Officials gone wild
What has gotten into the officials? Baseball umpires and basketball referees have fallen under the impression this week that the fans would rather see them go bat-crazy than watch the, you know, real entertainers, a.k.a the athletes.
It started Tuesday night when umpire Bob Davidson decided the strike zone should include both batters' boxes and tossed Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford when Crawford barked about it. Then Davidson tossed Rays manager Joe Maddon in what has to be some sort of record for quickest ejection from the start of an argument. You didn't need to be a lip-reader for the FBI to figure out that Davidson's curse-word vocabulary is widely impressive.
Okay, fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon when umpire Joe West went off the rail, called two balks on White Sox ace Mark Buehrle and then tossed both White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Buehrle. The offensive part about the Guillen ejection is West disrespectfully waved Guillen away as if he was a cop moving along traffic. When Guillen reacted, West ejected him. Buehrle flipped his glove to the ground after the second balk, hardly worth ejecting a team's best pitcher in the third inning, but apparently it was enough for West, whose skin is about as thick as wet paper.
"The pitcher balked, and I called a balk, and he balked a second time and he got ejected for throwing his glove,'' West said on a Chicago radio station. "Ozzie came out to protect his pitcher (after the first balk), which was probably a good idea at the time, because Buehrle was drawing lines in dirt on the mound (to show he's not moving his leg past where the rules stipulate), and he was about to get ejected then.
"(Guillen) even said he was out there not to argue the balk but to protect his pitcher, which he should come out in that situation. I said, 'Everything is okay now Ozzie, you can go back to the dugout.' And he got mad, because I told him you can go back. He used a few profanity laced lines and that got him ejected.''
Guillen went nuts as only Ozzie can after the game, suggesting West is under the belief that he's the star.
"People pay to watch players play, not to see umpires and managers,'' Guillen told reporters. "I don't see any people say, 'I'm going to see Ozzie Guillen manage or Joe West umpire.'''
Buehrle took a shot at West, saying, "I think he's too worried about promoting his CD (West is a country music singer) and I think he likes seeing his name in the papers a little bit too much instead of worrying about the rules.''
Those incidents were bad, but Wednesday night's Celtics-Magic game was worse because it was a key playoff game. Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, one of the few people on the planet who can actually guard Orlando big man Dwight Howard, picked up two bogus technical fouls and was automatically ejected in the second quarter. On the second technical, referee Ed Rush first called an awful foul on Perkins and then Teed him up as Perkins was WALKING AWAY! Seriously, is Rush's ego that out of control that he feels the need to, essentially, eject a player in a close and key playoff game while the player was showing restraint by walking away? It gets worse. These were Perkins sixth and seventh technicals of the playoffs, meaning he is supposed to be suspended for Game 6 Friday night. However, the NBA might chose to rescind the technicals, making him eligible to play. If the NBA has any sense of fairness at all, it will take away at least one if not both technical fouls. (And how out of control are your officials that the league automatically reviews every techincal the next day to see if it should stick?)
Oh, we're not done. Referee Joey Crawford, the referee once suspended by the league for ejecting nice-guy Tim Duncan for laughing, handed a technical to Celtics guard Rajon Rando while Rando was calmly having a conversation with another referee.
Thankfully, ESPN announcer Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy had absolutely no problem calling out Rush and Crawford for doing lousy jobs. How bad were they? Even studio analyst Magic Johnson criticized the refs and that guy never criticizes anybody.
Conspiracy theorists will argue that the NBA wants more games and helped the Magic win Wednesday. That's baloney. But if anyone wants to say that umpires and referees are out of control, you'll get no argument from me. What's shameful is in the past two days, guys like Davidson, West, Rush and Crawford gave bad names to an entire profession that, for the most part, does a good job.
(Update: The NBA, in fact, did rescind the second technical foul given to Perkins, meaning two things. One, he will be able to play in Friday's Game 6. And, two, the league essentially is saying that Rush was out of line for giving Perkins a T.)