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Umpire John Hirschbeck goes looking for trouble, finds it

May 5, 2013, 7:20 PM EDT

bryce harper getty Getty Images

I have long believed that an umpire is best seen and not heard, a line often used to describe children. Like children, some umpires tend to think they are the center of attention and their offenses are of the utmost importance. John Hirschbeck was among them this afternoon, when he went looking for a confrontation and found it in Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.

Harper check-swung on a 2-2 slider from Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez, which just barely escaped the edge of the strike zone. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson appealed to third base umpire Hirschbeck, who ruled that Harper had swung at the offering. Harper, exasperated, expressed his disagreement with the call some 100 feet away. Hirschbeck immediately threw up his hands and yelled at Harper, like a drunk guy looking for trouble in a bar. He walked towards home plate, continuing to gesticulate and shout as Harper quietly talked to Davidson from the batter’s box. Third base coach Trent Jewett intercepted Hirschbeck as he stomped towards Harper, but it was no matter as Hirschbeck ejected Harper from the game shortly thereafter.

This reminds me of an altercation a few years ago between Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and third base umpire Scott Barry. The circumstances were similar, though much later in the game. Barry, like Hirschbeck, was looking for a fight and got one. He ejected Howard in the bottom of the 14th inning, which forced the Phillies to use Roy Oswalt in left field.

I bring that up only as a secondary example to what happened this afternoon. An umpire should never be looking for a fight; rather, an umpire should always be striving to prevent one when possible. Like a customer service employee being yelled at by an unhappy customer, an umpire should stand statuesque, speaking calmly (or not at all). Hirschbeck’s behavior this afternoon is Exhibit A  when baseball fans plead for less reliance on “the human element”.

Watch the conflict:

110 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. ayblincoln - May 5, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    same ump that was spit on by Roberto Alomar in 1996

    • BigGreen89 - May 5, 2013 at 8:56 PM

      Roberto Alomar — a man ahead of his time…

  2. tfbuckfutter - May 5, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    The whole “showing up the ump” is a bunch of bullshit.

    Football players “show up” the referees all the time.

    They are fined by the league office after review for the behavior.

    Being able to eject players on a whim gives the umps WAY too much power.

    • djpostl - May 5, 2013 at 9:44 PM

      Lol, you’re using the penal colony that is the NFL as an argument…

      • tfbuckfutter - May 5, 2013 at 9:58 PM

        Even a fool can show you something you haven’t seen before.

      • djpostl - May 5, 2013 at 10:03 PM

        Well, Lord knows the NFL is chock full of them. I just think that “do it the NFL way” isn’t much of a rationale.

        That being said, MLB could stand to rein their umps in some. Guys like Davidson, Hirschbeck, Angle Hernandez, Joe West, C.B. Bucknor etc.. are Grade A assclowns.

      • indaburg - May 6, 2013 at 6:27 AM

        Hey Mr. Dj, go on. Your list of a-hole umps is too short. Etc isn’t cutting it.

  3. soxfan34110 - May 5, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    Hirschbeck was totally unprofessional and should be fined and suspended. People pay to see Harper, not an old man with a power trip. MLB needs to crack down on Umps like this b4 they start ruining the fan experience.

    • baseballisboring - May 6, 2013 at 6:09 AM

      SO true, I’d be furious if I were in the stands for that game and maybe the best, but definitely the most exciting player on the field got ejected over some petty nonsense. This egotistical moron should ump a few weeks in AAA til he remembers that he’s nothing more than an impartial judge, and NO ONE gives a shit what he gets “offended” by.

      Another part that’s irksome is that it’s Bryce Harper. You know if it was Jayson Werth he wouldn’t have gotten ejected that fast. It’s definitely a “get this damn kid off my lawn!” type of thing. Embarrassing and harmful to the sport…and he will face no repercussions.

      • blacksables - May 6, 2013 at 6:26 AM

        You’re a fucking idiot. It was not ‘petty nonsense’. What Harper did is clearly a violation of the rules. Read the rule book sometime and find out what it says.

