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A deep dive into players, umpires, and the MLBUA

The feud involves parties such as Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Joe Musgrove, Angel Hernandez, Joe West, and the umpires’ association

Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Kathryn Riley /Getty Images

Ever since 1876, when William McLean became the first professional umpire in baseball history, fans, players, and managers have held their grudges and ultimately found ways to stay mad at umpires for calls made in the past.

This is going to an exploration on a bunch of different mini ideas — while not defending a side or observing a “right” or “wrong” — that check in all over the map after the latest outbursts that included Rangers manager Chris Woodward and umpire Angel Hernandez, as well as the situation with the Umpires’ Association and Manny Machado, or previous ordeals with guys like Joe West, Joe Musgrove, or Josh Donaldson.

The incidents

A couple weeks ago, Major League Baseball suspended San Diego Padres third baseman Manny Machado for one game after an outburst in which he disagreed with a pitch location call. In frustration, Machado yelled at home plate umpire Bill Welke and was ejected. He eventually walked away, but not before slamming his bat to the backstop.

The video can be seen below. Something to keep an eye out for: Machado appears to brush up against Welke. This is what prompted the one-game suspension, as any action where a player makes contact with an umpire is suspendible.

But the biggest controversy and concern doesn’t come with whether or not Machado touched Welke (I’m pretty sure he did) and deserved the suspension (probably).

What happened next was what ruffled a lot of feathers. The Major League Baseball Umpires Association sent out a tweet that went viral — and not in a good way. The tweet contained a small statement that appeared to be written on something like a Google Doc that reads, “Manny Machado received a one game suspension for contact with an umpire over balls and strikes and VIOLENTLY throwing his bat against the backstop with absolutely no regard to anyone’s safety.” It continued on to talk about how “violence in the workplace is not tolerated,” and wrapped up with a sentence questioning whether or not this is “truly what MLB wants to teach our youth.”

Disregard the unprofessionalism of the hashtags and the irony of the teaching-the-youth comment, and look at the message. It singles out a specific player (Machado) for actions considered to be disgusting and outrageous by the group sending the tweet. Understandably, the Umpires’ Association was frustrated with Machado, but flip the situation around. If Machado were to release a statement on Twitter saying something about how disgraceful and outrageous the umpires were, he would be bashed on by the fans and perhaps punished by the league and his team.

Another recent incident where umpires may have inserted themselves into the game a bit too much was the incident earlier this month with Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove and Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson — and umpires, of course.

Musgrove and Donaldson were involved in an incident where the Braves slugger was hit by a pitch and had words for Musgrove. Pirates catcher Elías Díaz tried to intervene, but Donaldson pushed him out of the way and approached Musgrove. The benches cleared in the scuffle, but nobody was hurt. It was one of the more peaceful bench-clearing brawls, where everyone convened at the same spot, but there did not appear to be any punches thrown — just some shoving and an exchange of words.

But in the end, Musgrove and Donaldson were both ejected. It can be questioned whether or not it was really worth it to eject Donaldson. Perhaps it was; that’s a judgement call. But Musgrove ... really? He didn't purposefully plunk Donaldson, and he did not insert himself into the incident at all. As you can imagine, the ejection(s) caught the attention of many disgruntled fans, ranging from those of the Pirates and Braves to the baseball community as a whole.

Jameson Taillon also had a choice tweet for the league and its umpires.

Angel Hernandez, Joe West, and those alike

Angel Hernandez is Angel Hernandez. He certainly is not just an umpire who makes the call and tries to avoid the spotlight. Hernandez often inserts himself into the game to make a call — a skill that has been mastered already by some of the league’s better umpires — and often finds himself being bashed by managers, players, and fans. Despite all this, Major League Baseball still employs him and puts him in charge of games.

Perhaps Joseph Romano of Call To The Pen puts it best. “Hernadez has had three of his four calls reversed in a 2018 ALDS game,” he writes. “He has ejected a player from a Spring Training game, and is routinely the fodder for the jokes of tweeters due to his particular reputation for an awful strike zone. These are a few examples as to why his reputation is so, yet the case is still within his grasp if those documents reveal something contrary to the expected.”

But beyond the on-field drama, there’s a whole second layer of the Hernandez craziness, one that bothers many people more than his wild calls. Hernandez claims MLB didn’t assign him to the World Series because he is of Cuban heritage. A wild theory that is not true. But his anger didn’t stop there — Hernandez filed a lawsuit against the league in 2018, citing the fact that he was not on the World Series crew as his main concern while also adding to the lawsuit a small tidbit about his displeasure with Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre who, per Hernandez’s beliefs, drastically damaged and hurt his performance reviews.

While Hernandez is probably the most hated by the public, Joe West is another umpire with a load of negativity tied to his name. West has been known not just for bad calls, but more specifically for inserting himself into the game and stealing the show — an aforementioned issue that nobody likes to see. However, West has been in the league for much longer than Hernandez, an additional 25 years to be exact. And while he has made those bad calls or other questionable decisions, he can also be a fun umpire to watch. He is said to be a chatterbox who loves to talk with players and coaches mid-game.

And then, of course, this gem. How can you not have some respect for this guy?

Or that time he took a selfie mid-game with Nelson Cruz? Priceless.

Umpires are right most of the time

This remark is one that umpire supporters say a lot. We don’t applaud the umpires for making the right call, yet we feel the need to bash them when they are incorrect. This happens all across sports, and it’s one that could have two responses.

One response could be to agree with it, giving in and saying, “That’s right. They goofed up this one and I noticed but the calls they made correctly went unnoticed.”

The other response — and this is one often displayed by very passionate fans — would be to act unaccepting. A typical response to the “they’re right most of the time” claim is that these umpires are supposed to be the best in the country, and it is their job to be correct.

It wouldn't be right for me to flat-out pick one of these two sides, but there’s no reason to not demand accountability for a bad call or awful publicity from any umpires, or their association.