The baseball season is only three weeks old and the Orioles coaching staff has already chalked up three ejections, so you’re probably wondering if there is a trend forming here.
This is, after all, the town where Earl Weaver became a legend in no small part because of his penchant for theatrically antagonizing umpires and getting thrown out of nearly 100 regular and postseason games during his major league managerial career.
Brandon Hyde, who got tossed for the first time as Orioles manager on Patriots Day in Boston, doesn’t seem like the dirt-kicking, base-throwing type. He was ejected for arguing the decision of the New York replay crew after challenging a potentially illegal slide by Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers that could have injured O’s second baseman Jonathan Villar.
That ejection is automatic under the rules governing the replay system, which is meant to reduce the number of on-field arguments. Hyde knew that and said after the game that he was just trying to make a point about the confusing nature of the relatively new slide rule that is intended to protect infielders from injury.
It appeared that he was going to get his second ejection on Wednesday night at Tropicana Field when umpire CB Bucknor took offense to the chatter coming out of the Orioles dugout after a series of questionable ball-strike calls, but that turned out to be a misunderstanding. Bucknor missed that call, too, and – upon further review -- his hook was re-applied to bench coach Tim Cossins, who rushed onto the field and took credit for an outburst for which he may or may not have been responsible.
The other O’s ejection came earlier in the Red Sox series when pitching coach Doug Brocail got under the skin of umpire Stu Scheurwater while disputing some check-swing calls.
So, it wasn’t three ejections in three weeks. It was three ejections in the space of four games for a new coaching staff that probably doesn’t want to get a reputation around the league as a group of serial umpire baiters.
Hyde said Friday that he’s not worried about that. The debate with umpires Mark Wegner and Jim Reynolds was not personal. He made it clear that his beef was with the slide rule and the interpretation of it from New York. He came onto the field Wednesday to argue with Bucknor, but their encounter wasn’t exactly the Thrilla in Manila either.
“I don’t want to get on the wrong side of the umpires, obviously,’’ Hyde said, “but I am going to stand up for my players.”
Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Blake Snell won the American League Cy Young Award in 2018, posting a 1.06 ERA in his 10 starts with Jesús Sucre behind the plate. Now, Sucre is the Orioles' starting catcher and trying to have the same impact on Baltimore's young staff that he did on Snell.
It’s not like he’s meeting all of the umpires for the first time. Hyde was on the field as a base coach and in the dugout as a bench coach during his time working under Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Chicago, so he’s familiar with most of the crews and had only one major league ejection prior to Monday’s matinee at Fenway Park.
The Orioles have allowed a league-high 46 home runs in 20 games. With 11 games remaining in April, including two Saturday in a doubleheader with the Minnesota Twins following Friday’s rainout, the Orioles are only four shy of the 1996 Detroit Tigers’ record of 50 home runs allowed before May 1.
There is a time and place for everything, of course, so Monday’s game won’t be the last one Hyde spends cooling his heels in his office after battling some perceived officiating injustice. It certainly won’t be easy for the fiery Brocail to stay silent when one of the young pitchers he’s trying to develop gets squeezed too hard, but he’s more valuable in the dugout than watching the rest of the game on a clubhouse television.
The important thing to understand for everyone working to rebuild the Orioles’ brand is that there’s no reason to create animosity that might come back to haunt the team down the road when the games may have more global significance.