Ejection Inspection, Week One: Ron Kulpa Angers Houston Astros

TORONTO, ON - MAY 12: Home plate umpire Ron Kulpa #46 calls a strike during the Toronto Blue Jays MLB game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre on May 12, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ron Kulpa

Welcome to Week One of Ejection Inspection! This will appear every Thursday throughout the season. It will track all ejections from the previous week of games, running from Thursday to Wednesday. Unless it is something automatic, it will also list whether the author – a former player, umpire, and coach – understands why the ejected person was upset, whether the ejection was justified from a neutral perspective, and a subjective grade of how entertaining it was. In honor of Earl Weaver, one of the most entertaining managers in arguments with umpires, ratings will run from one to five Weavers. (If the ejected person is completely calm the entire time, it will receive zero Weavers.)

(Automatic ejections: throwing equipment in dissent; demonstratively arguing balls/strikes by word or action; personal/vulgar/profane insults from a distance; yelling at an umpire’s back after he ends the conversation. The quality of the disputed call is irrelevant.)

There were eight ejections in the first week of the season – five players, two managers, and a hitting coach.

Date Team Opp Inn. Name Pos Umpire Pos Reason
1 Fri 3/29 MIL STL 4/5 Thames, Eric PH Cederstrom, Gary 3B Throwing equipment in dissent
2 Sun 3/29 AZ @LAD T9 Peralta, David LF Lentz, Nic HP Arguing balls/strikes
3 Sun 3/31 ATL @PHL B7 Carle, Shane RP Drake, Rob HP Throwing at batter
4 Mon 4/1 STL @PIT T11 Carpenter, Matt 3B Carapazza, Vic HP Insulting/abusive language
5 Mon 4/1 CIN MIL 5/6 Kemp, Matt LF Nelson, Jeff HP Arguing balls/strikes
6 Tue 4/2 SD AZ B6 Green, Andy Mgr Welke, Bill HP Arguing interference call
7 Wed 4/3 HOU @TEX T2 Cintron, Alex HtC Kulpa, Ron HP Arguing balls/strikes
8 Wed 4/3 HOU @TEX T2 Hinch, AJ Mgr Kulpa, Ron HP Arguing balls/strikes

Eric Thames, Milwaukee Brewers PH

When

Friday, March 29, vs. St. Louis Cardinals, between the fourth and fifth innings

Umpire

Gary Cederstrom (3B)

Description

With a runner on third and two out, Thames tried to check his swing on a 3-2 breaking ball that was low and in. The plate umpire appealed to Cederstrom, who ruled that Thames had swung, ending the fourth inning. Thames yelled an expletive as he turned toward the first base dugout and spiked his bat, followed by his helmet. Cederstrom ejected Thames immediately for throwing his equipment in dissent.

Entertainment Rating

One Weaver. Thames was angry, but it wasn’t animated or memorable. He looked like a four-year-old who didn’t get his way.

David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks LF

When

Sunday, March 31, at Los Angeles Dodgers, top of the ninth inning

Umpire

Nic Lentz (HP)

Description

With one out, nobody on, and a 2-2 count, Peralta took a fastball that looked to be about eight inches outside. Lentz called it strike three. Peralta tapped the ground with his bat in the location he thought the pitch was. He said something while tapping the ground, but cameras didn’t pick up his mouth, and the audio could not be heard on the broadcast. Lentz then threw him out. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo came out of the dugout to discuss the matter with Lentz and returned less than a minute later without further incident.

Entertainment Rating

Zero Weavers.

Shane Carle, Atlanta Braves RP

When

Sunday, March 31, at Philadelphia Phillies, bottom of the seventh inning

Umpire

Rob Drake (HP)

Description

After surrendering a towering home run to Bryce Harper, Carle threw two pitches to Rhys Hoskins. The first one was thigh-high and on the inner half of the plate. Hoskins swung too early and pulled it foul. The second one was a high fastball that hit Hoskins on the left shoulder. Drake immediately ejected Carle, drawing a lengthy, heated protest from Braves catcher Brian McCann, who stayed in the game.

Understand the frustration?

Carle said little, if anything, as he walked straight to the clubhouse. McCann was understandably frustrated. It was a cold night, and that makes it tougher to grip the baseball well. Pitchers were having control problems all night. Carle’s final pitch was his 20th, and only nine were strikes.

Was the ejection justified?

No. Carle’s control problems aside, if the Braves were going to drill Hoskins intentionally, it would have been on the first pitch.

Entertainment rating

Carle — zero Weavers.
McCann’s protest — one and a half Weavers. He was passionate and kept at it as long as Drake would allow, but never really got animated.

Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals 3B

When

Monday, April 1, at Pittsburgh Pirates, top of the 11th inning

Umpire

Vic Carapazza (HP; started at 2B but moved to the plate in the bottom of the seventh when original HP umpire Jerry Layne was knocked woozy by a foul tip)

Description

Carpenter, who had already struck out three times that day, checked his swing on a sweeping curve low and away with a 2-2 count. On appeal, 3B umpire Jordan Baker said he swung, and Carpenter had a Golden Sombrero. Carpenter pointed his bat at Baker and hollered, “You suck!” Carapazza immediately tossed him.

Entertainment rating

One Weaver. Carpenter yelled one sentence at Baker and then gave a mild protest to Carapazza after the ejection.

