CHICAGO The Blue Jays had a quick turnaround Wednesday afternoon, and the 10 hours between visits to Guaranteed Rate Field apparently weren’t enough to cool their emotions.
Still feeling bitter about the performance of home plate umpire Doug Eddings during their 7-6 loss the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, the Jays had a message to send and hitting coach Guillermo Martinez was the one who delivered it.
Martinez was ejected from Jays’ 9-5 win before the series finale started. After walking out to exchange lineup cards with the four-man umpiring crew and White Sox coach Jerry Narron, Martinez didn’t hold back and let Eddings know exactly what the Jays thought of him.
“It was unexpected for sure,” said Jays shortstop Bo Bichette, who went 2-for-5 with a grand slam in the victory. “I don’t know what to say about it. It was unexpected. I know some guys were a little bit fired up.”
The Jays denied it after the game, but Martinez’s actions looked predetermined. As he approached home plate, Martinez shook hands with Narron and the other three umpires before locking eyes with Eddings. According to a source, Martinez pointed out that Eddings missed 25 calls the night before and seconds later he was tossed.
After the ejection, Martinez went nose to nose with Eddings and gestured wildly before heading back to the dugout. In the infamous words of Jose Bautista, Martinez was tired of someone else’s mediocrity impacting the performance of his team. Manager Charlie Montoyo stopped short of claiming the message was sent on behalf of his entire team.
“If I have a message, I go tell them myself,” Montoyo said. “I’m not even going to speculate on what he said because I’m not sure what he said. It wasn’t a message from me or any of my coaches or anything like that.”
Social media is littered with complaints about umpires during every game, regardless of which teams are playing, or who’s calling balls and strikes. With improved technology, such as a strike zone box on broadcasts and MLB.com’s GameDay showing the location of every pitch, it has never been easier to criticize the men in black.
The constant griping gets old. Umpires are rarely as one-sided as teams and fans like to think, with most calls evening out across a full game. The popular thing these days is to yell about robot umpires but, until that happens, mistakes will be made.
But there are games like Tuesday when the man behind the plate deserves all the heat he gets. Eddings’ performance wasn’t just bad, it was a borderline disgrace, with neither dugout having a clue what would be called on any given pitch.
Eddings gave the impression early on that he was trying to make his late-night dinner reservation by calling anything within two feet of the plate a strike. As the game continued, his zone got smaller and smaller. It was like after missing his meal, Eddings felt compelled to make everyone else suffer.
According to Umpscorecards.com, 25 of Eddings’ 70 called strikes were outside the zone, which equals a 64 per cent efficiency rate. His overall accuracy for the Jays was 89 per cent; for the White Sox, 91 per cent. The result was an estimated +2.03 runs for Chicago.
Jays infielder Santiago Espinal got the worst of it, striking out in back-to-back innings on pitches that weren’t even close.
“I talked to (Espinal) and said ‘Man, baseball isn’t fair a lot of times and this week it hasn’t been fair to you with tough calls,’” Montoyo said. “He said ‘I know, I know.’ I’m just going to let that go and be ready today. That’s what he did.”
This isn’t the first run-in a Jays hitting coach had with Eddings. Brook Jacoby received a 14-game suspension in 2015 after he got into a verbal altercation with Eddings in the tunnel following a game at Fenway Park.
Martinez wasn’t quite that upset, but he wasn’t happy, nor was pitching coach Pete Walker who got ejected from Tuesday’s game after chirping from the dugout. The names and faces have changed, but there’s still no love loss between these two sides.
“That’s part of the game,” Montoyo said. “When you’re the one who loses the game, it’s more frustrating. But then you have to let it go and we do a good job of that.”
The issue with the Jacoby incident was the lack of transparency from the league and umpiring crew. Edwin Encarnacion, who witnessed the altercation, said it was a verbal dispute. The league, through leaked media reports, appeared to make the insinuation things got physical. To this day, Eddings hasn’t commented, at least not publicly.
MLB has internal metrics to evaluate umpires and they’re supposedly more forgiving than the ones used by Umpscorecards, but it’s difficult for the media to put them into context because their internal data isn’t publicly available. Even if umpires were penalized for poor performance, which they likely aren’t, we wouldn’t hear about it.
Similar complaints have been going on for decades and the only thing that will stop it is a robot umpire. That’s an idea I’ve always been opposed to because it takes away from the art of pitch framing and the idea that a pitcher on a roll can get the benefit of the doubt on borderline calls, but it’s a stance that keeps getting harder and harder to defend.
Replacing the inadequate umpires seems like the better solution, but that’s never going to happen. So bring on the robots. The game won’t have the same feel as it does today, but that might be a good thing.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION