Another chapter in Major League Baseball’s greatest rivalry in 2022 — pitting the players and managers against the umpires — was written on Wednesday.
The Oakland Athletics were hosting the Houston Astros. In the eighth inning, Oakland’s A.J. Puk was pitching against Houston’s Yordan Alvarez and threw what appeared to be strike three. Only, home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski called the pitch a ball. A’s manager Mark Kotsay argued the call, though he did stay in the dugout. Muchlinski did not take Kotsay’s objections lying down.
Home plate ump is BIG MAD 😳 pic.twitter.com/DeF8gsUK5f
— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) June 1, 2022
Two pitches later, Puk hit Alvarez with a pitch. Kotsay then went out to the mound for a conference, which ran long. When Muchlinski went out to the mound to break the conference up, Kotsay appeared to say something to him and was promptly ejected.
The umpire just walked over and ejected Mark Kotsay in the middle of a mound meeting pic.twitter.com/xxJcIj0fPC
— Welcome to the Ump Show (@umpjob) June 1, 2022
The umpires have been heavily scrutinized by fans throughout the season. This incident was no different.
Robots are very patient and ego-free. https://t.co/0b8wwK7KJM
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) June 1, 2022
— Pretty Boy Moncada is back (@TCruz95) June 1, 2022
during a mound visit?????? holy ump show. https://t.co/8XCC51bmNu
— 𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐝𝐬𝐞𝐲 𝐦𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐞 (@thekuhlest) June 1, 2022
— Blake Ferguson (@blakeferguson44) June 1, 2022
Wtf are these umps doing lol https://t.co/mwZWjE5BvR
— Wildcat Oblong (@notmyburnerrrrr) June 1, 2022
This latest group of "younger" umpires is even worse at their jobs — and more confrontational — than the Angel Hernandezes and Phil Cuzzis of the world.
First Dan Bellino, now this. https://t.co/OL2aq65ZIH
— Brian (@sportsmatters) June 1, 2022
Viewing this ejection in a vacuum, this is actually one of the easier ones to defend from the umpire’s perspective. First of all, it was a manager, not a player. Ejecting a player can severely mess a team up for not only that game but potentially for games going forward, especially if it’s a pitcher. With a manager, not so much.
Also, Kotsay was likely looking to get tossed. As was made clear during the dispute before the ejection, Kotsay had yelled at Muchlinski twice. He was probably not happy with the strike zone throughout the day and wanted to vent. Kotsay would not be the first manager or coach to intentionally let a conference at the mound run long to get a chance to yell at the umpire.
But while this may be a relatively defensible bad ejection, it’s still a bad ejection.
Kotsay appeared unhappy with pitch 4 to Alvarez being called a ball. pic.twitter.com/7YYlikN3wC
— Matt Kawahara (@matthewkawahara) June 1, 2022
Secondly, even if Muchlinski’s call was 100% correct and Kotsay was completely in the wrong, why do MLB umpires have such rabbit ears? For all of their flaws, NFL referees don’t react this way to the arguments they hear arguments from the coaches all game. Frequently, those arguments are coming from a coach standing within arm’s reach. Why can they let that go in one ear and out the other, while MLB umpires are too thin-skinned to hear an argument from a few dozen feet away?
Muchlinski’s reaction to Kotsay arguing from the dugout is what started this entire thing. And he did something to Kotsay that umpires say you should never do to them. He showed Kotsay up. Kotsay was arguing the call but he wasn’t making a scene about it. Muchlinski’s reaction is what did that.
This ejection wasn’t as bad as some that we’ve seen in MLB and Minor League Baseball this season — but it did not need to happen. And as more incidents like this and blatant missed calls occur, the calls for Robot Umpires will only increase. If the umpires want to stem those calls, incidents like this need to vanish.