Matt Kemp, Cincinnati Reds LF

When

Monday, April 1, vs. Milwaukee Brewers, between the fifth and sixth innings

Umpire

Jeff Nelson (HP)

Description

With the tying run on third, Kemp struck out looking to end the fifth. Both the first and last strike were just below the knees according to the on-screen graphic, but Nelson’s zone was consistent. Kemp left his bat and helmet at the plate and then argued at length with Nelson. Nelson walked with him toward the dugout and heard him out. When Nelson ended the conversation and walked back to the plate, Kemp turned back around and yelled at Nelson, “That’s horrible! That’s (expletive) horrible, man!” Then Nelson gave him the heave-ho.

Entertainment rating

One Weaver. Kemp yelled a little bit but not all that much.

Andy Green, San Diego Padres Manager

When

Tuesday, April 2, vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, bottom of the sixth inning

Umpire

Bill Welke (HP)

Description

Padres 3B Manny Machado led off the bottom of the sixth. On a 2-2 count, he hit a high pop foul near the first-base line and about a third of the way toward first. Machado started to run to first and appeared from Welke’s angle to clip the foot of Diamondbacks C John Ryan Murphy. At this point, Welke held a closed right fist out to his side to indicate a delayed interference call. Machado then tossed his bat near the feet of Murphy, who was looking up to track the ball. Murphy ended up dropping the ball, but due to the delayed interference call, Machado was ruled out. Padres manager Andy Green came out of the dugout to ask for an explanation. Welke explained his decision, and Green argued it at length. When Welke ended the conversation and walked away, Green yelled that his call was “a joke,” so Welke dumped him. This made Green even more irate, so he slammed his hat down and screamed in Welke’s face. First base umpire Mike Everitt intervened and settled Green down, and the game continued shortly thereafter.

Understand the frustration?

Yes. It was a strange play, and it is understandable that a manager would take issue with his player being called out for interference when the fielder simply dropped the ball. However, with the rule being what it is, Welke called interference immediately when he saw it, and he handled the play in the exact manner that is mandated by the rule book. Furthermore, it is fortunate that the ball didn’t get blown back toward the plate, because Machado put the bat in a dangerous place. Murphy could have slipped on the bat and been seriously injured.

Was the ejection justified?

Yes. Welke gave Green a lot of time to vent and then ended the conversation. Once Welke walked away, Green should have stopped, but instead, he yelled an insult from a distance.

Entertainment rating

Two Weavers. Hat slams and red faces get a minimum of two. When Green gets steamed, it can get fun, especially because he’ll keep yelling two-to-three-word sentences intermittently on the way back to the dugout.

Alex Cintron, Houston Astros hitting coach
AJ Hinch, Houston Astros manager

When

Wednesday, April 3, at Texas Rangers, top of the second inning

Umpire

Ron Kulpa (HP)

Description

The Astros had taken issue with a pitch in the bottom of the first inning that was between the letters and the belt. Kulpa ruled it a ball. With two out in the top of the second, DH Tyler White took the first pitch. It was a breaking ball that nearly hit the dirt, but if it crossed the plate in the strike zone, it’s a strike regardless of where the catcher catches it. (Replays were unclear.) Kulpa called strike one, drawing howls of protest from the Astros dugout. Kulpa took off his mask and yelled back at the dugout, defending his call. Hinch came out of the dugout and had a brief conversation with an irritated Kulpa. From lip-reading, body language, and gestures, it appeared that Hinch was telling Kulpa that he’d get his dugout under control.

Kulpa went back behind the plate and put on his mask but kept looking into the Astros dugout, which was settling down. The pitcher was taking signs from the catcher, but Kulpa kept turning his head toward the dugout. Hinch yelled, “Don’t look over here. There’s nothing to see. Look out there,” gesturing toward the mound. A few seconds later, Kulpa gave someone the thumb. Hinch went back to Kulpa and asked who it was. It was Cintron. After a lengthy discussion, Hinch returned to the dugout. The next pitch was just above the knees and down the middle for strike two. Kulpa then started staring into the now-quiet Astros dugout again. After a brief pause, Hinch started yelling, “You can’t keep doing that (looking into the dugout). You can’t keep doing it.” Hinch then started toward Kulpa, who tossed him as soon as he moved. After an animated, nose-to-nose encounter, Hinch was pulled away by an Astros assistant, and Hinch made his way to the clubhouse.

Understand the frustration?

Yes, more than any of the others. After Hinch said he’d take care of it, Kulpa should have let him. Staring into the dugout would anger any baseball team. It seems like the umpire is baiting them.

Was the ejection justified?

Without seeing or hearing what Cintron said or did (no cameras or microphones picked it up), his ejection did not seem to be justified. Hinch’s definitely was not justified. Kulpa should not have been staring into the dugout. It made it look like he badly wanted to throw someone out and was looking for the tiniest reason to do so. During the shouting match with Hinch, Kulpa said, “I can do whatever I want,” which made him look even worse.

Entertainment rating

Three Weavers. The shouting match got animated and lasted a while, and Hinch had to be pulled away.

Look for Week Two of the Ejection Inspection on Thursday, April 11.

Evan Thompson played baseball as a youth and teenager. He also umpired between 1995 and 2004 and has coached at the high school level.

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