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Umpire tells Russell Martin he has to “earn the privilege” to throw new balls back to the pitcher

May 31, 2012, 7:57 AM EDT

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

Weirdness in Anaheim.

Last night Russell Martin and home plate umpire Laz Diaz got into it over balls and strikes early in the game, but no one lost their head and Martin was not ejected. Later, however, Martin said Diaz began to mess with him:

Martin says Diaz wouldn’t allow him to throw new baseballs back to his pitchers after fouls during New York’s 6-5 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night … Martin says Diaz told him that throwing the balls was “a privilege I had to earn.”

In explaining it, Martin used a colorful metaphor to describe Diaz:

“Even at the end of the game after I get hit in the neck. I’m like, can I throw the ball back now? He’s still like no. I’m like you’re such a (expletive). Like for real. Unbelievable. I even told him like when there’s guys on base, I like to keep my arm loose. No. I’m not letting you throw a ball back. That’s pretty strange to me … I was kind of mystified. I really didn’t get that. He was punishing me.”

I have never heard of such a thing. And while umpires sometimes throw the new balls out themselves, I have certainly never heard of an umpire either insisting on throwing them or refusing to allow a catcher to do so.

If this actually went down the way Martin says it did and Diaz was petulantly messing with Martin over their earlier dispute, the guy doesn’t deserve to be officiating major league games.

  1. danaking - May 31, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    Diaz shouldn’t be umpiring major league games because he’s incompetent. Being a jerk should be just one more nail in his professional coffin. If MLB would run him, Country Joe West, Angel Hernandez, and Bob Davidson, games would be better officiated all around, as dead wood will have been cut, and other umpires will see there is a performance standard they have to meet.

    MLB made a big deal out of breaking the umpires union several years ago, only to let the new system drift back to being similar to the old.

    • Marc - May 31, 2012 at 8:33 AM

      You forgot the worst of all, CB Bucknor

  2. sictransitchris - May 31, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    You could hear Russell mouthing off a bit while shaking hands with Soriano and Andruw Jones after the game last night.

  3. purnellmeagrejr - May 31, 2012 at 8:10 AM

    while I was like reading this I’m like, this “Russselll MArtin guy must like hang out with grade school kids.” Where else would he like learn such an oddd way of expresssing himself.

    • sabatimus - May 31, 2012 at 8:44 AM

      What in the heck are you talking about?

      • spellingcops - May 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM

        He’s referring to how many times Martin (over)used the word “like.” Just like kids do. Very annoying.

      • 32bigg - May 31, 2012 at 9:30 AM

        Get over it, you probably do the same thing but use “um” instead of “like”.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 31, 2012 at 9:58 AM

      Not as odd as Laz Diaz way of expressing himself.

    • stercuilus65 - May 31, 2012 at 10:25 AM

      purnellmeagrejr – May 31, 2012 at 8:10 AM

      “while I was like reading this I’m like, this “Russselll MArtin guy must like hang out with grade school kids.” Where else would he like learn such an oddd way of expresssing himself.

      No more an “oddd” way of “expresssing” himself than how you spell “Russsell MArtin” What’s with all the extraa lettterrs?

    • cur68 - May 31, 2012 at 10:41 AM

      Us Canadians are big on the “like”, depending on where we’re from. Its our version of “y’know”, “um”, etc. My end of the country its “eh”.

      • Old Gator - May 31, 2012 at 12:50 PM

        And around Meech Lake, it’s still “uh….”

    • basedrum777 - May 31, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      Not that its the best excuse but I believe Martin’s first language is French. He’s French Canadian. So he’s doing pretty well if you ask me. I’m willing to bet you thought he was english speaking first which shows how well he’s done.

  4. antlerclaws - May 31, 2012 at 8:11 AM

    Sounds like it falls into the category of “too weird to make up”. Umpires should be sent up and down to AAA and AA with the same regularity as players. If you can’t cut it, or are too much of a butt head, you get sent down for a little while to work on your game.

  5. natstowngreg - May 31, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    What does one do to earn the privilege to throw the ball back to your own pitcher? Do you have to complete some mandatory training? Is there an experience requirement (certainly, Russell Martin meets that)? Or, is this an unwritten rule that exists only in the mind of Laz Diaz?

    Whatever, there is no excuse for it. Unless Diaz can provide a rational explanation (unlikely), this is just someone abusing his authority, it appears without accountability.

    • cur68 - May 31, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      Yup, there it is. Abuse of authority. Petty bullshit to lord is over Martin. Laz Diaz, you are an asshat.

  6. intedwetrust - May 31, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    So you’re saying an MLB umpire is a pompous, self-righteous, self-important d-bag?!?! Surely you jest!!!!

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - May 31, 2012 at 10:52 AM

      We don’t, and don’t call me Shirley!

  7. heyblueyoustink - May 31, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    So what I’ve learned from this post is that the umpires are being trained by former Gestapo or former KGB: ” You don’t have papers? Then you cannot throw ball.”

  8. jarathen - May 31, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Umpires really seem to LOVE throwing that ball back to the pitcher. They zing ’em back with gusto. Hey, ump? Do your job, and let people that fans pay to see throw do the throwing.

  9. steviep23 - May 31, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    Nazi umpire! No throw back for you!

  10. jimatkins - May 31, 2012 at 8:35 AM

    Diaz made a pretty d-bag call on a swing crossing the plate for a strikeout pretty early in the game. It looked seriously bogus on the replay (and I’m an Angel fan) – Didn’t ask for help from first base, either. The guy evidently has power and authority issues along with a lack of umpiring skills. Why do these people have these jobs? Incriminating photos of Bud Selig frolicking with church youth groups?

