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Brett Lawrie’s suspension is ridiculously light

May 16, 2012, 5:26 PM EDT

Brett Lawrie Reuters

No matter the circumstances, no major league umpire should ever feel unsafe on the field. MLB simply didn’t do enough to protect its men in blue Wednesday by handing Brett Lawrie a mere four-game suspension for his outburst in Tuesday’s game.

Lawrie’s helmet spike was no mere accident. I’m certainly not going to argue that he intended to injure home-plate umpire Bill Miller, but he could have. He knew exactly where Miller was when he spiked the helmet in that direction. Furthermore, he remained aggressive afterwards, and Miller may well have spent a couple of split-seconds wondering if he was going to get punched.

There’s an awful lot to like about Lawrie’s play on the field, but the 22-year-old has plenty of growing up to do. That he was so completely out of control last night should have earned him a 10-game suspension from the league. The lesser penalty is a slap in the face to those making the calls on the field.

  1. lunt101 - May 16, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    The real slap in the face were those 2 strike calls.

    • The Common Man - May 16, 2012 at 5:39 PM

      That, right there, is a bullshit argument. The calls and the meltdown are completely separate issue.

      • Matthew Pouliot - May 16, 2012 at 5:45 PM

        I’m with TCM… regardless of what Miller did — and the best that can be said about him is that he let Lawrie’s actions after the original ball four influence the the call on the final pitch — Lawrie is the one who turned violent and thus deserves a lengthy suspension.

        Miller probably deserves a week of unpaid leave anyway.

      • legend72 - May 16, 2012 at 5:52 PM

        How are they separate issues? If the ump does his job properly Lawrie is rightfully on first base and there is no meltdown. The ump exascerbated the situation and like previous posters wrote… needs to be held accountable in some manner. Lawrie clearly didn’t throw the helmet at him.

        I love the idea of having the umps blown call averages on display… I also think having the umps have some fear of making bad calls (not physical threats) but some type of repurcussions is a good thing.

      • phillyphreak - May 16, 2012 at 6:05 PM

        “but some type of repurcussions is a good thing.”

        – Those repercussions should come from the league in the form of fines and suspensions (at a much higher rate than we presume actually happen) not from players on the field. Plenty of players get called out on questionable/atrocious calls, but few react the way Lawrie did.

      • lunt101 - May 16, 2012 at 6:11 PM

        I agree, they are. But to say a 4-game suspension is a slap in the face to umps? That’s absurd. The guy was never in any danger and he knew it.

        Don’t make horrible calls with the intention of trying to get under a player’s skin and guys won’t blow up on you. Simple as that.

      • frank433 - May 16, 2012 at 6:34 PM

        Legend, look up Galarraga, Armando to see a proper way to treat a bad/blown call.

      • Lukehart80 - May 16, 2012 at 6:44 PM

        It’s disappointing that so many people think an incorrect call justifies Lawrie’s overreaction. There should absolutely be scrutiny of umpires’ calls and high standards for what it takes to remain a big league umpire, but that doesn’t mean players should be allowed to lose their mind and behave the way Lawrie did. If you bump into me on a street corner and knock a sandwich out of my hands, it doesn’t give me the right to push you into traffic.

      • sabatimus - May 16, 2012 at 7:08 PM

        Totally agree. Completely separate. It is up to any adult to be responsible for his/her actions, and the pathetic 4 games off is basically telling Lawrie that it’s ok to do what he did. I’m amazed that people cannot see that, even though both calls were pretty much crap, Lawrie was the first who brought violence to the table and was unable or unwilling to control himself. Even if the ump is a total shithead, that does NOT justify Lawrie’s behavior. He should’ve gotten 10 games easy.

    • proudlycanadian - May 16, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      Obviously MLB believes that the ump was not an innocent party. The ump screwed up. The called third strike 3 was probably in retaliation for a perception that Lawrie showed him up on the blown call on the previous pitch. MLB correctly believes that Lawrie did not throw his helmet at the umpire.

      • Lukehart80 - May 16, 2012 at 6:48 PM

        He very clearly intended to throw his helmet in the general direction and close proximity of the umpire. That Lawrie probably did not intend for his helmet to actually hit Miller is largely besides the point. Actions have consequences, which is why we teach children not to lash out blindly.

