The Return of UmpShow

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A funny thing happened in Tuesday’s Cubs game…

You don’t need technology to know that pitch was way inside, and umpire Lance Barksdale wasn’t exactly positioned properly to call that pitch regardless.  We did talk a bit about the fallibility of both umpires and technology on the Dreamcast, but here was a particularly egregious example of an umpire not doing their job properly.  This is compounded by the fact that Kris Bryant said his piece and then walked away to seemingly end the argument by the time Barksdale even tossed him out.  I guess the reason why Joe Maddon wasn’t tossed right afterwards was because Barksdale, deep in his heart, knew that he had goofed.  And usually you don’t see Barksdale among the bad umpires fans complain about, but I think this time he deserved the bile that was thrown at him.  I don’t know what Bryant said, but it was brief and couldn’t have been THAT bad…

So use your imagination there.

Another problem that arose in the game, and could have been controlled by the umpiring crew, was the miniature beanball wars that ensued after John Lackey was uncharacteristically wild (even for him) and hit four White Sox.

The thing is, none of those could have been considered intentional given game circumstances.  The Cubs were only up two runs during most of Lackey’s innings, and there’s no way the team that’s ahead by only that much will intentionally put runners on base.  But perception becomes reality for some players and teams (and even broadcasters):

Now I’ve talked many times about why retaliation is dumb and dangerous.  After the fourth (again, I’m pretty sure nonintentional) HBP (or even earlier than that), Barksdale or whoever the crew chief was should have warned both benches.  I get that the umpires didn’t think any of the hit batsmen were intentional, but that situation called for some level of control.  That didn’t happen, and soon after, Ian Happ got drilled in the back by the White Sox, Barksdale finally warned both benches, and that was that (with a brief argument from Maddon).

I find it disappointing that Sox manager Rick Renteria didn’t instruct his team not to retaliate, and that dinosaur-ish minds prevailed in this case.  I guess Lackey would have done the same thing because he’s that kind of guy:

From my admittedly biased point of view, the warnings should have come sooner, and there are definitely better ways of policing the game than to hurl a hard object at someone with the intent to punish/injure.  It was also kind of poor form for a team that is openly tanking, after selling their major pieces, to basically have their pick of which guy to drill in a game that they were trailing by just two runs at the time.  If anything, they probably should have plunked Lackey himself.

What’s done is done, but where do we go from here?

Is it possible to automatically eject the retaliating party, no matter if it was a payback for a bad slide, a home run pimping, or a previous HBP?  I’m not sure that can be done, because it’s so difficult to establish true intent just by the situation and body language of the pitcher.  I was playing around with the idea of an automatic pitcher substitution after a certain number of HBP, but that won’t work either due in large part to the subjectivity of intent.

At the end of the day, nobody was hurt, the Cubs won, and this incident can be brushed aside for now.  But I would be happier if umpires kept better control of the game (and their tempers), and if there were more clear guidelines to prevent these types of confrontations.


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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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