    • aleskel - May 31, 2012 at 10:16 AM

      Yeah, that check-swing call on ARod in the 1st was really bush league. I would not object at all of MLB enacted a rule that only the 1st and 3rd base umpires can make check-swing calls. As one of the Yankees announcers said (I think it was John Flaherty), if you’re the homeplate umpire and you have pay so much attention to the strike zone, and you have absolutely no angle to see the bat cross the plate, how the hell do you think you can make that call?

  11. Marc - May 31, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Diaz needs to keep his arm loose too. He can’t just go violently swinging his arm to toss someone from the game without getting a good stretch in first. That’s dangerous.

  12. sabatimus - May 31, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    If I were Martin I’d have thrown the ball back anyway, even if it were unusable to be pitched. I’m getting really tired of these grandstanding buttholes.

  13. Jason @ IIATMS - May 31, 2012 at 8:58 AM

    Even the bad umps (usually) ask for help from the 1B/3B umps on a check swing (if you’re watching balls/strikes, how can you see where the barrel of the bat finished?)… but not good ole Laz. He can see everything. I guess players must earn the right to ask for help from an ump with a better vantage point.

    And then there’s this issue, where Diaz tried to “big time” a MLB catcher. If there ever was a time for MLB leadership to step in and make a display, this is it. It’s one thing to make a bad call (or ten), but to simply exert their will to show up the players is inexcusable. Players get tossed and/or suspended for a similar thing, why not the umps?

    Diaz, and the others noted above, need to be removed, period.

    • The Baseball Idiot - May 31, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      The responsiblity of the intial call is the home plate umpire. He has to make the call the best he can on a checked swing.

      Because it can be a difficult call, there is an automatic appeal process by the defense. If the defensive teams asks for an appeal from the base umpire, the home plate umpire is required by rule to ask.

      That is a clarification of the rule, and nothing to do with Diaz.

  14. phillyphreak - May 31, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    More to the point, what have umpires done to “earn the right” to throw the ball back?

    • natstowngreg - May 31, 2012 at 7:13 PM

      It’s part of the home plate umpire’s job. When a ball goes out of play, the home plate umpire is responsible for putting a new ball into play. The plate umpire can throw the new baseball to the pitcher. Or, he can hand it to the catcher, who throws it to the pitcher. Normally, this is not a big deal, but Diaz chose to be abusive about it.

  15. hasbeen5 - May 31, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    If I’m Martin, I wait till Diaz throws a ball back, then I reach in his pouch and get another one and throw it out too.

    • anythingbutyanks - May 31, 2012 at 9:55 AM

      I would have called time, gone to meet with the pitcher, asked for the ball, walked back to home plate and thrown the ball to the pitcher myself.

      • dluxxx - May 31, 2012 at 10:18 AM

        Or just call time after every pitch and walk the ball out to him every time.

      • Utley's Hair - May 31, 2012 at 7:09 PM

        Aren’t Yankee games long enough as it is?

  16. Jonny 5 - May 31, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Hey, at least he didn’t kick him out instead. I’d rather see him eff with Martin than throw him out of the game. Because I’ve seen players thrown out for less.

  17. lazlosother - May 31, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    I just hope he doesn’t have to “earn the right” with his bat.

    Seriously, something has got to done. Clowns like Diaz are having entirely too much of an effect on the game, but Selig won’t do anything until it hits MLB in the pocketbook or becomes a huge embarrassment. What we need is a blog that tracks these guys and their antics, like last year when West’s crew was broken up after blogs began tracking that crew’s ejections.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 31, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      “Selig won’t do anything until it … becomes a huge embarrassment”

      If Bud had any sense of shame, we would be there already

      • edpeters101 - May 31, 2012 at 11:42 AM

        Message to Buddy boy, we don’t pay money to watch umpires!

  18. randygnyc - May 31, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    If I was Martin, I would have set up on the inside to a eighty batter, then lurched to the left like I was crossed up, all the while letting a 95 mph nova fastball glide right by into laz diaz’ nut sack. No question about it.

  19. genericcommenter - May 31, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    NBC Sports headline says ” HBT: Dodgers’ Martin, ump feud over new balls.”

  20. dirkified - May 31, 2012 at 9:56 AM

    Fire all these idiots, make a computerized strike zone so every call is called right 100% of the time. Get rid of these guys who want to be famous like ballplayers and can only do it by acting like morons.

  21. stopthewave - May 31, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    Laz Diaz is the same guy that ruled Brandon McCarthy didn’t catch a pop-bunt against the Rangers even though he very clearly did and Fiaz was screened by the catcher. He then refused to ask another umpire for help on the play.

    • dirkified - May 31, 2012 at 11:14 AM

      As a Ranger fan, you guys really got screwed by this idiot. It may ahve change the outcome of the game.

  22. alamosweet - May 31, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    If I read this story about an ump from 19-dickety-six, I would think it charming and hilarious. Come to think of it, even in 2012 I think it’s charming and hilarious.

  23. ezthinking - May 31, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    Sick Hawk Harrelson on him!

  24. steve7921 - May 31, 2012 at 10:16 AM

    I would bet there are a lot of things that go on between a catcher and umpire that are “weird” and “petty” but are never discussed to the media. I agree that if this truly did happen, Diaz was wrong but what has Martin gained? His pitchers will probably not get close calls and he himself will not get the benefit of the doubt in his at-bats….especially if the umpires are “such a (expletive).”

  25. woody82986 - May 31, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    Martin should have called for a high fastball and ducked under it. Only if the situation called for a waste pitch, of course. I really loathe substandard umpires and I outright hate umps with authority issues.

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