Off Base
Kershaw right, ump wrong


September 15, 2011, 2:44 p.m. As a hearing impaired person, I’m rather adept at reading lips, and although not surprising, it’s good to know that Dodger ace and team leader Clayton Kershaw avoids the traditional f-bombs and references to someone’s mother when he has a point to get across.

From where I sat, and even after watching the game replay, I cannot translate his reaction immediately following the ejection, but here are Kershaw’s exact words from the dugout just before heading to the clubhouse, as three umpires stared him down, arms folded in unison: “That’s just wrong. That’s not what I’m here for. You’ve got to let me pitch, you’ve got to let me pitch, you’ve got to let me pitch!”

And he’s 100% right. The umpires were “just wrong.” I agree with Register writer Earl Bloom that Kershaw’s yelling at Gerardo Parra Tuesday night was ill-advised, and think it’s better to play it cool and just take care of your business on the field – veteran-style, Don Drysdale-style – but home plate ump Bill Welke is still the problem here. Umpires often are, and they were last night.

I support the men in blue as much as the next guy, generally, but Kershaw is correct in his interpretation that the quick heave-ho was “just wrong.”

Pitchers are allowed to pitch inside. They have to be and they are. It’s been that way for a century and a half. This isn’t Chad Billingsley we’re talking about here, it’s Clayton Kershaw. You want to get guys out, especially when they’ve hit your outside pitch for a double in the previous at bat, you throw inside. It’s as fundamental as anything in baseball.

Kershaw’s final pitch of the evening was inside, obviously, but not directly at or behind Parra. In fact, it barely touched him, and just about any other hitter in America would have made more of an effort to get out of the way of the thing. Most of them would have been successful in doing so.

Parra let the ball hit him, plain and simple, and that is as much a part of the equation as Kershaw’s actions the night before.

Again, pitchers are allowed to throw inside, and the good ones do it as a matter of course. The batter is required to make an honest effort to avoid the pitched ball. Always. It’s in the rulebook. Does the name Dick Dietz mean anything to you? Hello!

And by the way, umpires know the difference between “bleep!” and “bleep you!” Whether they choose to base their decisions on that difference is an often arbitrary thing, which is one reason – one legitimate reason – why some players feel singled out. And one reason why there continues to be tension between players and umpires.

No one’s out there paying to watch Bill Welke umpire, OK, and that too is part of the equation. I was there to see Kershaw throw 100-plus bee-bees, and make his run at the Cy Young Award. An umpire robbed me and 14,000 or however many it was in actual attendance of that experience.

Joe Torre has the responsibility of keeping order on the field now, and there’s not going to be a suspension. He’ll no doubt support the umpires enough to placate their sensitivities, while telling Don Mattingly it was an unfortunate hook. Perhaps a few words of advice for Kershaw about how to handle things in the future. And that’ll be that.

If Kershaw beats the Giants in his next start Tuesday, he might not pitch again in 2011. And even if he does, he’d start Sunday in San Diego. If by some slight chance Kershaw is still looking for his 20th win when the Dodgers go to Arizona to finish the season Monday through Wednesday, he’d throw a couple of innings in relief at the most. Kirk Gibson is not going to trot Parra out there to face Kershaw when there is the bigger picture of the postseason to consider.

However, fast forward three or four years and imagine the exact same set of circumstances, if you can. Kershaw, as a veteran and one of the game’s top players, will get the benefit of the doubt from umpires almost universally. Parra, more than likely, will be out of baseball by that time, making the exact same circumstances impossible, but you know what I mean.


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