Umpire Jordan Baker Steals Show as Orioles Fall to Red Sox

Home plate umpire Jordan Baker has given baseball its first “Ump Show” of the year. An “Ump Show” is loosely defined as a moment when an umpire allows himself to exert too much control of the game with heavy-handed decisions. An umpire should never ultimately decide the outcome of the game, but that is exactly what happened at Fenway Park last night when Jordan Baker took things into his own hands and ejected Orioles’ starter Ubaldo Jimenez in the fourth inning of a 1-0 game.

An umpire should be given the ability to exercise discretion and eject a pitcher without warning, especially when a pitch is close to a hitter’s head. When that discretion is used unfairly and without just cause, and the fate of the game is decided due to it, the league does not look good. Baker tossed a pitcher who was working on a no-hitter for a pitch that simply got away. It was not the right decision, and left the Orioles scrambling for the rest of the game, and possibly for the rest of the series.

Here’s the pitch that got Jimenez tossed from last night’s game.

It is quite possible that Baker saw the pitch as retaliation for a hard slide by Sandoval that took out Orioles’ second baseman Jonathan Schoop during the second inning. That being said, there is absolutely no way that Jimenez meant to bean Sandoval at that point in the game. In a 1-0 game, there is no way a pitcher is putting a man on base, with a powerful hitter like Mike Napoli on deck.

Tossing a pitcher throwing a no-hitter in a 1-0 game for one hit batter shows a total lack of judgement and an inability to understand the time and place of the situation. Perhaps if the Orioles were ahead 5-0 at the time of the pitch a case could be made for assuming Jimenez was going after Sandoval. This was the first time the Orioles and Red Sox faced each other this season, and there is no festering bad blood between the teams. Come July or August, that may be a different case, but not in April. To eject a pitcher, who to date had never been tossed or exhibited a tendency to head hunt, without warning is a gross abuse of power.

Jimenez did not have outstanding command of his fastball during his 3-2/3 innings, walking three before his ejection, and said as much following the game. “Especially against a left-handed hitter, you aren’t trying to go down, you are trying to go up. I had three walks. It’s not like I had perfect command of my fastball,” he said. “I was shocked.”

Manager Buck Showalter was very displeased with the ejection, and called it “professionally embarrassing.” The Orioles manager expressed his hopes that the league would take a further look at the sequence of events.

“Everybody, I would think about 30-40,000 people [were shocked]. … MLB will look at it and hopefully take some action to make sure it didn’t happen again, something like that impacts the game that much,” the manager said. “It’s sad that it did. My biggest thing is the bullpen and what we had to do there. … Every time somebody gets hit with a pitch, it’s not intentional. And every time somebody slides hard, that’s what you’re supposed to do. Nobody gets mad. A lot of times you say, ‘I know what it looks like,’ but this time, no, not at all.”

The crew chief, Jerry Meals defended his fellow umpire, which is to be expected in a situation like this one. Meals had to say something and come to the defense of Baker, but his words cannot change the outcome of the game. “After they showed the replay on the board, Jordan saw the Orioles’ dugout, and it seemed they reacted to the slide, and then Pablo’s next at-bat, first pitch to him, fastball in,” Meals said. “It’s close to the head. It was a dangerous pitch, so it’s an automatic. You can give a warning if you prefer to, but he felt it’s an ejection.”

Jimenez has a history of losing command of his fastball, and that is exactly what appeared to happen on the pitch that got him tossed. There is no bad blood between Sandoval and the Orioles, given that this is his first year in the American League. The slide in question was not extremely aggressive. Sandoval is a large man, and when he slides, he is going to be coming in hot. There may have been more reason for an ejection if, say David Ortiz was plunked, given the bad blood between the Red Sox designated hitter and the Orioles.
This decision by Baker, to throw Jimenez out of the game without warning or fair cause will affect the rest of the series. The Orioles were forced to go to their bullpen much earlier than necessary last night. Jimenez had thrown only 59 pitches through nearly four innings, and looked nearly unhittable. The Orioles were forced to use Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day for nearly two innings apiece. While Gausman has not been outstanding this season, O’Day has, and he may be unavailable for tonight’s game. He threw only 24 pitches, but the Orioles may have been able to get away without wasting his arm last night had Jimenez been able to pitch into the seventh or eighth inning as he appeared poised to do. The Orioles will need to count on Chris Tillman to pitch deep into this afternoon’s game to take some pressure off the bullpen.

 

2 Responses

  1. YLLODOG

    I couldn’t agree more, and I hope there is some sort of repercussion for Baker.

    Reply
  2. bigyaz

    “Josh is a lifelong baseball and Orioles fan.”

    Exactly. Which explains your incredibly poor and slanted analysis of this situation. In one breath you talk about a pitcher “working on a no-hitter” (Really? In the fourth inning?) and in the next you credulously accept that the pitch “simply got away.”

    You think it’s just coincidence that the pitch that “got away” was to Sandoval? Do you just credulously accept every word uttered by Showalter? What else do you expect him to say?

    The umpires have been told to eject in situations like this, where a retaliation pitch goes at the batter’s head. The umpire did his job, without worrying what Oriole apologists on obscure web sites might think.

    Reply

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