By Bruce Levine—
CHICAGO (CBS) — To err is human. To bump an umpire usually means a suspension.
Thus, we wait with Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon to find out if he will be penalized beyond the usual fine for getting tossed out of Wednesday night’s game, a 7-6 victory over the Reds. Maddon was removed for arguing a ninth-inning call on Ben Zobrist’s aborted bunt attempt that was called a swinging strike instead of a hit by pitch.
With two on and nobody out in a tie game, Zobrist was hit on the foot, by a pitch but first-base umpire Ron Kulpa insisted that the movement of Zobrist to get out of the way resulted in him moving the bat forward in bunting motion before he was hit.
Like a bolt of lightning, Maddon came out running toward Kulpa and exchanged words with him and two other crew members. He was immediately ejected for what the umps said was arguing balls and strikes. The dispute now will center around whether Maddon had inadvertent contact with one or more of the umpiring crew.
“No,” Maddon said. “I patted him on the back. Ron Kulpa may be the best umpire in baseball. I was not angry with him at all. When things keep happening, you have to say something sometime.
“This is part of my job. You go from zero to 60 instantaneously. There is nothing you can do about it, you just do it. That is just a visceral reaction. You are seeing this, the game is on the line and it is really wrong. It goes from one out and first and second to bases loaded and nobody out let’s go. That is a big change right there.”
Kulpa told Mark Gonzales of the Tribune, the pool reporter, that a report was filed with MLB. Kulpa said that the report stated Maddon was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. He would not say if the contact with any umpire was in the file.
“If I did (make contact), it was basically a pat on the back,” Maddon insisted. “I didn’t hit anyone.”
The umpire-manager relationship has changed over the years. The umpires no longer can get away with a personal vendetta or hazing that occurred until the mid-1990s.
“Baseball has done a really good job of coaching umpires,” Maddon said. “They have many supervisors. Back in the day, if they had a supervisor, he was just there to take them out for beer and cigars. Now, they are really being scrutinized. They have done a great job. It is much more difficult to have a rouge umpire set someone up as an example, based on all the scrutiny involved.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.