      • proudlycanadian - May 16, 2012 at 6:56 PM

        I am sure that you do not really want to sound like a politically correct sensitive new age guy Luke, but seriously. Isn’t the USA the country that once revolted against British authority? I sometimes wonder what has happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave. At times the USA seems to have been taken over by wimps.

      • sabatimus - May 16, 2012 at 7:09 PM

        proudly, are you seriously comparing this to the Revolution or 1812? That’s 100% absurd.

      • proudlycanadian - May 16, 2012 at 7:17 PM

        1812 was absurd. You attacked us and got nowhere.

      • Lukehart80 - May 16, 2012 at 7:49 PM

        I don’t really care that much if someone thinks I’m “sensitive” or “new age.” I care about being right, and in this case, I believe I am. Besides, labels like those are used derogatorily when someone can’t think of a better argument against others’ opinions.

        What Lawrie’s tantrum has to do with the American Revolution is beyond me, but maybe that teach that part of history a little differently north of the border.

    • buddaley - May 16, 2012 at 7:29 PM

      So if I feel cheated by someone’s poor judgment or perceived incompetence, I am justified-or less culpable than otherwise-should I decide in the heat of the moment to hurl a hard object near enough to him to hit him?

      I don’t think the umpire calls are the issue at all, nor do I think that citing Lawrie’s ultra competitive nature in any way exonerates him or diminishes his culpability. I don’t even think intention is the issue-that he did not mean to hit the umpire. In his fury, he hurled an object near another person. That is criminal behavior. The 4 game suspension is a joke.

      Incidentally, some people are referring to Delmon’s bat throwing incident as comparable. At the time, while I would not claim the act as absolute evidence of his bad character, I had no problem with the 50 game suspension. I do not claim Lawry is a bad person based on this meltdown, but what he did was reprehensible and requires a severe penalty.

      This notion that justified anger also justifies-or mitigates- a violent reaction is absurd. It is no more legitimate in a game than it would be in an office or on a sidewalk.

    • vallewho - May 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM

      No matter the circumstances, no major league player should ever feel like he’s playing against more than the nine guys with different uniforms on the field. MLB simply doesn’t do enough to protect the integrity of the games played, as some of the “men in blue” take it upon themselves to alter the outcome of games, sometimes it seems out of spite (because “someone showed them up”), or pure incompetence.

      Everyone / everything has a breaking point. What will it take for MLB to act?

      I’ll start feeling sympathy for umpires once MLB starts addressing the horrible job some of these folks do day in and day out.

  2. salvomania - May 16, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    Yadier Molina got 5 games last year for his errant spittle.

    • vallewho - May 16, 2012 at 11:34 PM

      A player throws a helmet to the ground, bounces and nicks the umpire in the hip and he’s suspended for four games.

      A pitcher intentionally throws a 92mph fastball squarely at a batter, admits to it, and he get a 5 games suspension with a wink.

      Seems fair. MLB is certainly on top of things.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 17, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      Although I called Lawries suspension out at (5-7) games…you make a valid point Salvo.

  3. sasquash20 - May 16, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    I think it is way too long. 2 games suspended, 1 game after appeal.

  4. davebrownspiral - May 16, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    They should have suspended Miller for his awful strike calls.

  5. rbkahn - May 16, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Less than I thought it would be, but the ump should probably be suspended for injecting himself into the game like that.

    • The Baseball Idiot - May 16, 2012 at 5:55 PM

      You mean having the audacity to call balls and strikes while working behind the plate?
      Yeah, he put himself right in the middle of it.

      • randomdigits - May 16, 2012 at 6:04 PM

        yea, with his delayed and probably retaliatory strike calls.

      • proudlycanadian - May 16, 2012 at 6:04 PM

        He was making up the strike zone and was calling balls strikes.

