“Some of those (old) arguments would go on for three, four, five minutes, and you were never going to get it changed…so what the hell were you doing it for?” That’s Tony La Russa’s response to those who fear baseball’s new instant reply protocols will reduce the number of dirt-kicking, motherfucker-dropping manager vs. umpire spats following disputed calls. While former ump Doug Harvey takes an opposing view (“I hate it…that’s part of the game. That’s getting the fans into it…now you’re taking it away and saying, ‘ok, we’ll check with the replay. That’s not baseball”), the San Jose Mercury News’ Daniel Brown consulted, well, a statistician.
Gil Imber, an expert on umpire-manager relations, predicts that overall ejections will be down in 2014, but only by about 25 to 35 percent. Imber is the owner and commissioner of the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League, which tracks and analyzes umpire behavior.
Imber reported that of the 180 total ejections last season, 83 were for arguing balls and strikes, 11 were for fighting, 14 were for pitchers intentionally throwing at a batter, eight for issues of interference and obstruction, three for disputing issued warnings, two from balks, one from an unacknowledged timeout request and eight for unclassified unsporting actions. “In other words,” Imber wrote, “72 percent of the ejections concerned issues, plays or calls that will not be reviewable under the expanded instant replay system.”
Managers, of course, view their half of the argument as an art, too. When Billy Martin went berserk, for example, players knew their manager was actually digging below the surface.
“The reason why he did it was the intimidation factor,” recalled Shooty Babitt, an infielder who played for Martin with the 1981 Oakland A’s. “These guys (like Martin and Earl Weaver) weren’t out there to get that specific play changed. It was more about hoping that the next play would get called in his favor.”