A Semi-Complete Taxonomy of Baseball Ejections, Part II

Remember how the world never expressly needed a taxonomy of ejections? Well, good. Here is Part I. Now, appreciating your refusal to clamor for a Part II, here’s an entire second post dedicated to a taxonomy of ejections. Enjoy!

I’m Going to Throw Stuff at You Now
Home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott ejects Ryan Braun.
Date: April 29
Ejection No.: 30

Humans enjoy power, but normal people don’t get to wield it very often. Clerks can make you wait, and TSA agents can subject you to additional screening, and sometimes umpires eject players when they complain about a strike a little too loudly but not actually too loudly. They have power on the field, and sometimes they exercise it arbitrarily because they can’t use it at all other places. Sometimes. Sometimes, though, Ryan Braun throws his elbow guard at them. Pretty rude.

Or they experience I’m Going to Throw Stuff at You Now’s related but distinct variant, Kicking Stuff at You. Also rude.

Throwing Stuff, God Bless America Edition
Home-plate umpire Shane Livensparger ejects Scooter Gennett.
Date: September 10
Ejection No.: 168

Look, whatever, Scooter threw stuff. He tossed around his work tools. You’ve seen that before. You’ve watched baseball, and when you were a kid in the school yard, you saw other kids chuck balls and sticks at their enemies. You just watched Ryan Braun and Yuli Gurriel misbehave. That’s not the point of this. The point is the power of ritual. The umpires and manager are standing there grousing at each other, arguing baseball stuff, and then they are stopped dead in their tracks by “God Bless America.”

You can see Jerry Layne on the far right mouthing “Where’s the flag?” before realizing it’s off to his right and helpfully nudging Bryan Price to face the right way. Price and Layne are adversaries. They’re grumpy with each other. They’re observing ejections’ rituals. But the game presented another, more potent tradition to mind. Perhaps they all saw The Power of Myth at a particularly formative age.

The Non-Ejection (With a Note on Jackets)
Home-plate umpire Carlos Torres fails to eject Gary Sanchez.
Date: August 24
Ejection No.: N/A

The thing is, sometimes you get away with one. Not always and not for forever, mind you; our society hangs together because institutions like baseball allow us to believe in the otherwise tenuous assertion that bad acts are met with consequences. Gary Sanchez can be seen here delivering a jab to Miguel Cabrera’s kidney.

But sometimes, in the moment, you sucker punch a guy and are allowed to just play on. Maybe no one saw you. Maybe someone else did something worse and did it in a bigger and louder way. Maybe it emboldens you. But hopefully you also feel a little bad about it afterward. That’s part of what keeps society together, too.

A minor note on jackets: in the fracas it is hard to tell, but Michael Fulmer, Tigers pitcher, is without a jacket on the field. Here he is.

But also, there he is, putting it back on. He took off his jacket to participate in a fight, or at least stand at its edges, then put it back on when he returned to the dugout because he was the starter and needed to stay warm. Which suggests that, despite the fighting, he is a professional — though in very specific ways.

What, I Just Moved the On-Deck Circle?
Second-base umpire Gerry Davis ejects Adrian Beltre.
Date: July 26
Ejection No.: 109

Other than potentially ruthless mocking by observant teenagers, there is nothing that makes us more immediately self-conscious than realizing that other people don’t share our sense of humor.

I Shall Now Endeavor to Get Away With Murder
Third-base umpire Bill Welke ejects Kevin Cash.
Date: May 9
Ejection No.: 31

Children are wonderful, and funny, and total nightmares. There is nothing a kid likes more than realizing you don’t know something. It’s because, relatively speaking, they themselves know so little. You say words they don’t understand all the time, but they can sense they’re real words and feel awful about it. And so when you show uncertainty, they experience a sensation they rarely get to enjoy: a level playing field. That gap in your understanding is just big enough for them to squeeze through; the power has been equalized, however briefly. This is when kids try to get away with murder. Baseball managers, too.

“Do you know what this balk business is?”

“How about you? Do you know?”

“Maybe this guy?”

[Kevin Cash squeezes through a small gap.]

[Kevin Cash attempts to get away with murder, is eventually stopped.]

Adults always regain control; we buy the cookies and the cars, after all. But we shouldn’t be surprised that kids give murder a shot. The power is intoxicating. Same goes for baseball managers.

So Close They Could Kiss or Bite Each Other
Home-plate umpire John Tumpane ejects Matt Carpenter.
Date: April 23
Ejection No.: 14

Folks did a lot of yelling in 2017. Managers, players. Sometimes the umps yelled back. Everybody yelled, but not every yell was the same. There were different sorts of yelling. These next few categories are examples of some of those.

