By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
“I don’t think 40,000 people came to see him ump tonight.”
Bryce Harper gave that response after being thrown out of a game against the Yankees in the second inning. A sarcastic remark, but a true one as well.
Harper isn’t the first or last player to be ejected from a game by an umpire. He’s just the latest and freshest example. His ejection came as a result of seemingly arguing balls and strikes which is quite literally against the rules.
Section 9.02 of the rulebook clearly states that arguing the judgment call of an umpire is not to be tolerated. I understand that it was a bad call. We can tell that from our center field angle, with the strike zone superimposed on the screen. Nonetheless, it was called a ball at which point Harper said something that caused Hudson to take issue with the comment. Now, Nationals fans and fans of any player that gets ejected would argue that the comment under the rule is just as important.
“Players leaving their position in the field or on base, or managers or coaches leaving the bench or coaches box, to argue on BALLS AND STRIKES will not be permitted. They should be warned if they start for the plate to protest the call. If they continue, they will be ejected from the game.”
This is where the problem arose in the Harper incident. No warning was given, and Harper was thrown out. Hudson also made a spectacle of himself by ripping off his mask to jaw back and forth with Nationals manager Matt Williams who was yelling from the dugout.
This is the reason for the consternation and it is well taken. I understand it. However, the truth of Harper’s comment is only partial. Yes, fans go to the ballpark ostensibly to watch the start players of their favorite team. When it comes to the arbitrators of the game, it’s always better to go unnoticed and not have a direct effect on the game. Whether that’s through missing calls or by ejecting players from the contest, umpires should strive to be largely unknown.
That said, people come to the games because they enjoy the game itself. Players come and go but the game and its most basic rules remain the same. So that’s where Harper’s comment and thought process actually comes into direct conflict with the idea he’s expressing. Bill Plaschke said it best on Around the Horn on ESPN when the topic was discussed last week. “People don’t come to the ballpark to see the umpire but they do come to see the rules of the game be enforced.”
This isn’t to pick on Harper, again he’s just the latest player to argue balls and strikes and be thrown out of a game. It is to illustrate a crucial point and that is, for as much grief as fans and players give umpires, you also must allow them to do their jobs.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/disagree? Comments, concerns, complaints? Email him.