Category Archives: umpires

cartoons from the recent Tigers games

illustrations and photos by Samara Pearlstein

This past Saturday was Max Scherzer’s 29th birthday. July 27 is always extra special, because not only is it Max Scherzer’s birthday, it is also Mr. Dombrowski’s birthday. This year it was extra extra special, because it was also a Max Scherzer start. It was extra extra EXTRA special because Max pitched with the blue eye, and it was extra extra EXTRA EXTRA special because his teammates all chipped in to get him 10 runs of support so that he could get his 15th win. A happy birthday for all.

The Tigers acquired Jose Veras. The excitement was infinite. Who needs an incontrovertible closer when you have 10,000 middle relievers? Not these cats.

On Sunday the great Tigers vs. Umpires War of Major League Baseball continued, as Miguel Cabrera was ejected in the third inning for no immediately and readily discernible reason. It soon turned out that Chad Fairchild, the homeplate ump, had taken a dislike to Miggy’s dislike of his strike calling. Apparently Cabrera said something after the first pitch, Fairchild told him to can it, and when Miggy piped up again after the second pitch, Fairchild threw him out with great immediacy and extreme prejudice. Thing is, Cabrera had not even turned around to voice his complaints or show up the umpire in any way. Even if he really said something that bad, it was as much to himself as anything else. It was a totally uncalled-for ejection in the opinions of Miguel Cabrera and the entirety of the crowd, which proceeded to scream at Fairchild sporadically throughout the remainder of the game (a repeated opinion: “We didn’t pay to see you, Chad!”).

Also deeply unimpressed was Jim Leyland, who stormed onto the field and was ejected in his turn. Of course, his feelings about the umpires are well known.

I was at the game, and let me assure you, he was quite displeased.

On Tuesday Alex Avila hit the first grand slam of his career. Even if you were not watching the FSD broadcast, you already knew in your heart of hearts that Rod Allen called it a grand salami. You knew, and you were glad.

As I said, I was in Detroit this past weekend for the games. Both were highly enjoyable for a variety of reasons, but something extra special and exciting happened at the Saturday game. Here is a little preview:

But you will have to wait a little bit to get the full photographic report.

Terrible Cartoons from a Not-Terrible Weekend

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

I will be honest: although I did watch the entire game yesterday, after that top of the 10th I was quite thoroughly mired in Despair. It just seemed like the sort of thing that the Tigers absolutely do not overcome. I was resigned to my fate, willing to watch the sad final eep of the Tigers as they finished off the game, probably with something horrible like a weak groundout double play.

Then a whole bunch of magical baseball things happened, ending with MIGUEL CABRERA LEADING HIS FELID TROOPS TO VICTORY! Also, one of the most epic Super Best Friends hugs ever.

The pure, beautiful, boundless love between Prince and Miggy is one of the greatest things about this season and I think you will all agree.

Austin Jackson was instrumental in that last push to unexpected victory. He also had two triples on the day. Austin Jackson loves getting three bases at once and Comerica likes to reward him for that very specific affection.

The less said about Joe West, the better, but there had to be a cartoon.

Obligatory (?) Doug Fister with Hulk Hands doodle from Saturday’s complete game Fiesta Tigres masterpiece.

I guess the Tigers acquired Jeff Baker from the Cubs at some point, with the idea that he will be the right-handed bat that Ryan Raburn (DL’d with a wonky thumb, or at least that’s what they’re saying; could be DL’d with Persistent Awfulness) never quite was this season. The Cubbie haul has not yet been named. Verdict: meh, but I am a little concerned on behalf of Quintin Berry for the reason illustrated above.

Where in the World Tigers system is Danny Worth? He had been down, then he got called up, but now I think he’s down again? Maybe? I actually have no idea. I doubt that Danny Worth even knows where he is anymore. He has been up and down and down and up so many times this season that he’s practically two quarks, or at least this awkward yo-yo.

When umpires attack.

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

You’ve pushed me to this, MLB umpires. I tried to give you only moderate weight and attention. I tried to treat your attacks against the Tigers as isolated incidents, rather than the signs of a larger coordinated war effort. Last night, in Chicago, was the last straw. I mean, the last straw probably should have been The (Non)Perfect Game, but whatever, it was last night.


