(Photo by Associated Press)
UPDATE 2 P.M.: Brett Lawrie received a four-game suspension and an undisclosed fine.
No question whatsoever that Brett Lawrie is headed toward a deserved suspension, and likely a lengthy one, for firing his helmet and hitting home-plate umpire Bill Miller in last night’s Toronto-Tampa Bay game. Lawrie may not have intended to hit Miller, but he fired it in the general direction of the umpire, and MLB has no choice but to drop the hammer on him. Here’s the video:
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However, what really irks me after watching that video is what I can only conclude is a “putting a young player in his place” call by Miller that led to Lawrie’s anger
The first mistake Lawrie — brother of former UW softball star pitcher Danielle Lawrie — had made was trotting to first on what he thought was ball four on the previous pitch (and it WAS ball four, as the video shows, but Miller made a delayed strike call after Lawrie had already started trotting to first). He walked slowly back to the plate in obvious disdain of the call, staring at the ump and displaying general “I got hosed” body language. In other words, he showed up the ump. On both ends — by trotting to first before the call had been made, and then by making his displeasure quite visible.
So I can only conclude that Miller decided the next pitch, if it was anywhere near home plate, was going to be called a strike. Umpires have done that since time immemorial to send messages to headstrong youngsters who show them up. But that doesn’t make it right. If I’m jumping to a wrong conclusion, I apologize to Miller, but I defy anyone to watch the strike-three pitch that enraged Lawrie and conclude it was anything but a message call to Lawrie.
The integrity of the game requires that umpires not be target of any sort of physical abuse, and Lawrie crossed that line (and so, most definitely, did the fan at the end of this video who hurled a beer at Miller) . He warrants whatever punishment comes his way.
But the integrity of the game also requires that pitches are called as accurately as possibly. If Miller decided instead it was time to punish an uppity near-rookie, then that crosses a line as well.
(It is, however, just fine for an umpire to have gusto, like this guy:)