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May 16, 2012

What You Need to Know

Wednesday, May 16

by Daniel Rathman

The Tuesday Takeaway
Brett Lawrie can hit, and the 22-year-old is rapidly learning how to pick it at the hot corner. But the questions about his makeup that led the Brewers to ship him to the Blue Jays in a one-for-one deal that brought back Shaun Marcum reared their ugly heads again last night in an incident that is likely to result in a suspension.

At the plate with nobody on and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Toronto trailing Tampa Bay 4-3, Lawrie worked the count to 3-1. Then, home plate umpire Bill Miller clearly gipped him of a walk, calling a Fernando Rodney fastball that crossed the plate at least four inches outside a strike. The payoff pitch was a changeup that threatened the upper fringe of the zone but stayed an inch or so too high. Miller rang Lawrie up, and—moments later—the young third baseman seemed ready to ring the ump’s bell.

Lawrie had every right to be miffed about the outcome of the at-bat. He should have walked, but instead he was called out on strikes with his team down to its last two outs.  He could have said a few words to Miller and returned to the dugout with a point made. He could have let manager John Farrell take the dive. He could have done anything, really, except what he did.

By firing his helmet at Miller’s foot, Lawrie crossed the line between competitiveness and violence—and Farrell deserves credit for preventing the situation from escalating further by sprinting from the dugout to get between his player and the umpire. Whether Lawrie was arguing the obvious ball four-turned-strike two or the borderline pitch that ended the at-bat is irrelevant. He had a legitimate gripe, but Lawrie’s actions gave Miller and Major League Baseball an immeasurably larger issue to take up with him.

Now Lawrie figures to face a ban, one that could range from only a few contests if the league is sympathetic to his cause to more than a month if it feels the helmet toss is comparable to Delmon Young’s bat-throwing incident, which cost the then-hotshot prospect 50 International League games. And the Blue Jays are back to wondering how to ensure that Lawrie’s iffy makeup won’t prevent him from becoming a star.

Meanwhile, if the fiery finish in Toronto wasn’t crazy enough for you, well, God bless the pitchers in the California League.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • After an impressive start to the season, Kyle Drabek has faded in his last two outings, allowing five runs in five innings to the Angels on May 5 and three runs in 4 1/3 innings to the Twins on May 11. He issued nine walks and struck out only five batters over those two starts, suddenly exhibiting the same inabilities to find the zone and miss bats that plagued the 24-year-old last year. Things won’t get any easier tonight (7:07 p.m. ET), with the Yankees coming to town, so Drabek needs to sort out this May malaise quickly.
  • Few players can claim to have solved Felix Hernandez, but Indians outfielder Johnny Damon might be on that list. The 38-year-old Damon, who is just 7-for-44 since joining the Tribe on May 2, boasts an 11-for-22 mark against King Felix, with four doubles and a home run. The 2010 AL Cy Young award winner is hardly an ideal slumpbuster, but perhaps he’s just the challenge Damon needs to get going.
  • Looking for a fun home-road split? Look no further than A’s rookie Tommy Milone, who is 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA at the Coliseum in Oakland and 2-2 with a 7.84 ERA on the road. Rangers Ballpark might top the list of stadiums for which Milone’s high-contact, fly ball-oriented is a poor fit, so tonight’s matchup with Yu Darvish in Arlington could get ugly for the young southpaw (8:05 p.m. ET). Pro tip: Get Nelson Cruz—who homered in consecutive games before taking last night off—into your fantasy lineup.
  • Wednesday’s White Sox starter Gavin Floyd has notched four straight quality starts, holding opponents to two runs or fewer in each of those games, but the Angels have a secret weapon—a new hitting coach. Mickey Hatcher is out, and former Triple-A instructor Jim Eppard is coming up to take his place. So, Albert Pujols is now magically going to go 4-for-4 with four home runs, and Vernon Wells will immediately revert back to his 2006 form … or something. Tune in to find out.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

19 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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gtgator
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Delmon Young?!? 50 games?!? Come on - really?!?. To even mention these in the same article without the word "not" is poor. And talk about inaccurate reporting - "at Miller's foot"?!? Did you even see the video?!?

Lawrie defintely lost his cool. He should never have thrown his helmet. He deserves a suspension because the helmet did bounce into the umpire (who also deserves to be suspended for being incompetent and for the vendetta call on strike 3).

But Lawrie clearly did not throw his helmet "at" Miller - unlike DY and the bat. He turned his shoulders to the right slightly (i.e. aiming away from the umpire) and threw it at the ground. It hit the ground as close to Lawrie as it did Miller. That it glanced off Miller was an accident - one he should still be punished for but one that bears absolutely zero resemblence to what Young did. To even suggest otherwise is simply wrong.

I admit I expect better from BP. Perhaps I shouldn't.

May 16, 2012 04:35 AM
rating: -8
 
gweedoh565

I agree that stating that Lawrie threw his helmet at Miller's foot is incorrect, BUT reread the sentence referencing DY's suspension- Daniel is not calling for a similar suspension, simply referencing it as something the league MIGHT compare the incident to.

May 16, 2012 06:30 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

I included the Young incident simply to suggest a ceiling for MLB's punishment of Lawrie, depending on how the league perceives it. I personally don't think Lawrie deserves close to what Young got, but if the punishment for intentionally throwing equipment at an umpire is 50 games, then if that's what MLB believes Lawrie did, it seems a valid precedent.

May 16, 2012 07:20 AM
 
Matt

Uh.. he clearly did throw his helmet "at" Miller. It just bounced first, the trajectory was pretty obvious.

May 16, 2012 11:31 AM
rating: 0
 
paperwinner

over the top? yeah, but lawrie plays that way all the time, happy or sad. i think if lawrie really was throwing at the ump you might have a point.........its the over the top antics of a few of the umpires (joe west anyone) that could stand a little light being shone on their behaviour.

May 16, 2012 04:42 AM
rating: 2
 
Greg Ioannou

The person who deserves to be suspended because of this incident is Miller, not Lawrie.

May 16, 2012 05:04 AM
rating: -1
 
sandriola

So you're saying that Lawrie doesn't deserve ANY suspension? Please let that answer be "He does".

Separate the acts, like KG said on Twitter last night. Yes, the umpiring was poor. However, Bill Miller shouldn't have to worry about getting hit by anything, intentional or not, when a player rages about a call. You could put this in the same category as the inadvertant bump that happens when players/managers get a little too close to umps.

May 16, 2012 10:56 AM
rating: 5
 
Ric Size

I agree. Players need to respect the umpires at all times when they are on the field. If there is an issue where the integrity of an umpire comes into question, then it should be taken up by MLB.

May 16, 2012 14:53 PM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

What a ridiculous thing to say. You think it's OK to hit umpires with equipment because you don't like a call. Really?

May 17, 2012 07:50 AM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

Lawrie deserves a short vacation. This situation becomes a little inevitable - every time an ump makes a late strike call when a quasi-borderline pitch is taken as ball 4 by the hitter (especially if the hitter is young), it is bound to boil the blood somewhat. To a hyperactive young player like Lawrie, blood boiling can escalate easily. When Miller repeated the trick again and then turned his back...well...I can question which man showed greater immaturity in that situation.
Nevertheless, Lawrie turned to semi-violence. I'm starting the Free Yan Gomes movement.

May 16, 2012 05:22 AM
rating: 0
 
Gareth31

It has to be a major issue for a sport supposedly interested in fairness that umpires are not calling pitches according to their location but on reputation, revenge or notoriety. Whilst Lawrie undeniably over-reacted, Miller deserves his share of criticism for bringing the game into disrepute too.

May 16, 2012 08:25 AM
rating: 5
 
alxlevin
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I don't agree with your point of view. One of the key elements of baseball is the human factor of the game. The pitcher sets up the batter, the batter tries to guess what the pitcher will throw next. This goes for the umpire as well. Part of the skill set of the pitcher (and catcher) is also in setting up the human umpire into calling a pitch in their favor.

We have the technology now to automate the balls/strike calls but I think the game would be left worse off for it. The downside is we're left with calls like this at key moments but I think in the end it's well worth it.

May 16, 2012 10:16 AM
rating: -4
 
Gareth31

It is bad enough if umpires are making honest mistakes, but the consensus is that, in fact, Bill Miller was teaching a young player a lesson. That is totally unacceptable. How does that make the game better?

May 16, 2012 11:22 AM
rating: 6
 
Greg Ioannou

Sign me up for the movement. Yan is hitting 359/391/565 in AAA, and was almost as much fun to watch as Lawrie in spring training.

May 16, 2012 06:12 AM
rating: 0
 
Eric C. Johnson

Lawrie now knows about a little thing called Molina Voodoo. It's a new Sabermetric term.

May 16, 2012 07:31 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Yep, this pretty much sealed it.

May 16, 2012 07:42 AM
 
MichavdB

Lawrie should get a suspension. I'm not sure if he intended to hit the umpire, but he did.

Miller needs to be suspended as well for blindness or selective strike/ball calling.

The fan who threw the cup at Miller though, needs a long ban to any sporting event and possibly more.

May 16, 2012 08:55 AM
rating: 5
 
BP staff member Daniel Rathman
BP staff

Thanks for mentioning the fan. If you haven't seen that yet, here it is in GIF form: http://gif.mocksession.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/UMP-ABUSE.gif

May 16, 2012 09:08 AM
 
paperwinner

yeah, the fan. a bad day for canadians. i think it was lawrie's brother.

May 16, 2012 16:10 PM
rating: 0
 
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