      • vanmorrissey - May 16, 2012 at 6:55 PM

        No the ‘audacity’ was calling balls strikes, which crippled Toronto’s chance to get something going to make a comeback in the game down by one run in the bottom of the ninth. That bloat Miller affected the outcome of the game with his blatantly terrible calls, and that’s on him, he put that on himself. Don’t come off as some sort of outraged fan when if it was your team or you were playing the game and the ump takes any chance of a comeback away, that you wouldn’t be the first to complain, like they don’t make mistakes? He was definitely thinking of his postgame meal and drink so he should have gotten a load of crap. That holier than thou BS arguments don’t hold any water. Period.

  6. nlfan865 - May 16, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    throw in the public announcement of what fate the umpire must endure for such a lowsy display and excecution of his responsibilities and it might seem somewhat understandable…until then its too much…the umps have to be accountable in the public eye as well…that was a horrible call and it should be on display before every pitch just like a players batting avg

  7. largebill - May 16, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    What upsets me is Joe Torre is in my fantasy league and he has Lawrie on his roster.

  8. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 16, 2012 at 5:44 PM

    I wonder if the ump made some incendiary comments to Lawrie.

    I have a feeling the kid’s strike zone the rest of the year will hurt worse than a suspension.

  9. 32bigg - May 16, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    That ump wanted to call his own game with no consequences. I’m glad Lawrie got in his face, and I hope he needed a change of underwear after the game. If Lawrie scared that incompetent ump into keeping himself out of the game in the future, then he accomplished something that MLB hasn’t been able to accomplish.

    Sorry ump, their were consequences. And I loved it!

  10. mydadyourmom - May 16, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    four games seems right to me. some real pussboy’s around here. oh my, he got clipped with a helmet. haha, grow a sac. the ump should be suspended two games for his horseshat behaviour. Go Jays!

  11. beefytrout - May 16, 2012 at 5:47 PM

    Don’t worry, everyone… the Blue Jays play the Phillies in June. Proper old school discipline will be meted out.

  12. WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 16, 2012 at 5:52 PM

    Lawrie should be suspended for a month for such a ridiculous act. You’re a professional, and you have a job to do. Don’t be a baby about it, bad calls or not.

    • proudlycanadian - May 16, 2012 at 5:58 PM

      Matt Stairs would disagree with you.

      • proudlycanadian - May 16, 2012 at 6:14 PM

        You forget that Stairs is a Canadian hockey player and is feisty in his own way.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 17, 2012 at 12:46 PM

        PC: “I sometimes wonder what has happened to the land of the free and the home of the brave. At times the USA seems to have been taken over by wimps.”
        That makes two of us PC!

  13. paint771 - May 16, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    Four game seems about right to me too. We can’t know for sure, but I also think there’s a strong possibility that Miller’s third strike call was “Old School” retaliation for Lawrie’s reaction to his second, or at least that’s what it seemed to me. I’m not one of those “umps have to be accountable” guys at all, so I’m not even saying that should have been taken into account in terms of Lawrie’s punishment, but it does seem to me to be a possibility at least worth acknowledging.

    In any case, 10 games would have been for physical contact, a fine for throwing equipment on the field, so 4 game seems reasonable for doing the latter and inadvertently resulting in the former. Precisely nobody believes Lawrie’s intent here was to make contact with the ump, and that’s not unimportant.

    In the bigger picture of things, I think Brunt has it right. Tut-tuting Lawrie’s tantrum and umps being too big for their britches is all well and good, but at least for now that’s the game – both player and manager ejections and the “human element” – and the real issue for the Jays is going to be getting a reputation among the umpire corps for being crybabies or outright hostile, and that’s bad for the club far beyond the difference between a 4 or a 10 game suspension.

  14. xmatt0926x - May 16, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    I just saw on ESPN that the ump was also hit by a bottle of water thrown by a Jays fan after the game as he and the other umps were walking off. Those Canadians are living the thug life aren’t they?

    • mydadyourmom - May 16, 2012 at 6:08 PM

      He even called that a strike, the fat pig.

    • sabatimus - May 16, 2012 at 7:11 PM

      It was beer, but in any case, your bigotry does not go unnoticed.

  15. jason9696 - May 16, 2012 at 6:20 PM

    How many games did the fan get for hitting the umpire with a beer at the end of the game?

