Yesterday, the best player in baseball (at least this season) was ejected from what ended up being a one-run game. He was tossed in the fourth inning. From the dugout. For yelling "that's terrible."
It turns out Troy Tulowitzki had not yet seen "terrible" until Dan Bellino decided to throw gas on a fire he started by tossing him instead of Walt Weiss. Despite the fact Weiss argued much more vociferously and for a much greater duration (and from, y'know, on the field of play where people could see him), Bellino decided to make a call that potentially would have dramatically impacted the outcome of the game.
Where many people saw a failure on Weiss' part to get himself thrown out, I saw yet another example of an umpire failing to administer fair and proper justice.
I'm going to skim past the rest of the part where I flame Dan Bellino for being an ass and assume everyone can insert their own rant on my behalf here about his absurd performance behind the plate from beginning to end. I must resurrect the Baseball Umpire Terribad Tournament just to put him in it. He definitely deserves a scarlet uni.
But beyond this specific incident, the question has been raised: did Weiss do everything he could to get ejected either instead of, or in addition to, his star shortstop? I have been far from the drum-beater on the "Weiss needs to get tossed more" bandwagon, but yesterday I felt like he really should have ... but why?
While I don't think immediately flying off the handle is a good go-to disposition, there was time between when Tulo started to show obvious frustration that included a long walk back to the dugout, where Weiss could have made it clear to the umpire that if anyone was going to get tossed, it should be him.
Weiss was already out of the dugout and in the umpire's face before Tulo was ejected. He should have stayed there as long and as loud as possible so that Bellino would never even hear the "that's terrible!" that seemed to trouble him so much. Weiss should have stood like bulletproof glass between his best player and what eventually happened.
It could have, and should have, been prevented.
Furthermore, even after Tulo was ejected, Weiss should have joined him in the locker room by whatever means necessary. There are no stats to back this up (then again, I'm not exactly Mr. Metric around here), but I believe that only good would have come from Weiss getting thrown out of the ballgame in that moment.
His team was in a slide and appeared to be lacking confidence. They had felt cheated at the plate going back to last game (fair or not, it is how they felt based on their reactions to a number of calls) and at some point the team's manager has to stand up and say: "I've got your back. Screw that, I've got your front. Let's get fired up and play the rest of this game angry."
I remember once as a kid seeing Larry Walker enraged at an umpiring crew during a game, screaming at the guy behind the plate, before sliding into second base -- scratch that, sliding somewhere in the vicinity of second base -- and absolutely destroying some poor player who happened to be in the way. He got tossed and the Rockies came back to win a game they were losing by a lot at the time (please don't ask for details; I was, like, eight years old).
This happens in basketball all the time. I know momentum is seen as a less important commodity in baseball (as it should be), but firing up a group of professional athletes who are playing a lackluster brand of baseball and are cooling down after a hot start should not be scoffed at in any professional arena.
If things like this didn't affect games, we wouldn't have managers. I'm not suggesting Weiss needs to make this a regular occurrence. Let the circumstances dictate the need for such things. But being aware of the pulse of your team is job No. 1 (well, after good bullpen management of course!), and Weiss failed at this spectacularly yesterday.
And to those of you who disagree, I would ask, what is the harm? It could have fired up the team. Or not. It could have kept Tulo in the game. Or not. It could have made the umpires hesitant to keep making terrible calls (which they did) ... or not.
But what did Weiss staying in the game accomplish? Nothing. In a 162-game schedule, not having the manager for five innings means absolutely nothing. Saying, "we are angry and we want this one game to show that we can win even when the umpires are killing us" means that even if you still lose you can gain something.
Once a manager and his best player are tossed and the manager has excessively made his point about the unfairness of things, the game becomes a win-win proposition. There are now two built-in excuses for losing while giving the team a chance to prove themselves -- and the motivation to do it.
Once during a high school football game, I was in punt coverage and hit from behind (highly illegal) into a blocker and twisted my neck, pinching a nerve. My defense coach (I played defensive back at the time) let loose the only curse word I've ever heard him utter. This was an AP History teacher who once threw me out of class for saying "pissed off."
That he went from the guy I always knew as mild mannered to even just slightly out of control -- I'm pretty sure he just dropped a "that's BS!" comment -- meant the world to me and rallied my team because now this game contained something they'd never seen before. It was no longer just some game. And those guys didn't even like me.
My dad told me when I first starting swearing (way too much) that some of the most profound moments of cursing could come from a source you least expect. If everything is an expletive it can lose force, but he told me that the word "damn," if saved for the right moment and coming from the right person, can send chills down your spine.
Do I know for sure that a similar tactic would have made a difference in the Rockies' loss on Wednesday? No. Am I still going to be ambivalent about this issue 90 percent of the time? Yes. But Wednesday presented a perfect opportunity for Weiss and the Rockies to turn a bad situation good, reclaim their mojo, and return to playing with ferocity and passion. It was their "damn" moment.
And they missed it.