I didn’t used to, but I think halitosis might be the worst small way you could be inconsiderate of your coworkers if you were a major leaguer. The sixth-worst small way you could be inconsiderate is to force someone to readjust their hat, as Matt Carpenter and the brim of his batting helmet are about to do in the above. John Tumpane got his hair to lay just right, and now he has to monkey with it again.

Oh Boy, Dad Is So Mad!
Home-plate umpire Greg Gibson ejects Dave Roberts and Andy Green.
Date: June 30
Ejection No.: 87 & 88

Major-league coaching staffs are large, and each man has his role. We think of there being one guy to teach pitchers new stuff, another guy who excels at directing the shift, perhaps someone who worries about launch angle, and so on. That’s all true, but they’re also there in case a couple of dads get mad and start to yell at one another while their kids look on, forcing someone else to drive the carpool the last couple blocks.

Mid-Run Scoring
Home-plate umpire Jordan Baker ejects John Lackey.
Date: September 15
Ejection No.: 176

“He… he may be gone.”

I got in a fight with my sister over a toy once when we were little. I knew I was wrong, and I felt embarrassed because I am older. Being older, though, I also knew that persisting in my wrongness would make her really mad. Kids: total nightmares! So I egged her on, and eventually she punched me in the arm. We were small, and she was skinny. I wasn’t in danger. It worked out fine; we’re great friends now. We both went to timeout, but she also got put on restriction because, you know, punching. And I afterwards, I felt badly about it. She shouldn’t have done what she did, but rather than just saying sorry for being wrong, I used being two-and-a-half years older to my advantage to make her mad and get her in worse trouble.

Now imagine that happening, except instead of it being in front of your daycare teacher and the little flowers painted on the walls, you’re in front of 40,000 people, and the sister you’re making mad is the starting pitcher on a team in a tight playoff race.

John Lackey shouldn’t have acted this way. He started this outburst while the Cardinals were literally scoring a run! Jordan Baker was right to toss him. But Jordan Baker had also called a pretty bad zone all afternoon. Just before Carlos Martinez singled to score Kolten Wong, Baker called what should have been a very obvious strike three a ball instead. He egged Lackey on a bit. I wonder if he felt as badly as I would have.

Aggressive Clapping Accompaniment
Home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez ejects Jeff Banister.
Date: April 24
Ejection No.: 18

We like to gripe about them, but umpires do a very hard job really well. We should all appreciate them more, managers included. But managers are human. They see themselves as the heroes of their own stories and umpires as obstacles on their way to glory. I suspect that, in this moment, Jeff Banister thinks of himself as an aging rocker, battling the kids and their bubble-gum pop. Meanwhile, home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, like all the youths, cares too much about his album going platinum. Understood that way, Banister’s internal monologue is easy to suss out.

MARQUEZ: What do you want?

BANISTER: (Tosses gum, as if to violently strum a guitar) metalllllllllll

INSPIRED YOUTH: (Thunderous applause)

Mike Scioscia
Home-plate umpire Mike Cascioppo ejects Mike Scioscia.
Date: March 25
Spring Training Ejection No.: 9

Baseball is strange because I know very little about Pacific Coast League umpire Mike Cascioppo…

… apart from the rather intimate detail that this is the precise moment when he wondered if he wouldn’t have been better off getting his CPA.

If I’m in the Dugout, You Can’t Hear Me, Right?
Home-plate umpire Marty Foster ejects Adrian Gonzalez.
Date: June 1
Ejection No.: 58

We don’t talk enough about how weird a workplace the ballpark is. You’re a major leaguer. Hey, congrats! You now do your job in public. We accept, and sometimes even expect, that your family will be there while you do it. Your life is governed by a bunch of unwritten rules, but none of them discourage spitting or the use of paper cups. And your office has a fort right on the field, but that fort is only sort of private. It doesn’t have walls, and people can hear you, and all of your buddies throw things on the floor. Your fort can get you in trouble. You can get too comfortable in there.

Like Adrian Gonzalez. When the broadcast first makes us aware there is problem, we aren’t even looking at Adrian. We’re looking at a surprised Chase Utley, as Marty Foster yells, “Who’s saying that?”

We hear, “Is there a problem, AG?… Get out of here! Now you’re done!” Then, as Gonzalez takes the field, Foster warns, “You better stop him first!”

Gonzalez no doubt felt safe in his fort, but he made the same mistake we do when we first try out swearing in the backyard. He forgot the grown-ups could still hear him. He shouldn’t have been so surprised. After all, depending on the day, his mom might have been there.

Meg is the managing editor of FanGraphs and the co-host of Effectively Wild. Prior to joining FanGraphs, her work appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Lookout Landing, and Just A Bit Outside. You can follow her on twitter @megrowler.

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4 years ago

Enthusiastically awaiting part III.

Also you missed a chance to call him “Greg Gibson, the home plate umpire”. How will you live that down?