    • proudlycanadian - May 16, 2012 at 6:27 PM

      The cup of beer was only a quarter full. He gets fined for the waste of good Canadian beer. Now if he had doused him with Coke, it would be a different matter.

      • Old Gator - May 17, 2012 at 12:19 AM

        And if he had thrown a smoked meat sandwich at him and wasted a perfectly good lunch, having to stop a McDonald’s on the way home would have been punishment enough.

      • proudlycanadian - May 17, 2012 at 12:26 AM

        Hi Gator. See my new entry near the top of the “Bret Lawrie suspended for four games for his helmet toss” thread. Good night

  16. jaysfan64 - May 16, 2012 at 6:40 PM

    Light, yes… I expected 7 to 10… not condoning Lawrie’s actions but he was right to be pissed… yes being rung up on ball 5 and Lawrie’s meltdown are 2 separate incidents but related…however if YEscobar doesn’t drop that double play ball in the 7th then I doubt all this happens…

  17. randygnyc - May 16, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    Just as players police themselves and administer “justice” on the field (see Cole Hammels), umpires surely do. There is no doubt that the fraternity of umpires won’t like this decision. I’d venture to say this is going to affect Lawrie’s batting average by 20 points this year. Some umpires have admitted to holding grudges over the entire course of a players career.

  18. stevem7 - May 16, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    Sorry Mathew but you are FLAT out wrong. By your comments you enable the umpire to be totally unprofessional and feel he should be protected for his bad conduct. I say bad conduct because this umpire has received countless discs over the last 4 or 5 years from every time he works home plate and he continues making the same bad calls with no accountability. He does not learn from the discs which show him visual proof of his shortcomings. So stop throwing rocks at Lawrie and instead take the umpire to task for not living up to the standards of a Doug Harvey or a Dutch Rennard. It was Umpire Miller’s unprofessional conduct that led to this incident and he should not be protected for it.

    • sabatimus - May 16, 2012 at 7:23 PM

      You’re saying that Lawrie ought to be allowed to throw his helmet at the umpire’s feet? Utter nonsense. I don’t care if Miller blows every single call he ever makes–the violent statement by Lawrie is NOT justified. The anger itself might be justifed, but you simply do NOT do it that way–you go into the clubhouse and do it in other ways. By the way, Pouliot did take Miller to task.

  19. alamarco - May 16, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    These Lawrie posts on HardballTalk are making me think twice about reading this website. Absolutely ridiculous the amount of hate and spite aimed at Lawrie right now. He got 4 games and you say ridiculously light?

    What about Molina only getting 5 games for bumping and spitting at an ump? I can’t believe what I’m reading right now. I thought this was a professional website. Not a website that has personal vendetta’s running.

    • Gobias Industries - May 16, 2012 at 7:54 PM

      Well let’s not carried away or anything.

    • Lukehart80 - May 16, 2012 at 8:09 PM

      Lawrie’s outburst was worse than Molina’s.

      • alamarco - May 16, 2012 at 9:04 PM

        Are you joking or being serious?

        Throwing a helmet at the ground and having it hit the umpire when it could have bounced anywhere is worse than spitting at an official and making physical contact? Physical contact alone is worse let alone the act of degrading a human by spitting on them.

      • Lukehart80 - May 16, 2012 at 10:53 PM

        The spitting was a result of Molina screaming wildly in his face, more of a “say it, don’t spray it” situation. I don’t think Molina’s was a particularly impressive display either, but not as bad as forcefully throwing a solid object at someone in anger.

        “It could have bounced anywhere,” you say, which I suppose is true. Given the circumstances, “anywhere” was pretty likely to be “into the umpire,” it’s not as if he threw it and had it take some wild carom off a wall and into Miller, it was spiked about a foot away and the most likely direction for it to take upon landing was into the man.

      • alamarco - May 16, 2012 at 11:09 PM

        The same can be said for Molina. If you say given the circumstances that the spiked helmet was pretty likely going to hit the umpire, the same can be said for Molina. When he gets up in the umpires face and can’t control his bodily fluids, it’s going to land on the ump.

