Francona ejected as Rays blast Indians
JUN 02, 2013 6:08p ET
CLEVELAND -- Sunday was not the Indians day, but at least one element of an 11-3 drubbing had fans cheering and players inwardly pleased.
Manager Terry Francona got himself ejected.
This in and of itself means very little in a one-sided loss (to Tampa), but it means something to the players who rarely saw former manager Manny Acta leave the dugout, much less get tossed.
Francona’s ejection was his first in Cleveland and the 35th of his managerial career. And it was noticed.
“Everyone in here appreciates what he did and what he tried to do,” third baseman Mark Reynolds said. “Everyone knows.”
As in everyone knows Francona had a point when he argued the ball-strike calls of home plate umpire Bill Welke.
“I thought he was inconsistent,” Francona said.
In the third inning, Indians starter Zach McAllister threw what looked like strike three to Evan Longoria. Welke called it a ball, and on the next pitch Longoria singled to drive in a run.
“I thought it was a good pitch,” McAllister said. “Obviously it wasn’t.”
As he left the mound at the end of the inning, McAllister was conversing with Welke.
“I was just asking him where a couple pitches were,” McAllister said.
That wasn’t the only call that bothered the Indians, though. At one point in the game, Francona went back to the clubhouse to check the replays. It confirmed what he thought he had seen.
“I told Bill, I said, ‘In fairness to you I went back and looked at the pitches,’” Francona said. “‘We all yell from time to time during the game, so I went back and looked. I feel stronger now than when I was yelling at you from the dugout.’”
Francona yelled, Welke tossed him and Francona came out of the dugout gesturing in frustration and anger.
“I might have cursed,” he said.
He bellowed to Welke that “our guy” was squeezed while the calls against the Indians hitters were half-a-foot off the plate. For emphasis, he spread his hands that far apart.
Welke listened impassively, then stared Francona down as he walked back to the dugout, removing his chew and gum and flinging it in the process.
Fans enjoyed it, because one of the common complaints about Acta was that he rarely argued. Acta’s philosophy was he was not going to change the call; the players wanted to see that he cared. Francona has come out of the dugout fairly regularly. Sunday’s ejection meant something.
“He definitely wore that one for us,” Reynolds said.
“Every player in this locker room has the utmost respect for him,” outfielder Michael Brantley said.
Acta was ejected twice last season, once in August for arguing a call at second base, once in April as part of a brouhaha when pitchers were throwing at guys after being warned. But he was more known in the clubhouse and in the stands for what seemed like a steadfast refusal to argue.
Francona argued ball-strike calls, even though it often means an automatic ejection.
He also was on the field earlier to find out a ruling on a ball down the line that hit the ball boy’s leg in right. He lingered when he got two different explanations from two umpires. (The ball remains in play unless the ball boy picks it up.)
“I was agitated,” Francona said. “I know the rule and the way it was explained to me the first time was completely screwed up.”
Francona knows a team has to overcome calls it may disagree with, but he also was not going to sit back. When it was over he and the team moved on to the next game, which will be in the Bronx against the Yankees.
“I really don’t care to go back on that,” Brantley said when asked about the calls.
“Nobody’s perfect,” Gomes said. “He (Welke) was calling some good pitches, but either way we still have to make good pitches.”
“It’s part of the game,” McAllister said. “You’re not going to get calls you want sometimes, and sometimes you’re going to get the calls you might not expect to get. It’s just part of it. You just roll with it and move on to the next pitch.”
The most important thing the Indians took from the loss was confirmation of a feeling they’ve had since spring training.
“We know (Francona) has our back,” Brantley said. “There’s no question about that.”