As has been widely reported, Tyler Anderson was ejected in the fourth inning of last night’s contest between the Colorado Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies by home plate umpire Eric Cooper.
Anderson spoke to reporters after the game but it was clear from his statements that he was trying to put the matter behind him without enduring further wrath. “Nothing intentional,” he said about the pitch that hit Maikel Franco and ignited the whole incident.
“A little quick [on the ejection],” Anderson continued, “But I put [Cooper] in a bad spot too … I think he knows it wasn’t intentional. It hit him in the shin. [Cooper] was just saying you can’t hit a guy after he hit a home run.”
It doesn’t sound like Anderson was given a reason why he never received any warnings but this answer does suggest that the Eric Cooper tossed the Rockies pitchers not because of demonstrative behavior, but immediately after the plunking.
Now, this occurred either because Cooper believed it to be intentional, which it sounds like he didn’t, or because he believes in some baseball code about who you are and are not allowed to hit and when. MLB makes searching through their video history almost as difficult as getting a direct answer about umpiring problems but I bet if we combed through the archives we could find a game in which Cooper was involved, a player hit a home run, that same player then was hit by a pitch, and yet stayed in the game.
This whole scenario also calls into question whether or not Cooper would have made statements about hitting someone who had hit a home run if the pitcher in question was a more seasoned and respected veteran.
Perhaps, this is all parsing of words, twisting of intentions, and spinning of narratives.
Of course, these questions could be answered if MLB umpires made themselves available to the media the way players, coaches, managers, former players, agents, GMs, owners, player’s spouses, fans, catering, concessions, player’s former coaches, player’s kids and other members of the media do.
On April 26 of this year, Ryan Raburn was ejected by Lance Barrett under similarly dubious circumstances to Anderson last night. When BSN Denver asked Raburn after the game about the double-standard that he was expected to answer questions to the press but Barrett was specifically shielded from it, he responded: “If we have bad games, we’re held accountable. Everything we do, we’re held accountable. We’re judged by our performance on the field and a lot of times when stuff is taken out of our hands, it’s a little frustrating.”
Everything from his contract negotiations to the way he is perceived on Twitter can be affected by a handful of key moments and when he — or any of his teammates — fail, someone will put a camera in their face and ask why.
MLB umpires need to be held to at least the same standard. There is no reason they should be held to a lower one.
We’re not asking for heads to roll. We’re not (at this particular moment in time) calling for automated strike zones or more replay or a reexamination of the blocking-the-plate or neighborhood rules or the elimination of overly exuberant strikeout calls. We all ought to be able to rally around at least this one first step.
I recently had the privilege to ask former Colorado Rockies outfielder and current ROOT Sports broadcaster Cory Sullivan what one thing he would change to make the game fairer. His reply came with no hesitation and was that the umpires comply with the simple but arduous task that so many of us endure from time to time of explaining ourselves in an open forum … especially with millions of dollars and people’s jobs on the line.