Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Solving the MLB's Manager Ejection "Problem"

So apparently managers in Major League Baseball have just recently started arguing with umpires and, as a result (especially if their names are Cox, Bobby or Pinella, Lou...though I'm okay with Bobby Valentine doing whatever the hell he wants) the managers are no longer allowed to manage the ball club. Now I've always thought the role of the manager in baseball was more of a figurehead who existed for the sole purpose of getting ejected. And while the fine film "Little Big League" certainly sheds some light on what it takes to be a manager (clip when I get home from...wherever it is I work...but for now, it's the scene where little Billy wants to be the club's manager but the brass doesn't think he's got the knowhow to successfully do it), but the film also shines said light in the other direction ("it's the AL - you have the DH. How hard can it be?").

A quick (I hope) tangent: Little Big League >>>>>> Rookie of the Year. I mean seriously. Griffey, Johnson, The Boat and the immortal Jonathan Silverman beat out the voice from "Wonder Years", the schmuck from "American Pie" and a pre-steroids Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla any day of the week).

It seems more and more, and in the wake of Lou Pinella's most recent tirade against everything holy, this is a problem that needs to be dealt with. And I'm fine with that, even though the greatest ejections in the game happened years ago, and the greatest player ejection happened in a Durham Bulls game after a questionable play at the plate ("that was a cocksucking call"; "did you call me a cocksucker?" and so forth). I think there is an easy solution to this whole problem. Knowing this advice has almost always fallen on deaf ears, take a second and let it marinate a bit before throwing it to the dogs:

Follow the example of the...wait for it...NHL...

Stay with me.

In the NHL, whether it is a rule or not (and I can't check because of websense) the only people in the building who can talk to the referee and get the courtesy of a response or an explanation is the team's captain. If there is a questionable penalty in the eyes of the offending team's captain, he can go to the referee and talk to him about the call and hopefully open up the officials eyes to other things going on in the game. The officials are almost always treated with the utmost respect (which also confounds the masses, since NHL captains are usually hulking masses with four teeth and two shiners under each eye) and once the complaint is acknowledged, play resumes almost uninterrupted.

Then there's baseball, where a team's skipper can come out and yell, piss, moan, kick dirt, literally steal bases, spit, cry and do everything short of actually detonating on the spot. And the officials have to not only listen, but also tend to have to respond (hockey gets away with this with a simple solution that baseball can never offer. If a coach wants to yell at an official in hockey, the official can simply skate away, knowing full well that the coach's wing tips can't chase after him) and these scuffles can take a long time. The recent melee in the minors (we've all seen it, but I'll put up a video later) took over 5 minutes. While that doesn't seem like a lot of time, that could have been five minutes of baseball instead of what it was: embarrassing.

So why will having only team captains talking to officials work in baseball? For the same reason it works in hockey: players are infinitely more important to the game than managers. In baseball there are hitting coaches, pitching coaches, athletic trainers and bench coaches all sitting in the dugout with the manager. Toss the manager to the lockers and five people can step up and do the job. Give the gate to Derek Jeter or Jason Varitek and either team is significantly worse for wear.

A lot of people think that when the manager gets tossed, it fires up the team and they play harder. I've only been in one game where the manager was tossed (yes, it was my dad while I was in little league) and I was more embarrassed and laughing than fired up. Look at dugouts during a manager arguing session and you'll see more unamused or laughing faces than fired up. It's just the way it is.

Now I'm aware that this will (likely) never happen, but it works incredibly well in the NHL and could help baseball turn a corner and get away from this. I personally don't enjoy it so it would get my vote in an instant. As for the rest of the baseball world, I'm sure Cox or Pinella could pitch an argument against it (ba-zing).

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