Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie have a lot in common. Both impact a game in many ways, both hustle every play, and both wear their emotions on their sleeves.
Whereas Bautista has grown as a player and learned to control his emotions, the 22 year-old Lawrie is still maturing as a player and sometimes his desire and passion for his team can get away from him, as evident in last night’s ninth-inning meltdown.
For those who somehow are unaware of what happened, I will set the scene: Bottom of the ninth, one out, a 3-1 pitch from Tampa closer Fernando Rodney misses the plate by about two inches and is a tad low. Lawrie assumes it to be ball four and takes a few steps towards first base.
However, home plate umpire Bill Miller calls it a strike, to the disbelief of Lawrie, fans in attendance, and those watching at home. The following 3-2 pitch is clearly several inches outside and high and Miller calls strike three.
Lawrie, who took a step towards first, as that pitch was a clear ball, squats down, turns around and yells at Miller, who ejects him from the game. Lawrie then throws his helmet towards home plate, and the ensuing bounce hits Miller in the hip.
Manager John Farrell came out to argue to no avail and got tossed as well. Tampa goes on to win 4-3, and on his way off the field Miller gets a beer shower courtesy of an angry fan.
The way I see it, Miller did not like the fact that he thought Lawrie was “showing him up” by assuming the 3-1 pitch was a ball, and for his payback he called ball four strike-three to make up for this supposed “embarrassment.” There are “unwritten rules” in baseball, and assuming ball four before the umpire has made his call is one of them.
The umpires feel the players are trying to tell them they know the strike zone better than them. Perhaps if Lawrie had the reputation and resume of a Derek Jeter or Albert Pujols he may get the walk, but like in all sports, you have to earn calls and respect from the umpires, and whether that is right or not, that is the way it is.
On the flip side, Miller took his perceived slight by Lawrie personally and by making the strike-out call let feelings dictate the game, when a person in his position is supposed to be unbiased.
To me that deserves a bigger punishment than the four games Lawrie got, but Miller is scheduled to umpire third base tonight, so no discipline in the form of suspension may come his way, although he probably got a fine.
While Lawrie’s response may have not been the best, I feel if his helmet did not hit the umpire, no punishment would have been handed out.
In an ironic twist, Lawrie tweeted earlier in the day, pre-game, “Rattled right now”, leaving many wondering if this possibly foreshadowed his unfortunate showdown at the plate with Miller? Only Lawrie will really know what was going through his head, and if something else contributed to his reaction.
Lawrie did feel bad about the incident, saying he just wanted to help his team out. The young third baseman obviously has an eagerness to win, and once he can control his passion when he disagrees with a call, he will become an even better player.
The next time Lawrie finds himself in a similar situation, I’m sure he will wait to hear ball four before heading to first, and if a call is bad, say his piece and walk away.
In the maturity of good ball players, there are growing pains and Lawrie is going through one. This is his first full season in the majors, and once he gets the respect of the umpires, like Bautista has, those borderline calls may start going his way. He has learned the most important lesson of all: throwing your helmet, like in real estate, is all about location, location, location.
What do you think of the length of Lawrie’s suspension? What should Miller’s punishment be?
Views always welcome.
From the couch.