        Also, this clip, and this post only address one short segment of time. You don’t what Harper has done or said on previous pitches. Additionally, if you knew anything about the game of baseball, you would know that 3rd base umpire works the plate the previous day. So Hirschbeck probably had an earful the night before from the obnoxious little prick that has no respect for anyone in the game.

        There are rules in the game, and they are there for a reason, but you people here have no respect for anything. Not rules, not authority, and certainly not for any one who gets in the way of your fantasy world.

        This is not Harper’s first incident with an umpire. He’s a disrespectful, arrogant, childish prick and people just keep encouraging his behavior while failing to address his issues. No wonder he has such a sense of entitlement.

        It’s simple. Harper broke the rules. He was ejected, fairly. But since most of you here don’t actually know the rules or the game, it’s completely understand you don’t have a clue about anything. I really fear for the children of this country if they’re being raise by people who find Harper’s actions acceptable.

        Or I guess you all are prepared for this to happen:

        http://msn.foxsports.com/olympics/soccer/story/family-of-dead-utah-referee-holds-candlelight-vigil-050513

      • lucien7116 - May 6, 2013 at 8:22 AM

        I was at the game…it was an Ump show all the way…”blacksbles” comment below (for which there is no reply button) is way off and he sounds like a relative of Hirshbeck. Hirshbeck is playing fast and loose with the sequence of events and the bat and helmet were not “slammed”. Hirshbeck is a crew chief and therefore needs to set a better example. That wasn’t even a bad exchange…I saw worse last week from Joey Votto, two games in a row, literally spiking the bat and helmet and nothing but crickets from the Umps. So I don’t buy that previous night argument. The game went on, Votto kept playing. Also the night before Prince Fielder arguing balls and strikes, quite animated, no ejection, and he definitely “showing up” the ump.
        Also the game before, Harper swung at nearly every first pitch, He probably saw only 6 pitches in 4 at bats (I was at that game also) I don’t think he had a called strike and wasn’t at the plate long enough to get in a beef with Hirshbeck. This just illustrates that Hirshbeck was headhunting…he’s done it before over the years.
        And since you feel the need to offer personal conjecture to someone you have no ides about….You sound like you resentment issues with Harper having talent and you have the need to try to tear him down. The whole post reeks of your insecurity. That’s little.

        But I bet you thought it made you feel better about yourself, right?

      • voteforno6 - May 6, 2013 at 8:29 AM

        Really blacksables? A player gets in an argument with an umpire and gets ejected, which means that he might eventually kill an umpire. I don’t know who you are, and judging by your comment I don’t want to. I can say with a great deal of certainly that you are the idiot here.

      • washstnative - May 6, 2013 at 9:41 AM

        Anything that gets Harper to ride the Pine is a good thing. He will get more than enough breaks through his career ala A-Rod, etc.

    • lucien7116 - May 6, 2013 at 8:29 AM

      Hirschbeck is an argument for video review and electronic umpiring. He makes it easy to want to take away the human element in umpiring.

      • bigbenh8tr - May 6, 2013 at 11:10 AM

        blacksables
        ____________________________________________________________________________
        Get off your high horse, there is nothing worse than a sports snob he thinks his knowledge is superior to everyone else. I’m guessing you are from philly pittsburgh or Ny by your ignorant post related to Harper. The kid has more respect for the game than 95% of the guys in MLB. Ask anyone in the Nats clubhouse and they love him, Davy said it’s hard to be around him on game days because he’s so focused/zoned in and just loves baseball more than anything.

        Same guy that routinely stretches a single into a double
        Same guy who is outside the stadium before/after games signing more autographs than the opposing teams players combined.

        Same guy who did nothing but steal home after being intentionally hit by Cole Hamels when no batter had previously been hit in the game
        Same guy who made the all-star team as a rookie
        Same guy who is going to be embarrassing your teams pitchers for the next 18 years

        Try watching the ESPN special on him and get back on here and voice your stupidity again:

  4. vallewho - May 5, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    what a disgrace.

