Brett Lawrie is going to get a suspension for spiking his helmet into the ground and having it bounce up and hit home plate umpire Bill Miller on the hip. You cannot do that in a game, no matter what happens. He can say that he wasn’t intending for the helmet to hit the umpire, but it was thrown in such a manner that it was foreseeable.
Of course, one of the reasons you can’t do that in competition is because the official must be respected, even if incorrect calls are made. To engender that respect, though, the official must be making good faith decisions, even if they turn out to be wrong. Things happen in sports quickly, and just like players make errors, the officials can and do as well.
Well, if MLB wants its officials to be respected, even if they get the calls wrong, they need to suspend Bill Miller for the same amount of time as Lawrie. There is no way that his calls in the ninth inning of last night’s game were in good faith (and if he doesn’t pull a Cole Hamels and admits they weren’t, and also actually believes those were strikes, he is incompetent).
Here was the scenario. Bottom of the ninth, one out, no one on, and Brett Lawrie at the plate with a 3-1 count, with the Blue Jays trailing by one run against the Rays. The first pitch is at least six inches outside and a clear ball. Lawrie started toward first as the key tying runner, but it was called a strike. (Here’s a pitch chart showing that one in a similar location to a called ball in the same at bat) The next pitch was also a ball, high and possibly outside on a breaking pitch that never was in the zone, looked like a ball all the way. After Lawrie started toward first again on the decisive full count pitch, Miller again called it a strike — and an emphatic one — and thus the game went from 1 on, 1 out to 2 outs.
Miller’s decision changed the competitive balance of a close game in the ninth. Teams may have a beef with a particular hitter all the time. Do they plunk him in a one run game in the ninth? No. They wait until the next game or series. They don’t settle personal scores in lieu of winning the game at that stage. Miller is an umpire, but he basically acted in a petty fashion at a key moment in the game. Miller may not have liked Lawrie trotting toward first — personally, I thought they were clear balls and I don’t think Lawrie was doing it early to show up the ump — but Miller cannot do that in the ninth inning.
Those calls weren’t in good faith. Miller needs to be suspended too. You cannot have an umpire calling clear balls as strikes out of spite in a close game. Lawrie’s actions hurt the game; Miller’s hurt it more.
[photo via US Presswire]