Missed last night’s umpire-related lunacy? I can’t even fully recap it without getting angry again, so here’s the short version: bottom of the 8th, game tied, two groundballs in a row went to Jhonny Peralta, who was playing in first game back from paternity leave, as his wife just gave birth to twins.

The first ball he attempted to throw to second for a force play. It was a little high, and Ramon Santiago had to jump to catch it. Because Ramon is the stretchiest scrappy utility infielder extraordinaire, he managed to keep a toe on the base as he caught the ball for the out.

BUT NO, because the umpires ruled that he was off the bag. Everyone safe. TV replay vindicated Ramon, by the way.

The second ball Jhonny threw to first. It was a little wide, and Prince Fielder had to go sprawling in the dirt to catch it. Because Prince is the hustlingest big man in baseball, he managed to keep a foot on the base as he caught the ball for the out.

BUT NO!!!!! BECAUSE THE UMPIRES AGAIN RULED THAT HE WAS OFF THE BAG. Everyone safe, and this one scored the winning run. Again, in the real world of things that happened in actuality instead of in Umpire Parallel Reality, TV replays showed that Prince had in fact made the play.

Neither was a clean play. Both throws were off-target. Poor Jhonny must have felt terrible, all exhausted from brand new babies and trying to play baseball in Wrigley Field. But, friends, his teammates picked him up both times. They were given difficult plays, and they made those plays. The only reason those plays went for errors instead of outs is the ire of the umpires.

It is war. I mean, it has been a war for some time already…

…but every time I think peace is possible, the umpires go and escalate hostilities. The players and manager are getting more and more vocal in their acknowledgment of this onslaught. We are only a few short steps away from open derision of the officials, and then we’ve become the NHL. The umpires will only have themselves to blame.

What will it be tonight? A strikezone the size of a dehydrated pea for FredFred? Miguel Cabrera randomly called out on doubles hit to the outfield? Jim Leyland ejected before he can even get the first carbon-dioxide-laden molecule of the word “horsesh!t” past his mustache? Can’t wait!

unorganized thoughts from a Tigers/Red Sox game

all photos by Samara Pearlstein

–Let’s just get this out of the way first, because otherwise Jim Leyland is going to yell at me. I was sitting pretty damn close to home plate; probably as close as, if not closer than Leyland over in the dugout. And Aviles was out. It was a clean swing, a clean catch, and the Tigers should have been out of the inning with no runs scored.

Now, we all know what happened: instead the umpires called it a foul tip, the at-bat continued, Aviles singled in a run and the Sox rallied for two more (all with two outs) before the inning finally ran out. This was far from the only misstep the Tigers made– it’s not as if all seven Sox runs were scored in the second inning– but it had that horrible ‘beginning of the end’ feeling splattered all over it, and who knows how things might have turned out if the call had gone the way of Doug Fister and justice.

–Quoth G-Money, via Jason Beck:

It’s a tough call. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t understand how somebody from 120 feet sees it better than someone back here, when you can clearly look at the baseball and see if there’s a dirt mark or a scuff. Because if you foul a ball in the dirt, it’s going to make a mark. And I even showed him the ball. There’s no mark.

Look at the ball! LOOK AT IT!!

–Daytime Fenway Park, with gorgeous weather, on Memorial Day, is almost impossibly charming. Of course it helps when you’re sitting in seats other than the grandstand (i.e. The Butt-n-Knee Killers), but still.

–Look at this.

–And also this.

–Ryan Raburn is really bad at baseball, you guys. Like… really bad.

–The failure of the umpires, although just one in a long string of umpire/Tiger Hate Incidents now, can hardly be blamed for things like Miguel Cabrera going 0-for-4, or Prince Fielder going 0-fer until garbage time in the 9th. When your #3 and 4 hitters are basically not hitting, and your #2 hitter is Ryan freakin’ Raburn, it’s just not going to go well for you.

–Oh, don’t give us that face, Miguel.

–Here’s the nice thing about Prince: he’s a big cat, and he’s ‘meant’ to be a power guy. But he hustles! Maybe it is sad that I even need to point that out, but he never seems to be dragging his feet out there, in the field or running down the line, and as a veteran of the Manny-Ramirez-in-Boston years, I have a deep appreciation for that, ok.