  5. natslady - May 5, 2013 at 9:33 PM

    Not to defend Hirschbeck, who has NO REASON to mock a player, nor to approach him, but in the Alomar incident, apparently Alomar made remarks about Hirschbeck’s son, who died. That is beyond wrong, if true. From Wikipedia,

    Lip readers contend that Hirschbeck called Alomar “a faggot” as Alomar was walking away. Alomar, and other players, claimed that Hirschbeck’s personality had been extremely bitter since one son had died from adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) and another son had been diagnosed with it. Having heard Alomar’s remarks, Hirschbeck charged into the Orioles’ clubhouse the next day and he had to be restrained by a fellow umpire. Alomar was suspended for five games and required to donate $50,000 to ALD research. By October 5, Hirschbeck said he had forgiven Alomar for the incident.

    • spellingcops - May 6, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      Didn’t Davey (sp?) Johnson actually say the ump made the right call?

      • davem23 - May 8, 2013 at 7:24 AM

        Yes, it was a swing.

    • mybrunoblog - May 6, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      I believe there is universal sympathy for a parent who loses a child. That said, if the loss is effecting your work(especially a high profile job like a MLB umpire) it’s clearly time to take a leave of absence while you straighten out your emotions.
      In Hirschbecks case he seems like an egotistical bully. MLB really needs to address this.

  6. soundsofsuccess7 - May 5, 2013 at 9:43 PM

    Prime example of LPS- Little Pisser Syndrome, displayed by Hirschbeck.

    Keep up the good work, buddy. -_-

  7. djpostl - May 5, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    Hirschbeck is a douchenozzle, but….

    He’s a confrontational umpire, as is “Balkin” Bob Davidson behind the plate. You have to be aware of that.

    That in no way defends his crap but it’s something Bryce will start to figure out as he becomes more familiar with these guys (hopefully).

  8. kp20520 - May 5, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    Hirschbeck is to MLB as Joey Crawford is to NBA

  9. nygf - May 5, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    The Nationals announcers are the worst in baseball, by far. Thought they’d get some legitimate guys in there now that more people are tuning in, but it looks like I was wrong.

  10. Carl Hancock - May 6, 2013 at 12:08 AM

    Harper and the Nats should demand the league look into this incident and suspend Hirschbeck. Harper’s initial reaction didn’t warrant how Hirschbeck reacted. He was looking for a fight and that is inexcusable for an umpire.

  11. flawless0369 - May 6, 2013 at 2:22 AM

    i’m sure all the fans paid to see the ump having power trips and not the players play.

  12. tsuscrumhalf - May 6, 2013 at 3:42 AM

    From my recollection of the Alomar incident, he blew a call & Alomar commented. Then, Hirschbeck called him a fag & Alomar spit on him. After that is when Alomar made the comment about Hirschbeck’s son that set him off. But, Alomar’s initial reaction to a bad call (or a perceived bad call, I can’t remember the exact pitch) was tame & Hirshbeck said something that incited Alomar. (granted, spitting on someone is something I find totally repulsive & think Alomar was WAY wrong).

    Bottom line: HIrschbeck has days where he looks for trouble. And, on those days he finds it.

  13. xjokerz - May 6, 2013 at 5:19 AM

    He should have booted him the minute Harper thru his hands up like a baby

  14. sumerduckman - May 6, 2013 at 7:03 AM

    During the recent series with the Reds, Joey Votto threw down his bat and helmet in disgust after being stuck out by Gio , and not a peep was said by the ump.

    If Harper had done the same thing, I’m sure he would’ve been tossed.

  15. brooklynboy48 - May 6, 2013 at 9:01 AM

    Plain and simple, MLB umpiring is the worst it’s ever been and generally the umps think they’re the show. Thanks to that phony, Bud Selig, not taking an interest in improving the conditions of minor league umpires, plenty of potentially better umps walk away from the game. Plus by not disciplining the bad MLB umps and maybe firing the worst, the is virtually no turnover in their ranks. Maybe it is time to explore electronic remedies.

