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.”