–The Red Sox have a whole bunch of Anonymous White Dudes up right now, and a couple of them are listed at 6’4. One of these people– Middlebrooks or Sweeney, I guess– was standing next to Danny Worth at second base, and Worth looked absolutely TINY in comparison. I am officially raising an Eyebrow of Doubt over Danny’s 6’1 listing.

–Look at this lounging cat.

I will also note that Verlander and Avila seemed to be sitting next to each other for almost the entire game. I know how important that information is to you all.

–Speaking of Avila, how adorable is this?

–Speaking of adorable, how about the profusion of handshakes this team has going now? Here’s a Prince and Jhonny variation:

–The Tigers had only 7 hits total yesterday. Three of those were home runs. None of the home runs were hit by Miggy or Prince. I just don’t know, guys.

–Why does Quintin Berry always look so concerned? I feel like every photo of him I took yesterday featured this face:

It’s OK, Quintin Berry! Even if you get sent down when Action Jackson returns, you’ve made a very good case for yourself! You have done the very best that you can! Gold star!!

–David Ortiz loves everyone, that is a fact.

That is Not a Bunt, and Other Illustrations.

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

A dude meets the baseball with his bat. The baseball hits that dude in the leg. The baseball then sort of bounces away from the dude, in the general direction of most things we would call bunts. But this baseball is not a bunt! Because– were you following closely?– it hit the batter in the leg before it went in that bunt-erly direction.

Complicated, I know, which is why there is a Terrible Cartoon explaining it up top. I have tried to make it as clear as clear can be. Alas, this was not clear enough for the umpires in Sunday’s game, who called Alberto Gonzalez’s obvious FOUL BALL a bunt single instead, which may not seem so bad as bad calls go, but it was a bunt single that SCORED THE WINNING RUN in the 11TH INNING, so… yeah, not cool. Not cool at all, umpires.

We may need to make sure the above diagram is printed and distributed to all umpiring crews in Major League Baseball. They may have it free of charge. I want neither fame nor fortune; I only want justice to be done.

Anyways. Other things:

I call this The Exquisite Suffering of Rick Porcello, For Which We Have No Real Explanation.

Remember when Prince Fielder stole a base? Remember when that was a real thing that really happened in a baseball game that counted? Whenever these latest Tigers failures start to get you down, just think back to that stolen base, and the jetpack that clearly had to be there to make it happen.

And hey, you know who got two hits on his own birthday, back on April 18? THIS CAT! Happy 29th, Miggy!

the War with the Umpires enters 2011

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

As near as I can tell, this is what happened:

–Homeplate ump Angel Campos was making calls early that were not too popular. This was an issue with both Angels and Tigers.

–In the second inning, Howie Kendrick hit a ball to short. Jhonny Peralta fielded it with some effort and threw it to first for a close play. Kendrick was called safe and given a single by Country Joe West, the umpire manning first base. It was clear, however, the Kendrick was in fact out at first and the play should have been a simple 6-3. Tigers, and particularly Jim Leyland, express displeasure with Country Joe’s call.

–Kendrick came around to score in that inning. This turned out to be the only run that Justin Verlander gave up, and indeed the only run of the entire game.

–Leyland and Country Joe had been jawing back and forth on and off throughout the game. Country Joe’s first base post gave him easy access to the Tigers dugout, which is on the first base side in Angel Stadium.

–Just before the start of the 7th inning, Country Joe started edging towards the Tigers dugout and yelling at Leyland. I assume Leyland had been saying things first and that’s what got Country Joe started, but I didn’t see what actually began this confrontation, so I cannot say for sure.

–Country Joe and Leyland screamed at one another for a bit, then Country Joe tossed Jim Leyland. While Leyland was standing in the dugout.

–Having already been ejected, Leyland stormed out onto the field to give everyone a piece of his mind and several fresh samples of his spit.

–With two outs in the 8th inning, Justin Verlander was pulled (by Lloyd McClendon, since Leyland of course was gone by then). As he was leaving the mound, he vented some spleen and said some words that were not to the liking of Country Joe, who swiftly ejected Verlander. Rod and Mario used their mad lipreading skillz to determine that, in part at least, Verlander was telling Country Joe and Campos how they had both had really bad days and had made some damn bad calls.

