I could live with a sport in which pitchers no longer threw at hitters out of vengeance, a sport in which umpires no longer give teams "a shot" to retaliate, in the words of Mets manager Terry Collins.
Collisions at home plate mostly are gone, and catchers are healthier for it. Collisions at second base mostly are disappearing, enabling infielders to avoid injury, too.
So, I’ve got no complaint if — in a vacuum — umpire Adam Hamari exercises his judgment to eject the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard for intentionally throwing at the Dodgers’ Chase Utley.
The problem is that Hamari’s decision in the third inning Saturday night did not occur in a vacuum. No, his decision was a departure from others in recent weeks, a departure from how umpires normally resolve such matters. And it led almost directly to the Mets’ 9-1 defeat.
Umpire Adam Hamari (right) threw Mets manager Terry Collins out of the game.
The Rangers’ Matt Bush hit the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista in a similar act of retaliation for an incident in last year’s playoffs (a bat flip, as opposed to Utley’s violent slide). Both teams received warnings. Bush was not ejected.
Only days later, the Twins’ Phil Hughes nearly hit the Jays’ Josh Donaldson with consecutive pitches, for no apparent reason. Donaldson believed that Hughes threw at him intentionally. Hughes was not ejected.
What made Syndergaard’s pitch to Utley different?
"The ruling was that he intentionally threw at the batter," crew chief Tom Hallion told a pool reporter. "And with that, we have a judgment of whether we thought it was intentional. And if it was, we can either warn or eject. And with what happened in that situation, we felt the ejection was warranted."
Fine. Just tell me why Bush and Hughes were not ejected, along with many other pitchers who have commited similar acts. Just tell me why a ruling on Syndergaard in New York was the complete opposite of the ruling on Bush in Texas.
Donaldson made sense last week when he said, "Major League Baseball has to do something about this. They say they’re trying to protect players. They make a rule that says you can’t slide hard into second base. They make a rule to protect the catchers on slides into home. But when you throw a ball at somebody, nothing’s done about it."
Hamari did something about it Saturday night, but by the game’s current standards he overreacted.
Syndergaard after learning he was ejected.
If baseball wants to heed Donaldson’s call, it should instruct umpires to follow Hamari’s lead. If not, the sport should allow pitchers to continue retaliating without getting ejected, "settling business on the field" the way players have in the past.