Leyland, Pena ejected for fourth-inning dispute over umpire's missed call
DETROIT — A catcher knows.
When Brayan Pena didn’t move on what appeared to the umpiring crew to be a wild pitch, with a runner scampering around the bases, the former minor league catcher in Jim Leyland knew his catcher wouldn’t be standing there, waiting for a new baseball, without good reason.
And he was willing to argue that until ejected from the game.
The umpires were willing to oblige.
Leyland and Pena were both ejected in the fourth inning of Saturday night's game against the Royals for arguing that home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski had missed the call on the foul tip.
“My contention was that I was a catcher. When you don’t block a curveball in the dirt with a man on base, you chase it down. You don’t wait basically for another ball from the umpire,” the Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
“So I knew that something happened. I assumed it hit the bat, and I didn’t know for 100 percent until I saw the replay, obviously — which is really kind of unfair to the umpires. Like I said, the tip-off to me was, being a former catcher, if you get out and try to block a ball in the dirt, and you don’t block it, and they got a runner on base, you go get it, you don’t just stand there. So, by Pena’s reaction, I knew that it must’ve hit his bat.”
The call in question was whether or not a pitch in the dirt by Tigers starter Doug Fister was tipped by the batter, Alcides Escobar. It skipped away from Pena, who made no effort to retrieve it, thinking it was a foul ball. Replay showed that Escobar did tip it after it hit the dirt.
And the umpires knew it after the game, too.
“That’s really on me because I should’ve seen the ball change directions,” first base umpire Bob Davidson told a pool reporter. “That’s impossible for the plate guy to see because the ball is in the dirt and he’s got the catcher in front of him. The only hope is that you can hear it. For me at first base, I just didn’t see it hit the bat. Really, that’s my fault. It’s my responsibility because I got the view of it. And, I got new contacts and I still couldn’t see it.”
Leyland thought crew chief John Hirschbeck, stationed at second base, probably had the clearest angle, but even he didn’t see anything.
“Obviously, we didn’t see it touch the bat from the bases. Out on the field, we’re 120 feet away,” Hirschbeck said. “We couldn’t tell and Mike Muchlinski, who had the plate, could not tell either.”
Fister ran all the way off the mound to the backstop to collect it, while the baserunner, Chris Getz, went from first to third on the play.
“Until I see a reaction from an umpire or knowing that the ball’s dead, I’m going to keep playing,” Fister said. “That’s something that coaches, or my dad as a little kid always said, ‘Play until the whistle.’ Well, there’s no whistles in baseball, but until an umpire raises his hands up, I’m playing for it. I kind of saw that the umpire was not making any sort of calls, and it was a live ball, so hey ... No matter if it’s right or wrong, we still gotta play and finish it out.”
Pena argued that it was a foul ball, and Leyland came out to argue that Muchlinski should get help from the rest of the umpiring crew.
“When I got ejected, I just went like this (holding up four fingers) to Bob Davidson at first, about three times. Four guys didn’t see it. That was hard for me to believe. I understand getting ejected,” Leyland said. “But that’s a tough call. When it bounced in the dirt is when I think it screwed them up a little. If it wouldn’t have bounced in the dirt, I think they would’ve gotten it right, right away.
“Like I said, that’s an unbelievable tough call.
“They didn’t get it right. I reacted, because something had to happen. It’s ABC. When a catcher — and Pena went down to block it, and it shot this way. Either it hit a big boulder or hit the bat. One of the two.
“But it’s just one of those — it’s a tough one for the umpires.”
Two pitches later, after Escobar's double scored Getz to tie the game at 3-3 — Pena said something to Muchlinski, without turning around, and needed to be restrained by Fister.
“Pena’s ejection I defend a little bit, because he really didn’t turn around on the umpire. He was talking to him. But he didn’t really turn around and make a big deal about it. Maybe Mike was a little quick. But who knows? Maybe a little frustrated as well,” Leyland said.
“I think they truly believed at that point, still, that they got it right. Like I say, I had the luxury of the replay afterward. That makes it a little bit different.”
It's the third ejection of the season for Leyland, and the first for Pena.
“Im sorry to my fans for tonights actions. TO my YOUNGER fans ,DONT YOU EVER LET your EMOTIONS take the best of you. This game is MY PASSION,” Pena tweeted after the game.