Arguments the umps will always entertain

Blue Jays' young star Brett Lawrie learned the hard way this week that going after an umpire...

Blue Jays' young star Brett Lawrie learned the hard way this week that going after an umpire usually has bad consequences.

Bill Lankhof, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:53 PM ET

TORONTO - So make that: Umpires 4, Players 0.

For as long as there has been baseball, there have been disagreements between players, managers and umpires.

Earl Weaver and Billy Martin made umpire-baiting a hobby. Former umpire Ron Luciano once noted of Lou Piniella that he “only argues on days ending with the letter ‘y.’ ”

This week it was Brett Lawrie’s turn. And Adrian Gonzalez. And Dustin Pedrioa. And Mike Aviles.

They all lost.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel got a tie. He and umpire Bob Davidson got a one-game suspension for their Tuesday screamfest.

Face it. The next time an umpire loses an argument over balls and strikes it will be the first time. As former umpire Tommy Connolly once explained: “Maybe I called it wrong, but it’s official.”

Lawrie disputed that notion. Now he can learn that lesson during the four games he sits out after umpire Bill Miller called him out on strikes of a dubious nature.

Gonzalez, meantime, can feel Lawrie’s pain. Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt used the same Super-Sized strike zone to ring him up against Tampa.

“How are you supposed to have a professional at-bat with these umpires nowadays? Gosh. The first pitch in my last at-bat wasn’t even close,” Gonzalez said after the Wednesday game.

So, did the umps listen?

You bet. Thursday the strike zone moved in mysterious ways, according to Pedroia, leaving him complaining. Mike Aviles was ejected by plate umpire Dan Bellino for arguing a called third strike and Gonzalez muttered some more after getting called out again.

The only difference was that while the Bosox threw temper tantrums nobody, like Lawrie, skipped a helmet or bat off any umpire.

Gotta like Lawrie’s intensity. But a veteran move it wasn’t. Tom Gorman, who umpired in the NL from 1951 ito the ’70s, said it this way: “The bigger the guy, the less he argues. You never heard a word out of Stan Musial or Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente. They never tried to make you look bad.”

Truth is umpires get ball-strike calls wrong all the time. It’s the human part of the game. Mostly the discussions are part of the game, too, and nobody this side of lip-reader ever notices. But sometimes tension builds, emotions turn raw ... and it gets personal, even at times, humorous. Umpire Bill Valentine once threw out then-Cleveland manager Alvin Dark and explained it much later, this way: “Dark charged out on the field and I was shocked at the language he used. He suggested there had not been a marriage in my family for three generations.”

Now, there is no suggestion that Lawrie ever questioned Miller’s family tree.

But he should have done the right thing after believing Miller blew strike two and simply returned to the batters box. Instead, he showed Miller up with his body language, if not his lip. That’s a game a player can’t win.

Even if he’s in the right.

“An umpire doesn’t eject a manager or player, they eject themselves,” Eric Gregg, a major-league umpire for nearly 25 years, once explained. “They know exactly what they can say and who they can say it to. So when somebody is thrown out, he has either completely lost control, or he intended to be run.”

Larry Bowa was a coach for the Phillies in the 1990s and tells the story of a steamy day in Florida when Lenny Dykstra began agitating. The leadoff man argued balls and strikes with Gregg, hoping an ejection would give him an extra day off.

“Eric said: ‘Lenny, I know exactly what you want. You want me to run you out of this game. But if I have to stay in this heat, you got to stay in this heat, so it doesn’t matter what you call me, how many times you call me, I’m not running you out of this game,’ ” said Bowa.

Aviles didn’t intend to be run, but he did admit afterwards that he lost control and crossed that line of professional conduct. Even though, like Lawrie, he still thought he was right about the strike zone.

“It was just frustrating, I guess,’’ Aviles said. “I wasn’t questioning whether it was a ball or strike on the last one. He had called two pitches that were very similar balls, and ... I thought he gave me the hook a little quick, prematurely. At that point, I lost my cool and I apologized for that.’’

Being an umpire, meantime, means never saying you’re sorry. It is an occupation in which taking one step back probably means the first step to getting pushed right out of the league. The job was once summed up in classic fashion by Ed Runge, an American League umpire through the 1950s and ’60s: “It’s the only occupation where a man has to be perfect the first day on the job and then improve over the years.”

SHORT HOPS

Yu Darvish may be the biggest thing to come out of Japan since the invention of the sushi shack. Darvis improved his record to 6-1 with a 4-1 win over the A’s and has recorded at least seven strikeouts in five of his first eight appearances. He is the 18th pitcher since 1918 to have as many as five games with that many strikeouts this early into a career. The most games with at least seven Ks through a pitcher’s first eight appearances is seven, a total shared by Herb Score, Jose DeLeon and Stephen Strasburg. “Each time that he takes the ball, there’s something new you might see,” said manager Ron Washington ... Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine has been flipping the leadoff spot between Ryan Sweeney and Aviles and isn’t happy with the results. Sweeney has hit .174 in six games — so Aviles, who’s on-base percentage dipped to .292, was back in the slot Thursday. Red Sox leadoff hitters are batting a collective .240/.281/.389 in 179 plate appearances this year, making it the weakest spot in the lineup besides the nine hole ... Former Jays 2B Orlando Hudson is looking for a job after a disappointing stay in San Diego where he hit just .238 over 585 at-bats ... The Cincinnati Inquirer says despite Scott Rolen being on the DL, the Reds aren’t looking to make a trade and that GM Walt Jocketty hasn’t talked to the Red Sox about Kevin Youkilis.

