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John Hirschbeck tried to pick a fight with Yasiel Puig

Aug 20, 2013, 12:30 PM EDT

I didn’t see this happen and can’t find video, but Jeff S., a reader and HBT correspondent, alerts me to something that happened in last night’s Dodgers-Marlins game.

In the fifth inning, Yasiel Puig struck out. Strike two was a bad call. After the call and after the strikeout, Puig didn’t say a word to home plate umpire John Hirschbeck. He rolled his eyes and showed some displeasure as he walked, but barely turned his head.  No biggie, right? Small beer in the grand scheme of players being upset at umpires’ calls?

Except then Hirschbeck ripped off his mask and yelled at Puig, apparently trying to goad him into an angry reaction.

source: Getty Images

Why are umps allowed to jaw at players and managers? If the player gets out of line, sure, eject them. But when someone merely rolls their eyes or notes his disapproval with a call — and when the player is all the way back to the dugout — why shouldn’t the ump be expected to keep doing his job and ignore it? What possible reason does Hirschbeck have for staring down Puig like this?

It has nothing to do with his authority being undermined. Indeed, by not reacting at all to the player, the umpire would be showing him that his authority is not even subject to being questioned.

Maybe that’s harder than it sounds, but it’s what the goal should be.

  1. skerney - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    It’s the Human Element, Craig. Duh.

    • moogro - Aug 20, 2013 at 6:35 PM

      Why was that human making a balls and strike call?

  2. waiverclaim - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    UMP. SHOW.

    #umpshow

  3. goskinsvt - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    • section138 - Aug 20, 2013 at 4:58 PM

      I hope this link works, I hope this link works, I hope this link works.

      http://bit.ly/14h4aHd

      I bet it didn’t work, did it? Is there a goddamn instruction manual for what WordPress allows in comments?

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 21, 2013 at 5:24 PM

        It worked…and it was damned funny!

  4. hammyofdoom - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    Seriously, an ump should be totally non-confrontational. If a player gets up in his face, he should kick him out then stand there, nodding and not spreading his plumage like a bird trying to pick a fight. Also, I think it should be a suspension if an ump tries to START something, since that obviously goes against his goddamn job description.

    Blown calls upset me, this stuff infuriates me

    • ahenobarbuso - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      This sort of reminds me of how Ron Kulpa got in A.J. Pierzynski’s face last week after he botched what should have been a strike three call (ultimately ending in a walk), then proceeded to toss him out of the game.

      Not only did he ruin a perfect game attempt, but Kulpa additionally felt it was necessary to aggravate the catcher and toss the him out of the game in what was still a no-hitter bid. I don’t even care if A.J. said anything to start the whole confrontation, after that horrible call Kulpa deserved to hear the truth about himself.

      These umpires need to learn their place!

  5. kpk59 - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    What’s bizarre is the difference in how a certain four letter sports network covered this incident: “During Monday night’s 6-2 loss to the Miami Marlins, Mattingly had to walk out and make peace with an umpire after Puig inexplicably erupted at John Hirschbeck after a three-pitch strikeout in the fifth inning…Monday’s dispute started with Puig glaring at Hirschbeck.”

    • hammyofdoom - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      A…are you joking? Please tell me you’re joking…

  6. beavertonsteve - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Based on Hirschbeck’s behavior you have to wonder if he has some bias against Puig to begin with. Then you start to wonder if Hirschbeck wants to see Puig strike out. Either way, if he can’t handle a reaction like that from a player he’s in the wrong line of work.

  7. 1981titan - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Maybe, like Crash Davis he mumbled a magic word and Hirschbeck needed more to run him.

    • ctony1216 - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:08 PM

      Here’s what happened, according to CBSLA.com:

      “After swinging and missing at a fastball, home plate umpire John Hirschbeck called a strike on a ball that appeared off the plate. Puig reacted to the call by staring at Hirschbeck for four or five seconds. The next pitch, a high fastball out of the zone, was swung on and missed, and before anyone knew it, Hirschbeck took his mask off and was barking at Puig, who had apparently said something on his way to the dugout.

      The vocals continued back and forth for some time, with Juan Uribe trying in vain to settle the Wild Horse, who was anything but subtle in his displeasure with the calls from behind the plate.”

      Link: http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/08/19/marlins-drop-dodgers-6-2-in-series-opener/

      • ctony1216 - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        According to Mattingly: “[Puig] didn’t say anything. He walked away.” (That’s from Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.)

        Gurnick also wrote that Puig gave Hirschbeck a “dirty look,” whatever that means.

        Interesting how three different reporters saw things and reported them. ESPN and CBSLA both assumed Puig had said something. The “look” Puig gave Hirschbeck was “dirty” or a 4-second stare, or a roll of the eyes.

