And I am not talking only about the Mets stinking up the joint, because while the magnitude of the egg they laid yesterday was surprising, the fact that they were much less than impressive was not.
I'm talking about Brian Runge instigating an event that led to both Jerry Manuel and Carlos Beltran getting ejected. Now I know that the guys calling balls and strikes this year have generally speaking been less than perfect, but shall we cut to the chase and admit that balls and strikes have been called particularly horrendously this year? Look at any game where they have an over the plate camera and you will see at least a half dozen strikes called on pitches significantly off the plate inside or outside. Not to mention that other guys have these postage stamp strike zones that a guy needs to be able to hit a gnat's butt at 60 feet 6 inches to be able to get near.
It's bad enough that these guys can't call balls and strikes to save their lives (not all, but many suffer this disease), but at least most are consistent and have enough of a track record that both hitters and pitchers know what to expect. But when certain guys get called out on their inconsistency, they act like spolied little children, take the mask off, get in a player's face, and basically lose all dignity whatsoever. And then they toss whosoever has the gall to point out that they are having a bad night.
I know that arguing balls and strikes will get you tossed, but both hitters and catchers make comments every at bat, and it seems to go by so long as the player's actions cannot be interpreted as showing up the umpire.
So what did we have last night. Carlos Beltran takes a couple of borderline pitches for strikes, the second of which if you go to any of the "Gamechannel-like" pitching grids shows you that the ball was inside. BTW: have you ever seen some of the balls and strikes that are called on that pitching grid and how, if they are reasonably accurate, umpires generally miss several calls each and every inning? I am sure that is why MLB.com stopped even putting the strike zone on the grid anymore, since it pointed out the massive inconsistency in the strike zone. But teh umpire's union blew a gasket on that one.
But I digress. So after the second call, Beltran turns his head and says a couple of things, but does not gesture, or lose his temper, or anything. And what does this clown Runge do? All of a sudden, the plate needs to be cleaned (probably explains why his previous call was so poor), and walks around, takes off the mask, and cleans the plate - all the while barking at Beltran.
This brings Jerry Manuel out of the dugout, and they get into it. Next thing you know, Runge INTENTIONALLY thursts his chest into Manuel and tosses him for making contact. That is among the most pathetic examples of an umpire losing his professionalism I have ever seen. In fact, the only one it rivals to me is Mike Winters baiting Milton Bradley last year, which through a series of unfortunate events led to Bradley tearing up his knee.
Last time I checked, no one came to the ballpark to see the umpires (with all apologies to Mrs. Runge, if there is one). Any time you actually notice the umpires at a game, it's usually because they screw something up. But that's a part of baseball. They are human, and it happens.
But what Brian Runge did last night went way beyond the line of acceptable professionalism for umpires, just like Mike Winters last year. Winters got suspended for the rest of the season, and while it really was about a 2 week penalty (it occurred at the end of the year), Winters missed out on umpiring in the playoffs. Runge should get at least that much time off, in my opinion. Even though bumping the umpire usually only leads to a suspension of 1 or a few games, umpires should be held to a higher standard. There is no way that an umpire should be able tocreate a situation that results in players and/or managers getting booted out of a game. When they do, they should pay a very heavy price.
It is interesting to note that Winters was the first umpire suspended since 2003. I think in a way that is a testament to the professionalism of the vast majority of umpires. But this umpire was an embarrassment last night, and deserves a nice vacation. How about two weeks, without pay, of course, since he picked up a paycheck he didn't earn last night.