–So Verlander was out of the game anyways when he was ejected, but this meant he couldn’t stay in the dugout to watch the rest of the game.

–Someone else, I believe Rick Porcello, was also ejected from the dugout, for no readily apparent reason. He must have said something, I guess.

That’s about the sum of it. Country Joe is ejection-happy, to be sure, but this was ridiculous. I know Verlander had to lose sooner or later, but the fact that he lost almost solely because of bad calls is making it awfully hard for me to be zen about this.

Previously in the War with Umpires: one, two, three, four, five.

And don’t forget to Vote Victor!

The Tigers have paired with the Phillies to try to get people in both fan markets to vote the Victor/Victorino ticket. Verily you must vote for the Victors.

Keep voting Avila, and other Terrible Cartoons.

all illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

VOTE AVILA. VOTE AVILA. You have until 11:59pm eastern on Thursday to do the right thing! You may think to yourself, Hey, I already voted 25 times, and that’s great, but now it is time to make yourself another few email addresses so you can vote again. And again! AND AGAIN.



I can’t take credit for that idea, though. They had a little Vote Avila campaign thing during the postgame broadcast last night, with various teammates talking up Avila’s finer qualities. One of the things they mentioned was the fact that the team has decided he looks like a koala. Which… you can kind of see, actually. They had Brad Thomas on camera saying that Avila is very koala-esque in his expert Australian opinion, so you should vote for him. Pretty much impossible to argue with that.

A few other things that have been happening:

Miguel Cabrera got the Tigers going in the 8th Inning of Magic and Wonder that took down the Diamondbacks on Sunday. There were many who contributed, of course (even Miggy cannot get 7 runs in one inning all by himself), but Cabrera struck a deadly blow. So of course he is a mongoose. This was obliquely requested by the Twitter horde.

Max Scherzer bothers the Blue Jays.

Jim Leyland absolutely lost his kitty litter last night after a weird call at first base. Andy Dirks bunted and was running down the line. The ball was fielded cleanly by the first baseman, and he clearly stepped on the bag before Dirks did. The first base ump called him safe for some private reason of his own, then looked to the homeplate ump and reversed the call, which, admittedly, is kind of weird.

Leyland did not approve of this series of events, and showed his disapproval loudly, vehemently, and with lots of creative gesturing. He didn’t seem to argue with the idea that Dirks was out (he clearly was), more with the fact that Dirks had been called safe and then had the call reversed on the field. He yelled at the first base ump, he yelled at the homeplate ump, he said many things that made the FSD crew hope none of their viewers could read lips, he stomped all over the place and made Quite A Scene.

It was great. And the Tigers won, so we can count it as a motivation instead of a distraction, and we can talk about how much we like to see Jim Leyland lose his mind on the baseball field, instead of grumbling about Jim Leyland losing his mind when it comes to pitcher management. For once.

further adventures in the War with the Umpires

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.

a variety of Tiger things, many of them awful

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

–As I mentioned before, apparently everyone got injured while I wasn’t looking. I was of course already aware of the Inge situation, but now Carlos Guillen is on the DL with a calf strain and Magglio Ordonez is out six to eight weeks with a broken ankle?? We’re all doomed. There are like 10 weeks left in the season or something, so if Magglio misses eight of them…

Yeah. Doomed.

–The only ‘good’ thing here is the fact that Magglio’s 2011 option, which was tied to at-bat appearances, will probably not be able to kick in now.

–I cannot believe the way the Tigers lost this game. I can’t believe how they’ve BEEN losing. At least they were able to get SOME hits today?

–For once I am not even mad at Justin Verlander’s pitch count. He threw 113 pitches to get through 8 innings. Fine. That is acceptable. I had the pregame show on for a hot minute and I am pretty sure I heard them say that Verlander thought pitch counts were ‘overrated’, which I took as a personal affront. Also, Justin’s beard is coming in nicely.

–Will Rhymes got his first big league hit today. Yay, etc. BJ Upton appeared to catch his cleat on the carpet and injured himself on the play. I’m not sure what that means, but surely there is symbolism of a sort in there.

–Triple-A lineup is still triple-A.

Billfer is picking up his cleats and going home. The end of an era. I think we are all saddened by this news.

