They stole the national spotlight for a few days this week.
They were shown all over TV crawling across the field and kicking dirt on others.
They are grown men – big league and minor league managers – but when they lose their cool, they end up looking like little leaguers.
Getting tossed from a ballgame is nothing new or unusual, but when managers put on a show like Phillip Wellman and Lou Piniella did on Friday and Saturday, respectively, it opens up the discussion on how far is too far for a skipper to go.
We’ll start with Wellman, the manager of the Double-A Mississippi Braves.
If you watched ESPN for at least five minutes this week you saw him go berserk after pitcher Kelvin Villa was tossed when umpires believed he was using a foreign substance.
Similar to minor league manager Joe Mikulik’s tirade last summer – which also made its way to airwaves – Wellman demonstrated his frustration by covering up home plate with dirt. But it wasn’t until he got down on the ground and started crawling that he reached an all-time low.
Wellman’s three-game suspension was more than fair, and after making his team look more foolish than the Devil Rays during their ninth-inning meltdown Tuesday night, a pink slip for Wellman would’ve been all right, too.
Piniella is no stranger to an early clubhouse entry. Saturday’s game was the 60th time he’s been tossed in his career. Looking for trouble?
Piniella, who later admitted that the umpire got the call right, told reporters that his four-game suspension – the longest of his career – was issued for making contact with umpire Mark Wegner, which he said he didn’t do, and for “exciting the crowd.”
Of course you’re going to excite the crowd when you kick dirt on an ump, but perhaps Piniella’s motive was to excite his team, a team that is sitting in the middle of the pack in the National League Central – the worst division in baseball.
So Lou has to do whatever it takes to get his team rolling, right?
“There are some managers that are under a little bit of pressure,” said Pat Kelly, a minor league manager in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization. “Their clubs aren’t doing very well, and they’re trying to maybe fire up their club a little bit.”
This happens at the collegiate level, too.It was just last year that USF coach Lelo Prado was in the visitor’s dugout coaching Louisville. Prado and the Cardinals were in town for a three-game series when he went looking for trouble – and for a spark for his team.
Prado was tossed during the Sunday game. He finished watching the game from outside Red McEwen Field, while Louisville grabbed momentum and beat USF.”There are times I’ve tried to pick when I’m going to get thrown out to get my players pumped up … if I see they don’t have it, they’re not excited,” Prado said. “I knew I was going that day.”For a guy who doesn’t hold back any words when speaking his opinion, it’s surprising that Prado never got the boot in his first season at USF.
Say the magic wordSo what exactly does it take to get tossed once the manager leaves the dugout? Perhaps Piniella didn’t have to kick dirt on the ump, and maybe Wellman didn’t have to crawl on his belly.
All they had to do was start their argument with one simple word: you’re. “I’ve always felt the magic word is ‘you’re’. Anything that you start with ‘you’re’ and finish with anything else, you’re going to be gone,” said Kelly, who has been involved in managing for 18 years. “I think if you say the word that, you can say an awful lot of things and get away with it. You just have to keep it from being personal.”
Managers should keep it to just words, and if they want to get tossed, say the magic word.
It’s just entertainmentSo are manager tirades really all that bad for the game? As long as umpires aren’t getting spat on or having bats thrown at them, most arguments are harmless. I’d rather see a pitcher throw a no-hitter or see someone hit for the cycle than watch a minor league manager get on TV for taking the bases out of the ground.
But on the other hand, I’d rather watch that same manager grab every base in the park than watch a bunch of analysts talk about what the Yankees have to do to turn it around or see headlines about how Barry Bonds didn’t hit a home run.
In the end, it all comes down to one thing.”When you really get down to it,” Kelly said. “We’re all entertainers.”