On Tuesday night, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski antagonized the Rays when he slid late into second base and spiked Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist. The Code suggests that retribution is appropriate and it came the following day, but what's being talked about is the spectacle that followed it. The spectacle entails raw, flashing emotion -- unconstrained by logic or reason -- from White Sox broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, a noted homer.
What are you doing? He threw him out of the ballgame? You've got to be bleeping me. What in the hell are you doing? What are you doing, Wegner?
(Harrelson's full rant can be found here.)
Harrelson's howls were directed at home plate umpire Mark Wegner in response to White Sox starter Jose Quintana's fourth-inning ejection, after the lefthander threw a pitch behind Zobrist.
Why was Hawk so riled up?
The answer is somewhat involved and begins in the sixth inning of Tuesday's game. Pierzynski, at first base with one out, was forced out at second on a ground ball by Dayan Viciedo. It's standard procedure for runners in that situation to go in hard, trying to prevent a double play. Pierzynski, however, went in late and spikes high, spearing second baseman Zobrist well behind the bag.
"There was no chance for a throw to first base, and he came way over the bag to try and get me," said Zobrist. "I don't know what his motivation was in doing that."
The two shared some choice words after the play and the issue appeared to die there. Pierzynski batted three more times in the game, once with nobody on and two out, another time as the leadoff hitter while his team held a 6-2 lead, and wasn't so much as brushed back.
You gotta be kiddin' me. That is so bad. That is absolutely brutal. That is unbelievable. I'll tell you what -- they have got to start making guys be accountable.
Given an evening to think it over, however, the Rays apparently decided that they wanted a piece of Pierzynski, after all. In the third inning Wednesday afternoon, with one out and first base open, Rays starter Alex Cobb drilled the catcher in the right shoulder blade. According to The Code, Pierzynski's beaning was warranted, and things should have ended right there.
Except that they didn't. The next time Zobrist came to the plate -- six batters after Pierzynski was hit -- Quintana threw his first pitch so far behind him that Zobrist didn't even have to move to avoid it. Wegner immediately ejected Quintana and manager Robin Ventura and Harrelson lost it.
That is totally absurd! That just tells you -- here's an umpire in the American League that knows nothing about the game of baseball. That's unbelievable.
When it comes to bloviation such as Harrelson's, details matter. And in this case, the details validate Wegner. Quintana was making just his second career start, and by appearances had been coached in his actions. Before the pitch, Pierzynski set up almost mindlessly over the middle of the plate, and as the fastball sailed wildly inside, the catcher didn't so much as make a stab at it -- almost as if he knew in advance where it was headed. Pitchers usually miss by inches; Quintana's shot was close to four feet from Pierzynski's target. Zobrist called it "painfully obvious."
Ventura expressed shock at the ejection, less for the causality than the lack of warning from Wegner. Quintana offered some odd detail about Pierzynski having changed signs on him and not wanting to mix things up. Pierzynski said he had set up away, but Quintana threw it in.
Ultimately, the White Sox had taken an extra, unnecessary shot, and a warning at that point from Wegner would have validated their strategy, giving them a freebie by stifling the Rays.
They have got to do something about this, I'll tell you. They have got some guys in this league who have no business umpiring. They have no business umpiring because they don't know what the baseball is about. And he is one of them ... He ought to be suspended and if they want to keep him as an umpire, send him back to school and teach him what this game is about.
Even as Harrelson ranted, Zobrist simply stood in the batter's box, a slight smile tracing his lips. It could have been relief at avoiding what might otherwise have been a painful message. Or perhaps he was delighting in the fact that Chicago would be going to its bullpen earlier than expected. Maybe it was simply that justice had been served.