Ejection Inspection, Week Seven: Hunter Wendelstedt Should Not Call Detroit Tigers Games

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Hunter Wendelstedt
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 11: Manager Ron Gardenhire #15 of the Detroit Tigers is ejected by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt #21 during the third inning of game one of a doubleheader on May 11, 2019 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Welcome to Week Seven of Ejection Inspection! Before getting into the main part of today’s edition, it’s soapbox time. Hunter Wendelstedt and Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire do not get along. On Saturday, Wendelstedt ejected Gardenhire for the sixth time. Because of their history, it is likely that Gardenhire has less patience with Wendelstedt than he does with other umpires, and the reverse is also likely to be true – and they probably don’t even realize it. Consequently, Hunter Wendelstedt should not call Detroit Tigers games. It doesn’t make sense to keep putting him in the same ballpark as Gardenhire.

Now for the column. The premise and ground rules are detailed here. The condensed version: each ejection from the previous week (Thursday through Wednesday) is listed in a table. The author – a former player/coach/umpire – analyzes each ejection and assigns it an entertainment rating of one to five Weavers in honor of late Orioles manager Earl Weaver.

(For a list of every article in this series, click here.)

There were four ejections in Week Seven – two players and two managers. In an odd coincidence, all four were from the road team, and all four were tossed by the plate umpire.

Date Team Opp Inn. Name Pos Umpire Pos Reason
1 Sat 5/11 DET @MIN B3 Ron Gardenhire Mgr Hunter Wendelstedt HP Sticking up for bench coach
2 Sat 5/11 DET @MIN B1 Miguel Cabrera DH Chad Whitson HP Arguing balls/strikes from dugout
3 Mon 5/13 OAK @SEA B8 Bob Melvin Mgr D.J. Reyburn HP Arguing balls/strikes
4 Wed 5/15 SD @LAD T5 Ian Kinsler 2B Scott Barry HP Arguing balls/strikes from dugout

 

Ron Gardenhire, Detroit Tigers manager

When

Saturday, May 11, at Minnesota Twins, bottom of the third (first game of double header)

Umpire

Hunter Wendelstedt (HP)

Description

As stated in the first paragraph, Ron Gardenhire and Hunter Wendelstedt have a history. According to the last paragraph of this article by Chris McCosky of The Detroit News, this is the sixth time that Wendelstedt has tossed Gardenhire. Their history was detailed in Sunday’s edition of the Star Tribune. After one ejection in 2009, Wendelstedt stated that Gardenhire didn’t know the rules and then invited him to his umpiring school for a rules session.

Anyway, in the bottom of the third, Tigers pitcher Spencer Turnbull ran into trouble after retiring the first two hitters. After a single, stolen base, and passed ball, Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario ended up on third base. Meanwhile, first baseman C.J. Cron walked on four pitches. Next, right fielder Jake Cave worked the count to 2-2 before the next two pitches missed high, loading the bases.

Tigers bench coach Steve Liddle was yelling at Wendelstedt from the dugout. As Wendelstedt was putting his mask on and preparing to resume the game, Gardenhire came out of the dugout. He got into Wendelstedt’s face, was ejected, and then went on an angry tangent.

Understand the frustration?

Sort of. Some of the pitches were close, and teams want those called in their favor, but those last two to Cave were well high.

Was the ejection justified?

Gardenhire came out of the dugout to defend Liddle, and his first words to Wendelstedt were, “That’s (expletive).” This warrants an ejection, so yes, it was justified. However, it’s more complicated than this.

What got Gardenhire so mad? The audio was unclear, and no camera shot showed the conversation. Wendelstedt’s reaction at the end of the conversation was visible, though. He was smiling and chuckling as he put on his mask after talking to the Detroit dugout. Whatever he said got the Tigers mad. Was he trying to use humor to defuse hot tempers, only to have the Tigers take it wrong? Was he making snarky comments at them? The people who know the answers to these questions have not said anything, so one can only speculate. However, from Wendelstedt’s body language and calm demeanor during the discussion with Gardenhire, it seems like it was the former.

Entertainment Rating

Four Weavers, easily. Gardenhire was furious. Almost all of what he said was either picked up by a microphone or visible through lip-reading. In his 23-second tirade – yes, this author timed it – Gardenhire used the expletive that begins with “bull” six times. He also told Wendelstedt to “shut the (expletive) up” with his second-to-last sentence.

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers Designated Hitter

When

Saturday, May 11, at Minnesota Twins, bottom of the first (second game of double header)

Umpire

Chad Whitson (HP)

Description

In the top of the first, Cabrera batted with two outs and a runner on third. A 1-0 fastball that appeared to be well outside was called a strike. Cabrera said a few words to Whitson about it before continuing his at-bat. He eventually grounded to second on a 2-2 pitch.