        No one mentioned that Hirschbeck might have overreacted, although Gurnick suggests “umpires were testing the rookie.”

        http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2013_08_19_lanmlb_miamlb_1&mode=recap_away&c_id=la

      • robmoore - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        I was watching the game on MLB.TV, and this is what I saw – in the replay the Dodger feed showed, it was clear that Puig did do a bit of a staredown after the border line strike call, but then walked away with out saying anything after strike three, at which point Hirschbeck jawed at him; then Puig got pissed when he was back in the dugout and Uribe had to pull him down into the dugout to calm him down so he wouldn’t get ejected. So neither one was blameless, though I think the umpire needs to be more professional in that situation.

  8. Uncle Charlie - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:42 PM

    Rock solid journalism.

  9. chacochicken - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    They are the policemen of the…wait that’s not a good example.
    They are like the lawyers of th…no won’t even finish that one.
    They are the judges…damn it.

    Robots.
    Thanks, Hirschbeck, this is why Skynet tried to kill us all.

  10. modellforprez - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    I have been convinced these piece of crap umps really make the game about themselves. seriously the league should make the umps make the right calls and what i mean is one game the strike zone is huge and you get everything next game the strike is shrivled. its a joke and the more i see the more i want a computer GETTING IT RIGHT!!!! Also i hope Jerry Meals Croaks

    • tigersfandan - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:25 PM

      You hope he croaks? That’s a much more crappy attitude than Hirschbeck’s.

  11. alexo0 - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:46 PM

    1st Commandment of Baseball: Thou shalt not question your umpire, lest he smite thee gone. Neither ball nor strike. Neither safe or out. Neither ball over the fence, nor anything still within.

  12. chiadam - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    My least favorite thing in sports (other than, you know, ESPN) is MLB umpires. They’re assbags. Officials in every other sport get yelled, and officials in every other sport act like professionals and ignore it. MLB umpires go out of their way not only to engage in combat, but to encite it.

    • Panda Claus - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:36 PM

      I understand your point, but really it seems to be just the same handful of high-strung umpires that we’re always talking about. The few bad eggs make all the other competent umpires look bad in comparison.

      But why should MLB or the Mighty Umpires Union try to fix the problem? Well to start with, it would be in the “best interest of baseball” Mr. Selig.

  13. poprox13 - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    video is here….

    http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:9583825

  14. historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Look, I get mad at umps too. I’m still PO’d about Max Scherzer getting tossed from the dugout last week. (Seriously?) But, expecting them to be emotionless or never have a personal reaction is dumb and pointless.

    And some of y’all with your attitudes could use a Star Trek marathon. Sheesh.

    • tigersfandan - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:29 PM

      I’m glad somebody uses common sense instead of rushing in to join the witch hunt.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      No it’s not. It’s uncalled for and in many sports, would get you fired from your respective duties. Is it really too much to ask for the umps to not pick fights with players?

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:19 PM

        You’re entitled to your opinion on that.

      • blacksables - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:34 PM

        Is it too much to ask for the players to follow the rule book and not be dicks?

        If a playere wants to show up an umpire and treat him badly, he doesn’t have the right to complain when the ump tosses him.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        Explain why in all the major sports, only MLB umps get in the players faces? Watch a Real/Barca game, and it’s inevitable that their were will be a bad foul. The entire team will accost the referee, who will just sit there and take the abuse. The most he’ll do is shoo the players away and award a free kick. NBA refs get demonstrative with their calls, but they don’t chase down players looking to get into a fight like MLB umps do. NFL refs hear the absolute worst from head coaches, and side line judges get it 10x as bad, but they don’t go after players either. I don’t even think the NHL players say anything bad to the referees…

        What is it about baseball then? Why can all other sports officials act like adults and MLB umps act like children?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:44 PM

        Watch a Real/Barca game, and it’s inevitable that their were will be a bad foul.

        sigh, that there will be a bad foul. me speek gud englesh.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        I can’t really respond to that because I don’t watch other sports for the most part. I have no frame of reference for discussing that then. That said, I have no problem in refusing to let umps take a bunch of crap just because. I think saying they should because refs/umps in other sports do is a really, really crappy reason. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why you would take that.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 20, 2013 at 8:12 PM

        Quite frankly, I don’t understand why you would take that.

        For two reasons. The first, and most important, is your job as the umpire is the arbiter of the game. Your job isn’t to inject yourself into the game. There’s a ton of truth to the cliche that if the fans/players know you’re name at the end of the match, you did something wrong. Every other sports official knows this, and at least in soccer (8 year certified referee), they specifically tell you to stay out of the action.

        Second, many of these instances are the umpires themselves causing the problems. It’s one thing when Girardi gets in O’Nora’s face after the Arod HBP, but how many stories have we seen here that have the umpires being the instigators?

    • Francisco (FC) - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:34 PM

      That’s the solution then. We need Vulcans as MLB Umpires.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:35 PM

        Vulcan Apologist!

      • Panda Claus - Aug 20, 2013 at 3:45 PM

        The league would just run a case study and try this out in some out-of-the-way low-level minor league. They’d tell us the results five years later.

