80-75, Ichiro Ejection Summary

I could lead this off by talking about the outcome or how well Ian Snell pitched or how the Mariners never should have let this get as far as it did, but let's be honest - the reason people will talk about this game, and the reason it will be remembered, is because Ichiro got ejected.

I suppose it had to happen this way; one day after Pravda brought to everyone's attention that the M's hadn't had anyone get tossed, someone got tossed. That part isn't surprising. What was surprising was the identity of the ejectionee. Ichiro's had beefs with umpires before, but he's never been sent off in his entire career - not here, and not in Japan. He's just not the sort, which makes this kind of reminiscent of when Raul Ibanez got tossed for arguing, or when Edgar Martinez got tossed for charging the mound. Those two scenes, of course, had little in common with today's, but the end result was the same: the Mariners wound up without maybe the last guy you'd ever expect to step over the line.

Given that Wakamatsu took pride in his team having a clean record, it's kind of a shame that this had to happen so close to the end of the season. On the other hand, I guess if anyone's going to get thrown out for anything, this was about as unexpected and mild-mannered as it gets. This wasn't a guy losing his cool; this was Ichiro taking one little dig, and I'd be surprised if Wak weren't laughing about it by Monday. You can imagine the call home to his wife.

Mr: Hey honey. Streak's over, someone got ejected.
Mrs: Really?? That's too bad. Who was it?
Mr: Ichiro.
Mrs:
Mr:
Mrs:
Did he kill him?
Mr: He drew a line in dirt.
Mrs: That doesn't sound bad.
Mr: It wasn't bad.
Mrs: Huh.
Mr: I think he may actually kill him though.

This was a situation where both Ichiro and Brian Runge were in the wrong. The pitch that got Ichiro was just a tiny bit off the plate, but that's a pitch that's almost always called a strike against lefties. It's nothing new, and it's nothing inconsistent. It was a legitimate strike three, and though Ichiro's allowed to voice his displeasure, it wasn't a bad enough call to warrant his response. While all the unwritten rules about player/umpire interaction are pretty stupid, they're still there, and if you draw a line in the box to show up the ump, that's automatic. You have to know you're going to get tossed.

As for Runge, though - well, he's no stranger to controversy. A couple years ago, he baited Milton Bradley into the incident that wound up in a torn ACL. Last June he refused to grant time to Brendan Harris and ejected Ron Gardenhire for protesting the ensuing strike. Less than two weeks later Runge himself earned a suspension for baiting Carlos Beltran and bumping into Jerry Manuel. There's a whole Wikipedia section about him. There aren't a lot of people in the game who like him, and today's actions provided a handy reminder of why.

Watch the .gif. Runge's known for his emphatic strike 3 calls on called strikeouts, but as Ichiro turns around in disagreement, Runge seemingly looks him straight in the eye as he punches him out. That prompts Ichiro to draw the line, which prompts the ejection, which prompts further discussion, which prompts Runge to step up to Ichiro and get in his face. Why? Why do that? I get that this isn't really a Runge exclusive, but if you're an umpire, and you throw someone out, that should be the end of it. That's the trump card. Why continue to egg someone on? Newsflash: players and coaches don't respond well to getting ejected. They're going to say things. Your job as an umpire is to stay out of the action as much as possible and ignore what they're saying. Runge chose to involve himself, and the whole thing was just a textbook display of unprofessional behavior.

In the bottom of the seventh, Travis Snider held his hand up for several seconds, signaling for time. Runge didn't grant it.

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