The third pitch of the bottom of the first was just below the knees of Twins third baseman Marwin Gonzalez. Whitson called it ball one. Cabrera barked from the dugout, “Hey! Hey! Come on! Let’s go!” Then Whitson tossed him.

Understand the frustration?

No, not on the third pitch of the game.

Was the ejection justified?

Technically, yes, but unless there was a warning given in the middle of the first, this felt like a very quick trigger.

Entertainment Rating

One Weaver. It didn’t seem like Cabrera did much to warrant an ejection, so it wasn’t very entertaining.

Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics manager

When

Monday, May 13, at Seattle Mariners, bottom of the eighth

Umpire

D.J. Reyburn (HP)

Description

With a 4-1 lead, one out, and a runner on second, Athletics reliever Lou Trivino faced Mariners first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. On a 3-2 count, a pitch that appeared to be at the knees and over the middle of the plate was called ball four. An angry Melvin shouted at Reyburn, “Come on! You ring us up on that, but you won’t ring them up? That’s (expletive). That’s (expletive).”

The next hitter, designated hitter and Chris Farley look-alike Daniel Vogelbach, hit the first pitch over the fence in center field for a game-tying three-run home run. As Vogelbach crossed the plate, Melvin lost it. He yelled, “Hey! That’s (bleeping) terrible! That’s (expletive)!” Then Reyburn tossed him, and Melvin sprinted up to Reyburn to get his money’s worth. He pointed at the plate in an animated manner to illustrate his points as he said, “The ball’s over there, the ball’s over there, the ball’s up. They’re all strikes. You won’t call ‘em for us. You call it for (expletive) THEM. That’s terrible! That’s (expletive)!” He said two or three more sentences after that, but his mouth wasn’t visible. The camera then cut to the celebration in the Seattle dugout before going back to the field, where Melvin finished off his argument before storming to the clubhouse.

Understand the frustration?

Yes. Every manager in the league would have been frustrated and probably would have been ejected in this situation. The last pitch to Encarnacion should have been called strike three. That would have been the second out with only one runner on. If Vogelbach had still homered on the first pitch, it’s only a 4-3 ballgame instead of being tied.

Was the ejection justified?

Yes. Arguing balls and strikes warrants an ejection.

Entertainment Rating

Four Weavers. Melvin snapped. It was like he thought, “Is this worth it? Mmm. Yeah,” and then charged out of the dugout to unload all his frustrations on Reyburn. This would have made Earl a very proud man. It was great theater.

Ian Kinsler, San Diego Padres second baseman

When

Wednesday, May 15, at Los Angeles Dodgers, top of the fifth

Umpire

Scott Barry (HP)

Description

After an 0-1 fastball that was barely off the outside corner was called strike two, Kinsler – who was not playing in the game – yelled at Barry from the dugout. Barry told Kinsler to stop, and when Kinsler kept arguing, Barry ran him.

Understand the frustration?

No. It was very close to the zone, and Barry had been consistent the entire game.

Was the ejection justified?

Yes. Barry gave Kinsler a long leash. He told him to stop and gave him some time to do so, but Kinsler kept yelling.

Entertainment Rating

Zero Weavers. Kinsler’s actions were not caught on camera or picked up by a microphone. Also, Padres manager Andy Green’s subsequent discussion with Barry was not memorable in any way.

Look for Week Eight on Thursday, May 23.

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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2 COMMENTS

  1. re: Kinsler ejection

    Your summation: “No. It was very close to the zone, and Barry had been consistent the entire game.”

    Laughable, totally laughable. Barry was consistently calling pitches 6″ to 8″ off the plate (inside to LF; outside to RH) as strikes. I’d say that Maeda got most of those calls, but that’s probably also the difference between a RHP and LHP in that part of the zone. In a game like this, when the Padres have a LHP and the Dodgers a RHP, and both teams load their line-ups with RH & LH hitters to counter, calling one side of the plate 8″ wide is going to be a deciding factor in a game. Guaranteed.

    I don’t really care either, if an Ump calls balls on the corners (which should be within a ball’s width of the edge of the plate), as long as he’s consistent with his zone. Barry wasn’t consistent in calling those pitches. Padre RH hitters had to dive at every outside pitch, particularly with the count at two strikes, because they had no way of knowing how far a ball could be away from the plate when Barry would call it a strike.

    15 minutes of the game, with the Padres RH hitters at bat, and you would have seen what was obvious. Other sports writers did. I can’t find anything published that agreed with your analysis.

    I would hate to lose the human element, both the umpires input and the art of catching, in the game of baseball. However, the umpires seem notoriously unable to find the edge of the strike zone. Perhaps it’s simply because of pitchers throwing harder than ever, and pitching with more movement, but if MLB or the ump’s don’t stop these garbage calls, an electronic pitch calling computer is the way things will have to go. That would be a sad development for baseball.

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