        These types of issues are deep rooted in MLB. In no other sport are you allowed to sit there and yell at the official. In the MLB you can yell and more than likely not get tossed unless you take it too far. Instead of letting the players and managers go ape shit and eventually run into these situations, stop it before it gets too far. Take it like the NBA with the warning/technicals before ejections.

      • Lukehart80 - May 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM

        I agree. I’d be in favor of a system that didn’t allow players to scream in umps’ faces without repercussions. Doesn’t that require suspending players like Lawrie who go off as heatedly as he did though?

  20. alamarco - May 16, 2012 at 7:46 PM

    To be honest, it almost seems like these posts are meant to get hits. If true, that’s extremely low for what should be a professional website.

    • spindervish - May 16, 2012 at 8:17 PM

      Yeah, “professionals” definitely tend to be thoroughly unconcerned with maximizing profitability. Quality observation there Pollyanna.

      • alamarco - May 16, 2012 at 9:01 PM

        Looks like you don’t know any real professionals. Professionals care about the content. Hits are an after thought as hits come from having good content.

        Getting the flashy hits are not what professionals are about. Those are amateurs who know not what they write.

  21. charlutes - May 16, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    Do you actually believe this? This blogger, whoever he is, is an idiot.

    Cole Hamels throws at a guy just like Lawrie: Young, brash, excitable, fun…probably a little too fun for 91 year old Pouliosis the idiot blog writer, and he gets a day off….and this is light punishment?

    tell me, what’s more dangerous, throwing a hardball at a guy or bouncing a helmet at an idiot ump who made terrible calls all game?

    do u even watch baseball? clown.

  22. charlutes - May 16, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    I just can’t help myself, once again, your an idiot. your probably lashing out from a childhood of being bullied by guys like lawrie you lemming.

  23. canof - May 16, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    I’m tired of officials believing that they are above scrutiny and that no matter what they have the last say. It’s been BS for so long now, people continue to accept it as part of the game. Lawrie wrong, but more scrutiny of an umpire’s abilities is needed. I can’t remember if the umpire who blew the out call at first base in the near perfect game ever got suspended or even admonished. Sure he cried, big deal. He could have had the balls to go to the home plate umpire (who also has a perfect view of the play) and get an opinion, but no it is more important for the umps to carry this misconception that they are right all the time. That said, Lawrie should never argue balls and strikes as the umpires do not have the same one from game to game and never will. I say it’s high time to take the guess work out of the more important calls i.e. winning run, bottom of the ninth, safe or out. It’s also not fair that the ump can grin behind the mask when he knows on the next pitch he’s going to screw you and you can’t see it, LMAO.

  24. mydadyourmom - May 16, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    I love Brett Lawrie. And the Jays. And the beer throwing fan. And proudly Canadian. And all Canadians. And some Americans. And the Sabres. And Buck Martinez. But not Miller the chubby umpire.

  25. DJ MC - May 17, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    There is a real-world counterpart to this situation in vigilante justice. Many times, people who commit crimes and who are obviously guilty end up receiving either a punishment far too light, or none altogether. This can cause someone to decide that the system has failed and they need to take the law into their own hands.

    When this happens, it is not something to be celebrated. In fact, those involved should be charged and punished just as with any other similar crime. Yet it should be asked what drove that person to their actions, and what changes should be made to fix the underlying problems?

    Instead of simply turning the vitriol from one criminal to another, we should look to punish and fix at the same time.

    Lawrie should have been suspended, and likely longer than four games. Even if he didn’t truly intend to hit the umpire with his helmet (and honestly, I don’t believe for a second that he meant for anything other than simply to slam his helmet onto the turf) that action and his overall reaction deserve punishment. However, turning this into just an attack on Lawrie ignores the problem baseball has with the discipline of umpires. I can say that I have very little regard for them both individually and as a group, and the actions (or apparent inactions) of Major League Baseball to protect their integrity only backfire and bring more criticism upon the profession. The use of the Internet and other advanced technology only makes criticism easier and more obvious.

    So while we rightfully chastise Brett Lawrie for his mistakes, we need to rightfully chastise the umpire for his. To do otherwise only makes the underlying problem worse, and may lead to further terrible incidents in the future.

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