching him after New York’s pitching coach had been ejected for questioning Barry’s strike zone. Said Girardi after the game: “If I’m going to get tossed for asking about one of my coaches, I might as well get my money’s worth.”

That he did. Girardi abruptly ended his conversation with Barry to step in the batter’s box and use both hands to cover home plate in dirt and chalk.

 

 

I can’t be sure, but I think Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious is using his glove to disguise his laughter. Who can blame him? Girardi’s rant was hilarious and it’s too bad that replay rules have, for the most part, eliminated this behavior.

I recall attending a lopsided Mets loss several years ago where the most exciting part of the game, by far, was witnessing Manny Ramirez getting tossed. There is something special about the building tension between the umpire and player/manager, as the fans get louder and louder until exploding in celebration when the ump makes his overly dramatic ejection gesture.*

*Barry’s signal was disappointing in its subtly. Was he practicing his crumbled-paper-into-a-trash-can hook shot? Asking for his check at a restaurant? After deploying a slightly more exaggerated signal for the pitching coach, perhaps he had to go to his ‘B’ move.

Last year, Brad Ausmus went a step further than Girardi and covered the plate with his sweatshirt. Skippers in the minor leagues, where there is no replay, have had epic meltdowns. But in the bigs, demonstrative tirades are few and far between thanks to instant replay. Instead of a manager rushing from the dugout to go belly to belly with an ump, we see him hustle to the phone to get an opinion on whether to challenge the call. Balls and strikes—which cannot be reviewed—and dugout warnings (after a batter is hit by, or almost hit by, a pitch) are about the only calls that inspire arguments these days.

It is hard to know if replay has reduced the number of ejections. The website Close Call Sports tracks ejections in detail—the site appears to run a fantasy league in which participants choose umpires and get points when an ejection is warranted (i.e. the original call was correct)—but the data only goes back to 2012, when replay already existed. The site lists 178 regular season ejections in 2012 and as many as 212 in 2015. Last season, 190 players and managers were tossed, and while the site provides video for each one, even exhaustive research wouldn’t determine with certainty if full-blown tirades are on the decline.

Anecdotal evidence suggests they are. When there is disagreement over a play at a base or whether a ball was caught or cleared the outfield wall, it is resolved with civility. Civil is boring. And civil is not always more efficient. One would think a replay review would take less time than a shouting match, but the two-minute allotment for reviews is merely a suggestion that is not always followed. And I’ll take two minutes of red-faced shouting over two minutes of an umpire wearing headphones any day.

I’d listen to the argument that Big Leaguers Gone Wild set a bad example for a child. But I sure do miss watching a manager act like one.

Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local. He writes about baseball and other sports at andrewjkahn.com and you can find his Scoop and Score podcast on iTunes. Email him at andrewjkahn@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn

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