June 2, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals assistant hitting coach Bengie Molina (18) holds back catcher Yadier Molina (4) as manager Mike Matheny (22) argues with umpire Clint Fagan (82) after Molina and Matheny were ejected from the game during the third inning against the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Molina Ejection: Fair or Foul?


So we’ve all been talking non stop about the controversial ejection of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in Sunday’s game against the San Francisco Giants.  Many of us were outraged at the umpire’s action and expressed ourselves accordingly.  Some defended the umpire, saying the rules clearly support the ejection as “unsportsmanlike conduct” and cite examples of such ejections in the past.  Still others say the fault lies in Molina not running hard out of the box initially, thus possibly negating the issue entirely.  As is the case in situations like this, there is merit to all of these arguments.

Despite what some non baseball fans cite as a slow and boring game, plays like the one in question on Sunday happen very quickly and in hindsight and with the availability of replay video, it is easy to judge the yay or nay of the outcome.  In the case of the Molina Ejection, the basic outcome of the baseball play seems to be garnering little dispute—Molina was out. The umpire made the correct call.  In this case the dispute lies in what happened afterward.   The intricacies of human behavior as captured on video with no sound available lends the viewer to different interpretations, which then lead to different viewpoints on the outcome.   And let’s be honest, bias creeps in there too, which colors one’s viewpoint.  Is anyone surprised that many fans of the Cincinnati Reds saw the incident in the worst light possible for Molina?  Probably if it had been Chris Carpenter involved those same fans would be calling for him to be brought up on charges and thrown in the hoosegow.

After the game, not surprisingly, the first question out of the box to Mike Matheny from the press was about the ejection.  What was surprising, at least to me, was the outspoken candor from Matheny about what happened and what he thought of it.  Generally when controversial umpiring calls happen, managers are more circumspect about what they say, knowing of course that direct criticism of the umpire(s) could lead to a fine.  “It was a bang, bang, play……blah, blah”, is usually what you hear.  Not so in this case.  Matheny preceded to let it fly, saying the call was unnecessary, that the umpire had to be looking for it, and a few other things.  It was clear that Matheny was mad as heck and wasn’t going to take it anymore.

I’ve been watching baseball for a very long time, and through the years have picked up many of the unwritten rules, code, slang, gestures, hidden messages, etc, etc that occur in the game.  When a manager speaks out like Mike Matheny did, knowing that it was likely to impact his wallet, he is sending a loud and clear message.  The umpire blew it, not the call, but his duty to respect the game.  Bengie Molina said it best when he told the press that the umpire “didn’t have a feel for the game”.  Among the unwritten rules of baseball there is an oft cited maxim that a good umpire is one that is not even noticed.   Umpires who create controversy, and thus make the game more about them than the players, are a pariah to the game of baseball.   This is the message that was being sent.  Clint Fagan may have made himself famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view), but he disrespected the game.

I personally think the call was unnecessary.  Molina, from my perspective, clearly did not throw his helmet to show up the umpire.  He didn’t look at the umpire, speak to the umpire, and in fact had his back turned and was walking toward the dugout and had to be verbally told that he had been ejected.  I understand about the rule, I understand that other players have been ejected for similar conduct.  I also know other players have not been ejected for similar conduct, so it is not a black and white, hard and fast rule.   Context matters when a judgment has to be made.  This is what Bengie Molina meant when he talked about having a feel for the game.  A more experienced umpire  (with some exceptions, guess who) would likely have interpreted Molina’s actions as self flagellation and let it slide.

Hopefully, what happened on Sunday will not result in a suspension for Molina.  Under the circumstances , I think a suspension would just exacerbate the situation and would solve nothing.  A fine for throwing his helmet should serve the purpose.  Let’s hope the powers at MLB see it that way.  As for the umpire, maybe this experience gave him a better “feel for the game”.  That would be a good outcome.

Tags: Bengie Molina Clint Fagan Featured Mike Matheny Popular San Francisco Giants St Louis Cardinals Yadier Molina

  • bluenotebacker

    The ejection was unnecessary and a more experienced ump wouldn’t have made it, not even close. Yadi was upset about being robbed, about mayb not hustling because he knew he was out and it killed a rally. Most umps don’t make that call because they know the game is not about themselves. Hopefully Fagan grows up a bit and learns from this mistake.

  • Brett Buck

    I am a rabid Giants fan and I thought the ejection was clearly unwarranted. It was obviously frustration for getting caught maybe dogging it a bit – and you have to admit it was a spectacular play. On the face of it it was even more unreasonable to toss Matheny. He must have said the “magic word”, but otherwise there seemed to be no reason for it.

    I would speculate that the original issue was the ump misinterpreted the frustration, and then quickly realized that it wasn’t directed at him. And then couldn’t back out.

    As a baseball fan I want to see the best players in the fairest game, not the umpires.

  • Baseball Sisco

    Maybe his ejection for the helmet toss was excessive but Molina’s behavior afterwards is inexcusable. He’s the leader of the team and should act accordingly. I believe the physical contact with the umpires will lead to a suspension of a few games. Sure we all have emotions that can spiral out of control but at some point you need to keep in mind that your actions in that situation hurts your team, not helps them. I believe the physical contact with the umpires will lead to a suspension of a few games.

  • bronncohowie

    To the rest of MLB who don’t get to watch Brandon Crawford perform his magic, maybe you should check out this young guy. As far as Molina is concerned, he was dogging it down the line, he got embarrassed and lost his cool. He got ejected. He was OUT. He should have just walked back to the dugout and let his manager argue. It might have been a quick call by the ump but Molina broke the rules.

    • Brett Buck

      And, by the way, Crawford is currently hitting .291!

  • Ken Collins

    The umpire that ejected Yadi should be fined and sit out a few games himself. What a lousy call he made. Does he realize he is in the Major Leagues now?