This was going to be a post about how the Blue Jays kicked away a tremendous start by Henderson Alvarez with shoddy defense in the top of the 7th inning, but home plate umpire Bill Miller rewrote the script with his complete and utter disregard for the game he was working in the bottom of the ninth.
It’s an umpire’s job to call balls and strikes, safe and out and to maintain control of the game. It’s not an umpire’s job to insinuate himself into said game by enacting personal vendettas when he feels slighted, and that’s what Miller did.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Brett Lawrie took a 3-1 pitch that was, conservatively, six inches outside. The overhead camera angle showed that the pitch actually got a piece of the left-handed batters’ box. Lawrie started to trot down to first base, thinking that he’d walked, but Miller called the pitch a strike, causing Lawrie to freeze about 20 feet up the line or so and come back to the plate. Lawrie didn’t say anything, he just dug back into the box, and Miller didn’t say anything to him, either. The next pitch was clearly high, and Miller called it strike three.
One mistake is acceptable from an umpire – they’re human beings, after all (though I still believe they should all be replaced by robots) – but to compound that mistake with another intentional mistake because your feelings were hurt is thoroughly unprofessional and should be completely unacceptable.
We can’t know what Bill Miller was thinking, mostly because he refused to answer questions from a pool reporter after the game, but it seemed abundantly clear that he wasn’t going to let this punk kid “show him up” on the field. Whether or not Miller had his mind made up that the next pitch was going to be strike three no matter where it was, we can’t know (and of course he never would have said that anyway), but it certainly looked as though Miller was more than ready to ring Lawrie up – he called strike three with tremendous enthusiasm – and knew that he would eject him from the game shortly thereafter.
It was a disgusting display, and one that happens all too often on the playing fields (and courts and rinks, etc.) of professional sports. Officials get a burr in their saddles and decide “I’ll show them, they can’t treat me like that” and they get away with it all the time. It’s an affront to the games over which they purport to watch, it’s completely unprofessional and it should be subject to severe consequences – but it’s not, and so it continues.
A ball is a ball and a strike is a strike. That doesn’t change based on whether your feelings are hurt.
Lawrie will face supplementary discipline from the Commissioner’s Office because he threw his helmet into the ground and it bounced up and hit Miller in the hip – Lawrie wasn’t trying to hit the umpire, he didn’t throw the helmet AT him, but he should have known better than to throw it anywhere near him. Miller will face no discipline for possibly altering the outcome of a major league game in order to follow through on a personal vendetta. Heck, he didn’t even have to answer questions from reporters. It’s shameful.
Here’s tonight’s edition of The BlueJaysTalk, for your listening pleasure:
With the Blue Jays appearing to be in free fall, having lost four of five and seven of ten, the Rays hustle on out of town and the New York Yankees come in for a two-game series starting Wednesday night. It will be a huge test for the Jays’ fourth and fifth starters, Kyle Drabek gets the nod in the opener against Hiroki Kuroda. Note that even with all the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among Blue Jays fans over the recent stretch, the team has never been under .500 at any point this season, and even with so many things going so badly right now, they remain just a game and a half out of a playoff spot. We’ll be on the air at 7:00PM Eastern – join us, won’t you?
Please give me a follow on The Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness500. Brett Lawrie can be found @blawrie13, Bill Miller @notsomuch.
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