Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Brett Lawrie Unleashes on Bill Miller

By
Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
Brett Lawrie is used to slamming his batting helmet into the ground celebration ... not anger. Like most, I always assumed Brett Lawrie's aggressive style of play might cost the Blue Jays a few games, but never like this.

Lawrie is a very rare breed of baseball player these days in that he wears his passion for the game right on his sleeve. You never have to wonder how he feels about a particular situation, because it's always very clearly shown on his face and his play on the field.

I very much appreciate Brett Lawrie's enthusiasm, but passion's evil cousin anger reared its ugly head last night. While I can understand why Brett was so upset, it definitely does not in any way excuse him for slamming his helmet towards an umpire.

His outburst towards Bill Miller notwithstanding, did Brett Lawrie have a case? Both the 3-1 and 3-2 pitches were questionable, so let's take a look at what set Brett Lawrie off.

3-1 Pitch
The overhead cameras really caught how truly far this pitch was off the plate. At no point does the ball even come close to crossing the plate, not even in the back corner. Perhaps Jose Molina's incredible pitch framing ability had something to do with it.

3-2 Pitch
Now, the 3-2 pitch isn't quite as ludicrous ... if anything it's a borderline call at the top of the strike zone. One can argue that Brett Lawrie was going to trot down the line regardless and Bill Miller was also going to call it a strike no matter what.

The catalyst for the overreaction on the 3-2 pitch was Lawrie's reaction to the 3-1 pitch; he was nearly half way to first base by the time Bill Miller called strike two. Perhaps Miller thought Lawrie was trying to show him up, and in turn he retaliated by calling an emphatic strike three.

As I said off the top, Brett Lawrie is a very passionate ball player. He plays the game 100 percent unfiltered, and while most fans can appreciate that, maybe it rubs some people the wrong way. And that can even include some umpires around the league.

Having said that, it doesn't excuse umpires like Bill Miller and Bob Davidson to umpire with an agenda. In a perfect world, the Major League umpires would be held accountable for their actions just like the players, but what happens to the umpires will remain behind closed doors.

Unfortunately, what most people will remember from this incident is Brett Lawrie's freakout and nearly hitting an official with his batting helmet. In no way am I condoning what Brett did, but it's instances like these that really show the glaring inefficiencies of Major League officiating.

I do sympathize somewhat with umpires because they do have a thankless job. But the men in black should just stick to calling balls and strikes, fair and foul balls, and not be seen or heard from. And yet there are some like Bill Miller who find it necessary to insert themselves in the game.

This all hearkens back to a very old school style of baseball. The Bryce Harper/Cole Hamels plunking brought the whole issue of pitchers intentionally hitting opponents to light, and the Lawrie/Miller incident brings the umpire's influence issue to the forefront.

It's one thing for players to go eye-for-an-eye and plunk each other to send a message, but it's another when an umpire gets involved and tries to show up a player by making a ridiculous call just to send a message.

Both Brett Lawrie and Bill Miller were both in the wrong last night for what they did. But there's one big difference; Brett Lawrie will have consequences for his actions, and Bill Miller will not ... or at least, we'll never hear about it.

8 comments:

  1. Fully agree. You can't condone Lawrie's reaction, but he will be forced to be accountable for his actions to both fans and the media. Bill Miller will get off scott free, and never have to answer any question, by any person, at any time, about what he did. It's kind of a disgrace...

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    1. It's just unfortunate that it was this kind of incident that had to raise the issue of umpiring.

      I think what most people will focus on is the Brett Lawrie freakout, and not the actions of Bill Miller. Both guys did something wrong, but Lawrie had the more inexcusable action. Giving the umpires ammunition like that certainly didn't help his case, either.

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    2. @Ian I'm not sure I agree that Lawrie's actions were more inexcusable. I think it is ABSOLUTELY inexcusable for a veteran umpire to act the way Miller did. Even though it was more subdued, it was more malicious, towards both Lawrie and the Jays as a team. He let his ego get in the way of doing his job, which is calling balls and strikes, NOT teaching rookies their place. Further, if Miller was upset that Lawrie stepped out of the box before the call was made on the 3-1 pitch, and that's what led to the strike 2 call, Lawrie trotted back, clearly surprised but with no negative or aggressive reaction. I think Miller had already made his point, and there was absolutely no reason to call strike 3. Lastly, I've heard lots of folks claiming that it was a mistake on Lawrie's part to travel 1/3 of the way down the first base line before strike 2 was called. I think it says a lot more about Miller as an ump that it took him that much time to call it. Pah-lease.

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    3. Cindy, I think Brett Lawrie had every right to be upset, but the second he took off his helmet and threw it towards Bill Miller, that's where he lost sympathy with a lot of people.

      There's no double the umpires need to be held to a higher standard. But so long as there is a human element to officiating, that's always going to happen.

      And I actually just found out that Lawrie was ejected before he even tossed his helmet. Maybe that adds an extra layer to the controversy.

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  2. Nine times out of ten, that passion wins the jays the game. If it means he spikes his helmet towards an ump or gets short suspensions once a season, we will live. Anyone else have a Jon Rauch flashback? In both cased I am pretty sure the ump feared for his life.

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    1. If you look closely enough, I think you do see Bill Miller's life flash before his eyes. He just looked completely and utterly shocked after the helmet bounced off the ground.

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  3. I'm not really sure why you use shots from TV cameras (which can be very misleading based on where they are placed) to break it down instead of MLB's Pitch F/x which is much more accurate than a TV shot.

    For example the shot of the 3-2 pitch is from the outfield camera which is off center (if it was centered the pitcher would block the veiw of the plate) so it makes pitches on the left side of the screen look way more outside than they are. Same with the overhead shot. Its not centered either and its not even directly over the plate.

    According to pitch F/X they were not that bad at all. Both balls but hardly as horrible as it looks on TV. In fact the last one was a borderline strike based on pitch FX data.

    http://communities.sportsnet.ca/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/2-1745165-13520/407-529/lawrie.jpg

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    1. Aside from the MLB.com and the Brooks Baseball Pitch F/X, there wasn't really anything else to use. I agree the centre field camera may be a little misleading since it's on an angle, but that overhead cam gave a pretty good indication the 3-1 pitch was off the plate.

      Both pitches weren't the worst I've ever seen, and the 3-2 call was pretty borderline and could've gone either way. I just think it was the sequence of events that lead up to and followed the at bat which really was the issue.

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