By Kirby Arnold
If there was any question in Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu’s mind that Milton Bradley is a marked ballplayer in the eyes of some umpires, he got an answer tonight.
For the second straight game, Bradley was ejected by the home plate umpire after a called third strike. This one came in tonight’s 6-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, two days after Bradley was booted from Wednesday night’s game against the Texas Rangers.
Both ejections, Wakamatsu said, were basically hair-trigger moves by umpires. The manager didn’t hide his disgust when he talked with reporters after tonight’s game.
“To me it’s almost like a witch hunt,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s almost embarrassing to me that egos get in the way to a point that they don’t even give a guy a chance anymore. I’m not real thrilled about that whole situation.”
Plate umpire Jon Merry ejected Bradley in the fourth inning tonight after a pitch that many observers thought was high. Whether it was a strike or not, that’s not the point..
None of the reporters who cover the Mariners saw the ejection because we were in the clubhouse talking with starting pitcher Doug Fister, who’d undergone his own drama when a line drive hit him on his right forearm and knocked him from the game (it appears to be a bruise, but he’ll be X-rayed today). An Associated Press story said Bradley tossed his bat after he was called out.
Wakamatsu said Bradley did say something after Merry rang him up, unlike Wednesday when he dropped his bat and started to take off his gloves after ump Dan Bellino called strike three. Wakamatsu said Bradley mistakenly thought it was the third out, and that he did nothing to show up the umpire in that one.
“He was just about in the dugout (when he said something), but I’m standing in the dugout and I couldn’t tell wha.t he said,” Wakamatsu said. “It’s pretty blatant that some guys have it out for him.”
What’s interesting is that the Mariners easily could have had three ejections in three days.
On Thursday, pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith became so upset about a balk call on a pickoff move to first base that he pointed to his footprint and drew a line in the dirt on the mound to show he didn’t stride across the 45-degree angle to the plate. First-base umpire Bob Davidson, who called the balk, did nothing and Rowland-Smith pitched on.
In Wakamatsu’s mind, Bellino and Merry should have done the same thing with Bradley.
I shudder to think what may happen today when these “bad boy” Mariners face the Diamondbacks in a rematch of the Cliff Lee/Chris Snyder Affair from Monday. Benches emptied after Lee threw a pitch that sailed near Snyder’s head, prompting the Diamondbacks catcher to move toward the mound and benches to empty.
No punches were thrown and the game ended without further incident, although D-backs third baseman Mark Reynolds called Lee’s actions “bush league.”
You’d think nothing more would happen between the two teams, although all it might take is a fastball that gets away from Felix Hernandez or Dan Haren, the starting pitchers, to create a spark.