      • raysfan1 - Aug 21, 2013 at 1:52 AM

        Fascinating. (Lifts one eyebrow)

  15. skerney - Aug 20, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    I worked as a clubbie in Major and Minor League baseball for years. I spent spring training as the Umpies Room assistant. Believe me, they live for conflict. Everything that goes on in a major league clubhouse goes on in the umpies room too. The macho posturing, the bragging, the one upsmanship. They’re the worst. After literally hundreds and hundreds of games I never met an umpire who wasn’t trying to out-macho an athlete. This goes for all the guys I met in my years in the Cal League, Southern League, and Grapefruit League.

    • tigersfandan - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:26 PM

      I don’t believe you. Not one iota. You just say this because the media has programmed us fans to hate umpires. You’re groveling for the thumbs up.

      • skerney - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        I worked for the Visalia Oaks, The Montgomery Biscuits, and The Rays. I worked 150 games a season. I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours a night for six months out of the year. I slept in fleabag hotels in Lake Elsinore, Adelanto, and Stockton. I scrubbed pants in my Hotel bathroom because the game went extra innings and the laundrymat was closed and didn’t open in time to wash the entire teams uniforms before the day game the next day. I packed up players bags when they were released and drove them to the airport so they could go back to the DR. One escaped and hid in Walmart because he didn’t want to go home. I found the left hander crying in the toy section. I served two meals a day to guys on 5000 calorie diets all while charging them $3 a day for my services. I had the Clubbie in Rancho Cucamonga never deliver my shower towel and subsequently had 30 wet naked guys screaming at me for paper towels to dry off with. I don’t do this for a living anymore, but I still have nightmares that the final out was recorded and the players walk into the clubhouse and I didn’t buy a postgame spread and everyone is going to starve because i messed up. I don’t pay for major league tickets because I know at least one player, coach or trainer on every single big league team.
        You don’t have to believe me tigersfandan, but I worked in professional baseball.

      • dondada10 - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:18 PM

        And it sounds glamorous.

  16. ramonrrp - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:02 PM

    http://cuban-play.com/videos-cubanos-en-grandes-ligas/yasiel-puig/puig-shows-frustration/3149

  17. eagles512 - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:14 PM

    Most umps are a complete joke

    • tigersfandan - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:34 PM

      When people seize on each and every incident that can be used to paint umpires in a negative light, of course the umps will look like a joke. The reality is that umpires are everyone’s favorite target.

  18. pdowdy83 - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    This isn’t the first time Hirschbeck has done something like this in 2013. He also made an ass of himself dealing with Bryce Harper in a game in Pittsburgh and he has done it in past seasons as well. If this was a once in a career type of thing I can let it slide but Hirschbeck has a temper and he lets it get in the way of “the good of the game” to use a term ole Buddy boy likes to use.

  19. missingdiz - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    When there’s trouble on the playground, who’s likely to yell, posture, and make it worse? Dad.
    Who’s likely to calm things down and get everybody to play nice? Mom.
    Obviously, MLB needs female umpires.

    • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:05 PM

      Bahahahahahahaha!

      • dondada10 - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        I have a female official in my league and she’s got the thickest skin of any ref.

      • historiophiliac - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        I’d be willing to bet very few of the guys on here would want me to be their ref — or that think I would be less confrontational than a dude.

  20. yahmule - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    The umpires were absurdly confrontational back in the 90’s. That changed a bit when Richie Phillips convinced most of them to resign in ’99 in a power play that backfired horribly. The returning umps and the replacements were much more humble for years. Naturally, the passage of time has allowed these guys to become comfortable – and confrontational – again.

  21. eatitfanboy - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    I have seen the phrase “small beer” used twice in my life, both times on this blog.

  22. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:46 PM

    John Hirschbeck has a history of confrontation with players. While no umpire should be required to stand there and take abuse from players/managers, it is an umpires job to maintain a calm and level head, and to keep situations from escilating, something Hirschbeck seems to fail at miserably. He seems to allow his ego to get in the way, and seems to believe that he is never wrong, and you must NEVER question him. He is the king of this show! Let us not forget Roberto Alomar. And while what Alomar did was completely inexcusable, wasn’t there also a claim that Hirschbeck took things to another level when he started making racist slurs towards Alomar, which caused the spitting incident?

  23. hammerhunker - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    After all, we are in the dog days…

  24. danaking - Aug 20, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    I wonder if Hirshbeck believes Puig, a rookie, hasn’t earned the right to dispute Hirshbeck’s infallibility, even in subtle ways. He’s still an arrogant ass and was wrong to provoke an incident, but I wonder if that’s his thought process. (“Albert Pujols can give me the hairy eyeball, kid; you wait your turn.)

  25. jdillydawg - Aug 20, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    I think it’s PTSD. Seriously, next to being POTUS, being an umpire is about the most thankless job in the world. The day you take office as POTUS, half the world hates you. The moment you make a bad call, half the sportsworld hates you.

    Hirschbeck is reeling.. This is a guy on edge who’s every move on field is examined. Every time his name is mentioned lately, is about a confrontation. Of course, the interpretation of what happened depends upon which camera you’re looking through as kpk59 mentioned above (but instant replay will fix that, right?) but everytime I hear his name lately, it’s about a fight.

    Hirschbeck is going to go postal one day. Scary shit…

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