–There was more I wanted to say, but I am falling asleep. So I will just note that July 27 was Max Scherzer’s birthday! It was also Dave Dombrowki’s birthday! Yes, they share a birthday, it is a beautiful and magical thing.

ETA: Oh right, I wanted to discuss the whole Jim Leyland allegedly spits on an umpire thing. Partly because Leyland’s reactions are as good as they usually are when he gets fired up–

“I don’t give a care what [Foster] says, and I don’t give a care about what anybody else thinks when they read it in the [Commissioner’s] office. I’m tired of not saying anything. I don’t care that he missed the play. That’s part of the game. When you make an accusation that’s a total, blatant lie, that’s upsetting to me.”

“I don’t know what they’re going to do, and I don’t give a care. They can do whatever they want to do. I’m tired of it. I don’t care that they missed the play. That’s part of the game. I don’t care that he ran me. That’s part of the game.”
Jason Beck

–(was he really saying ‘I don’t give a care, Mr. Beck?), and partly because it’s worth noting as yet ANOTHER example of the umpires being at war with the Tigers. I don’t know if it’s just confirmation bias and we’re noticing it more often now because we’re looking for it or what, but it sure SEEMS like the Tigers are having more issues, and more serious issues, with the umpires than in previous seasons.

There have always been bad calls and arguments, of course, but it’s gone to a whole new level this year.

That’s enough, interleague.

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Another series barely salvaged. Fine. Whatever. We’re done with interleague. I AM DONE WITH YOU, NATIONAL LEAGUE, YOU HEAR?

Sure, the Tigers did win three of their interleague series… but those were against the Pirates, Nationals (without facing Strasburg), and Diamondbacks, all of whom are dead last in their respective divisions. They split with dropped a serires to the Dodgers and dropped series to the Mets and Braves. The Braves are leading the NL East, with the Mets right behind them. The Dodgers are in third place in the West. So the Tigers played two pretty good NL teams, three wretched NL teams, and one mediocre NL team. They were generally smacked around by the good teams, they beat up on the bad teams, and they split with lost two of three to the mediocre team.

I guess it’s nice that… they did exactly what anyone on the planet could have predicted they would do? It’s just kind of disappointing. It was like settling for the baseline of performance mediocrity, when the Tigers should have been aiming higher. AIM FOR INTERLEAGUE DOMINANCE AT ALL TIMES. They will exit interleague play with a 11-7 record, so it could be worse, but it could have been a lot better. We should have hammered the DH-free snot out of them. AT ALL TIMES.

And now as a result of this last series, we are in a war with Gary Cederstrom. Jim Joyce blows a perfect game for Armando Galarraga and we give him hugs, Gary Cederstrom umpires a series against the Braves and we send him hate-rays with our mind. I don’t really understand how that works, but it is official, Jim Leyland has spoken:

Tigers manager Jim Leyland heard the answer from home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom on the third strike he called on Johnny Damon to turn a potential game-tying walk into a game-ending strikeout Saturday. It didn’t make Leyland feel any better about it.

“I called him after the game,” Leyland said. “I just said, ‘I hope you take a look at the pitch.’ He said, ‘Well, I kicked it.’ I knew that right away, but it was brutal on TV.'”

Cederstrom told reporters after the game Saturday that he watched the replay and “it didn’t look good.”

“He’s right,” Leyland said. “It wasn’t good.”

“That’s just not acceptable in those situations,” Leyland said. “It’s just not acceptable. That’s just the way it is.”
Jason Beck/

Then today, Sunday, Leyland was ejected after running out to argue when Verlander was thrown out at first on the back end of a maybe-double-play. The umpire there was Fieldin Culbreth, and initially Leyland was beefing at him, but Cederstrom was still the crew chief and when he came over from third base, Leyland abandoned Culbreth and got into it with him. So clearly it is war.

When you compare all this to Leyland’s reactions after the whole Joyce/Armando incident (“It’s a crying shame. After looking at the play, and Jim’s a class guy, this is gonna sound crazy, but after looking at the play, he’s gonna look at the play, and nobody’s gonna feel worse than he does”), it is a little curious. I won’t pretend to fully understand the ways of war, though.

PS: It is estimated that Justin Verlander has thrown 2.7 million pitches on the season thus far.

PPS: Hey, happy Pride Month to those of you who’ve been celebrating!