MOYER AN OLDIE BUT A GOODIE

Jamie Moyer (right) won just 34 games in the major leagues before his 30th birthday. But nobody ever has made up for lost time better than Moyer.

Moyer allowed one run on six hits in 6 1/3 innings and picked up his second victory of the season Thursday in the Rockies’ 6-1 win, improving his career record to 269-207. That moved him past the legendary Jim Palmer for career wins. Only 34 pitchers in baseball history have accumulated more wins than Moyer, who now has 105 wins since his age-40 season (second most in history, behind Phil Niekro’s 121).

At age 49 he became the oldest player in history to record a win earlier this year. He does it with a fastball that tops out at 78 mph, changing speeds and hitting his spots.

“That’s what I had to do my whole career,” Moyer said.

“For me, it’s nothing out of the ordinary. For somebody like yourself who hasn’t played or is comparing it to the pitchers of today, you say, ‘Oh, wow, it’s miraculous.’ I don’t think it’s miraculous. I just think it’s the style that I have and who I am.”

Moyer always has been a soft tosser. Crafty. And a testament to perseverance. In 1991, then 28, he lasted just 2 2/3 innings as the Cardinals dropped his record to 0-5.

He wouldn’t appear in another major-league uniform for almost two seasons.

But since then he has thrown a shutout in four different decades; been the oldest player on the opening-day roster six times and when he started pitching, 263 current major leaguers hadn’t even been born yet.

When he made his major-league debut in 1986, he faced Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.

Today, Carlton is 67.

“I think,” Jerry Hairston Jr., a third-generation major leaguer told the L.A. Times, “that Jamie pitched against my grandfather.”

HE’S DUNN THIS BEFORE

Bad news for American League pitchers.

Adam Dunn (left) is back to doing his Babe Ruth imitation.

For seven seasons, from 2004-10, Dunn hit at least 38 home runs — something only Babe Ruth and Rafael Palmeiro had done before him.

Then, last season that home-run swing deserted him. He hit just 11 homers and his .159 batting average would have gone down as the lowest ever for a qualifying hitter had he gotten just six more plate appearances.

He doesn’t know why this happened.

And with 12 homers in just 38 games this season, he doesn’t much care to analyze what now appears to have been a blip on a career that will make him one of his generations greatest sluggers.

“From day one, when I picked up a bat (in the off-season), everything felt like it should,” Dunn said. “I was just waiting for this year to get here.”

His line-drive percentage (21.5) is up and his pop-up rate (8.6) is down from the career-high 13.2 mark of a year ago.

His homer-to-fly-ball ratio of 28.6 has never been better and he’s on pace for another 40-homer season.

THROWING IT IN

Kerry Wood, who was a Stephen Strasburg phenomena before there was a Stephen Strasburg, is retiring.

The ESPN affiliate in Chicago first reported that Wood, who once fanned 20 batters in a game in his 1998 rookie season, is done, succumbing to injury and Father Time.

“When he came up, he was as good as there ever was. He threw hard, great curveball, competitor, professional. It’s always sad when you see a guy like him kind of make that choice,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura, said as news leaked Friday that Wood would retire.

Wood’s final season has been a rough one.

He barely pitched five innings in Cactus League play because of shoulder discomfort. Opening Day — blew a save. Two days later, he took the loss, giving up three runs.

There was more shoulder pain. Cortisone injections.

May 8, a frustrated Wood tossed his cap and glove into the stands as he was walking to the dugout after being pulled by manager Dale Sveum.

Wood appeared to start his going-away party by taking out the lineup card Friday.

“One of those things you know it’s the most difficult thing you ever have to deal with,” Sveum said of retirement. “Everybody has to do it.”

RHYMES WITH WOOZY

Baseball players, when the game turns sour, like to talk about their teammates picking them up.

But even Will Rhymes admits this was ridiculous.

Rhymes was drilled in the arm by a Franklin Morales fastball Wednesday, and after the usual medical check, trotted to first base.

And, then, it all got hazy. “He started walking around and you could see him start to get dizzy and sweating a little bit. It was a good thing (first base coach George Hendrick) was able to grab onto him,” said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, after Rhymes fainted and fell to the ground in the arms of Hendrick.

Nobody was more surprised than Rhymes who said he “felt good” when he went to first base.

With assistant athletic trainer Paul Harker cradling his head as he regained consciousness on the field. Asked questions by medical staff: “I told them I was Batman just to mess with them,” Rhymes said.


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