illustration by Samara Pearlstein
To understand this latest installment in the Tigers’ ongoing War with the Umpires (previous installments: one, two, and of course three), you must understand what happened in this game. Let me try to recreate it for you.
–Tuesday night, Brett Gardner slides hard into second, right into Carlos Guillen’s knees. It was a late slide, the game was over, and as we all know, Guillen has Surgically Repaired Knees that are fragile at the best of times. He is in obvious pain after the play.
–On Wednesday, Guillen is put on the DL (Will Rhymes is up).
–Brett Gardner leads off the game for New York. His very first time up, Jeremy Bonderman hits him in the foot/lower leg, almost certainly in retaliation for the rude slide into Guillen the night before. Nothing unexpected, just baseball as it is generally understood to be, caveman-ish sense of ‘justice’ and all.
–Homeplate umpire (and crew chief) Eric Cooper issues warnings all ’round. Neither manager is particularly pleased with this, but whatever, everyone is prepared to put on their big boy pants and deal with it.
–Bondo immediately reverts to form, gives up hits, runs, home runs, whatever he can think to give up at the time.
–Miguel Cabrera hits home runs in consecutive at-bats, first in the second inning and then again in the fourth.
–In the top of the 8th, Chad Gaudin hits Miggy, in the high ribs/side/underarm area. It may or may not have been intentional; I think it probably wasn’t, but it was not 110% clear-cut either way. NOBODY IS EJECTED, despite the fact that warnings had already been issued. If someone gets hit when there are already warnings out, the guy throwing the ball ought to be tossed, and the manager too. It’s… like… kind of the POINT of the warnings.
–Jim Leyland absolutely loses his kitty litter in the dugout, screaming bloody baseball murder at Eric Cooper. This dies down and flares up again several times, with third base ump Bill Miller also getting into the action. More or less audible on the mic, Leyland says, “Somebody’s gonna get [bleeping] hurt. They’re going to the [bleeping] playoffs. I’m not going [bleeping] anywhere.” Eventually Leyland is ejected, although he is allowed an unusual amount of time to vent his spleen first (“I wonder if there’s a reason for that,” Mario says, ominously and confusingly).
–Enrique Gonzalez comes in, throws BEHIND Derek Jeter. He is also NOT EJECTED. It quickly becomes evident that Gonzalez has no idea where the baseball is going and he is plainly not trying to be wild, he just is, but still nobody can understand how a dude throws behind another dude, with warnings already out, and does not get thrown out of the game. It is a locked box of mystery and secrets, and only Eric Cooper has the key.
–In postgame interviews, when asked about the incident, Leyland is dead stoic and will only say, “Next question.”
–When asked about the incident, Bondo says, “Next question,” too, but when asked about things surrounding the incident (like Do you think this will spill over into tomorrow’s game?), he smiles awkwardly and comes very close to giggling while refusing to give a straight answer. It is a weirdly coy Bondo. Or maybe when he gets cornered and acutely embarrassed, ‘coy’ is just what that ends up looking like.
SO THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED. And the whole thing with the warnings, and the subsequent non-enforcement of the warnings, makes very little sense until you remember that the Tigers are at war with the umpires this season, and then it makes a bit of sense. Not a TON of sense, it is all still pretty weird and very How Do These Things Happen to Us??, but SOME sense. I guess.
Personally I’m hoping for a brawl on Thursday. If the umpires are only going to make things worse, it may be the only way to work things out in a satisfactory manner during this series. Hopefully the Cats will agree and make it so.