After writing earlier Sunday how replay is ruining baseball, one aspect of my argument I didn’t consider was what impact this is having on managers.
For the longest time in baseball, managers would throw tirades at umpires following close calls that went against their teams in order to create a spark. It was a prominent way for managers to ignite their teams in times of frustration and losing. Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox became famous for it.
One of the most memorable examples, for me at least, came during a Yankees game on June 24, 2009 against the Braves while New York was in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
Nothing was going right for the Yankees, who came into that game sporting a sub-par 38-32 record, and had to see the combination of Kenshin Kawakami and Kris Medlin no-hit the Yankees through 5.1 innings.
Brett Gardner walked to open the top of the sixth inning. He was quickly picked off by Medlin. Replays the Yankees saw showed Gardner was safe, so Girardi bursted out of dugout to argue with first base umpire Bill Welke and was promptly ejected.
The next hitter, Francisco Cervelli, responded by hitting a solo home run, the Yankees first hit of the game, to tie the game at one, and then an Alex Rodriguez RBI single and Nick Swisher home run later in the inning followed to put the Bombers ahead.
The Yankees went on to win that game 8-4, and never looked back. A seven-game winning streak followed, as well as a stretch that saw the Yankees win 13 out of 15 games. After that June 24th game where Girardi got ejected, the Yankees finished the regular season on a 64-17 onslaught en route to the team’s 27th championship in team history.
How much of an impact Girardi’s ejection that night actually had on the Yankees winning the World Series that season is unclear, but the facts are the facts when it comes to the Yankees sporting an absurd .790 winning percentage the rest of that season.
But with replay now in the fold, the prevailing thought was manager tirades like the one Girardi had that one faithful night in Atlanta in June of 2009 would be out of the picture. Replay has had an adverse effect.
Instead of evenly distributing their anger on the three other umpires in the field, they now direct it all at home plate umpires’ strike zones because they have no reason to argue with any other ump.
It’s gotten so bad MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre had to send out a memo to all managers, general managers and assistant general managers that said, “This highly inappropriate conduct is detrimental to the game and must stop immediately.”
Other than having “closed door meetings” before or after games, managers throwing tirades on the field was arguably the most common way for them fire up their players.
As much as Major League Baseball wants to put an end to managers getting into it with umpires, they will always find a way, and now that replay has taken away any incentive for managers to argue with umpires in the field, the home plate umps are the ones taking the brunt of the blame.
Rob Manfred and Joe Torre, the ball is in your court.