  16. @Cereal_22 - May 6, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    Terrible ump, always has been

  17. louhudson23 - May 6, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    The young man made sure everyone in the park saw his displeasure with the call,so the umpire made sure everyone saw his displeasure at the display……and he was not intercepted by the base coach……He stopped and told the base coach to go and handle his player…he never made it before the helmet and bat were thrown down….goodbye…..people get upset by the authoritarianism of a STOP sign these days….

    • stlouis1baseball - May 6, 2013 at 10:12 AM

      While I certainly think it was a very short leash…and I also think ejecting someone from 100 ft is extreme…Lou Hudson says it best (IMO).

  18. scoocha - May 6, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    I think the ump made the right call on the swing but it was close. After that, he should just turn his back and walk away.
    This only happens in baseball. NFL embarrasses their refs all the time (with good reason). They actually make a point of doing it. Yet another reason football took off and surpassed baseball in popularity over the last 20 years.
    It would make my day, if a crazed fan would just go out and physically punish this ump. Maybe then they’d stop the unwarranted hubris.

    • scoocha - May 8, 2013 at 11:51 PM

      Okay, to all the people that disliked my comments – care to rethink that after the terrible night the umps had tonight? Angel Hernandez is either incompetent or betting on the games.

  19. jeff10461 - May 6, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    Bad arguements:

    1. Another player in a another game (similar situation) on even a different day didn’t get ejected. Why is this relevant? If it was with the same ump it might be. Different ump, different thought process and maybe differing belief system, or maybe even in a better mood than Hirschbeck. Cops stop speeders all the time, they don’t give them all tickets!

    2. People paid to see him. Wrong, people came to see the teams play, only a fool (or scout) goes to a baseball game to see an individual play. Davey Johnson in the post game interview said he almost didn’t play Harper yesterday to give him a rest. Would the fans have been “cheated” had he done so? Two of the 4 idiots on ESPN’s Sunday night pregame show advocated Harper shouldn’t have been ejected for this reason, the other 2 remained silent. So we should let players do what they want because people really like them? Also, if not a star, fans should have no problem with ejection? People advocating this should be criticizing MLB or the teams for a lack of discipliniing their “employees” for not following the rules.

    I saw the unaltered replay of the incident, Hirshbeck may or may not been wrong with his first reaction, but he didn’t eject Harper at that point. WE ALL KNOW umps do not change decisions, so the call was going to stand and at this point Harper should have gone to the dugout with the incident over and maybe with the ump looking like an idiot. But, Harper chose to continue, including throwing his bat and helmet to the ground. Hirschbeck threw him out after the third offense, just how many chances should this jerk be given?

  20. hotwater2004 - May 6, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    Hey Elephant ears,,,,people come to see the game not your over size ego….jerk

  21. hotwater2004 - May 6, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    Maybe his nuts still hurt from a week ago ? idiot deserves to get hit ago after his elephant siz eego was hurt by Harper….

  22. dirtydrew - May 6, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    It’s not about the fat, blind super ego umpire.

  23. timpaz - May 6, 2013 at 4:04 PM

    It’s a shame when umpires like Hirsschbeck and Cowboy Joe West are allowed to act like there ones people are paying to see, gutless Selig and Torre continue to let this go on.

    • scoocha - May 8, 2013 at 12:21 AM

      Torre is super scared of umpires always has been. He used to cower in the dugout when they made bad call after bad call.

  24. negaduck - May 6, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    The umpire should make a call. Then if he does not like the players reaction to the call he can eject the player. All of this is possible without flailing arms and yelling curse words. A true professional would do it without any emotion at all.

  25. glink123 - May 6, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    I quit watching MLB back in the 80s, when all the MLB umps were 450lb fat fukx who were a total embarrassment to the sport. Not much has changed in 30 years.

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