John Donovan, baseball beat writer extraordinaire for Si.com, wrote a great piece today about the lost art of arguing with umpires. What brings this art to the attention of the national media today? The record is soon to fall. Bobby Cox, who has managed the Braves since the Roosevelt administration, is closing in on his 131st ejection from a major league game. That would tie the record, and 132 will break it. Donovan wanted to investigate the art of the ejection a little bit more, so he went straight to the Picasso of Picking a Fight, the Van Gogh of Getting the Boot, the Da Vinci of Da Gate, none other than Baltimore Oriole legend Earl Weaver.
It came as a shock to me to learn that The Earl of Baltimore did not hold MLB's ejection record of 131. It is actually held by John McGraw, a manager from the turn of the century. Interestingly enough, Cox has technically already broken the record for ejections by a manager, since McGraw was ejected 14 times as a player. But if you're going to break a record and carve your name into baseball's record book, go for the gusto and do it right (Barry Lamar Bonds). The Earl is actually fourth on the all time list with 97. It may just be me, but I would be in favor of rehiring the Earl just long enough so he could be ejected three more times and break 100 (come on, it would only take three games).
To say that Earl wrote the book on getting ejected just doesn't say enough. Earl was the original, the innovator, the creator of the ejection (all this coming from someone who never saw the man coach a game... but his best ejections can be found on YouTube). Before Earl there were none, and after Earl it is just not the same. Earl was a fire ball from start to finish. He was shorter than the average person to begin with, and that made it all better. The fire was more concentrated throughout him and therefore more potent, which led to better arguments and better ejections. Earl would cuss, rant, rave, kick dirt, throw hats, throw dirt, turn the hat around to get closer to the target (read "umpire"), and on one occasion even got ejected before the game started. That's absolute skill, a master of his craft.
The thing that shocks me about Bobby Cox potentially breaking the record is that Cox is so much more mellow than Earl. Cox doesn't have the same emotions on the sleeve fire that Earl did. Cox's arguments rarely get out of hand, and never make SportsCenter. How could an argument truly be an argument if it doesn't even land on SportsCenter. If it's not even good enough for ESPN, it's probably just a tea party with the umpires in which Cox brought Earl Grey tea instead the ump-preferred Green Tea. This is not to take away from Cox's accomplishment, it's just to say that while he will hold the record, nobody did it better than Earl. It's kind of like saying that Bonds will one day hold the record, but nobody hit homeruns like Ruth, except in that situation I take everything away from Bonds.
So what is all the hub-bub about getting ejected? Why is it a good thing to leave your team halfway through a game and strand them manager-less? Because it shows you care. It wasn't too long ago in this space that I wrote about a manager that doesn't care, and how it's reflected by his players. Getting in the face of the umpires to argue what is right shows the team that it can never, ever give up the fight, no matter who it is against, and no matter what the odds. If Sam Perlozzo had the same fire that Earl Weaver had, the Orioles could be in first place right now. Instead, the Orioles' most recent managers (Ray Miller, Mike Hargrove, Lee Mazzilli, and Perlozzo) have all lacked the all important fire. The result? Ten straight losing seasons. Coincidence? I think not. If you give the O's someone like Weaver or Cox or maybe even Lou Piniella, they might not suck. They would show the same emotion that the manager shows, and the team would be full of feisty go-getters like Jay Payton.
To read all of John Donovan's Earl Weaver article/ interview, click here .
In other news this day, May 31st has come and gone, which means the deadline to submit any uniform changes for the 2008 MLB season has come and gone. Why does that matter, Kurt? Because now we must suffer another year of the Orioles' away jerseys reading "Orioles", as opposed to the more customary and less alienating "Baltimore".
Uniform tradition in almost any sport dictates that the home jersey of a franchise read the team name, since the fans will undoubtedly know where the team is from. The away jersey traditionally has the city name, so the opposing fans would know from where the team hails. It most likely dates back to when teams first started to travel, and people in the stands would actually not know where the opposition was from. It would be convenient for them to look down and say, "Oh, they're from [insert city name]
So now the deadline has come and gone, and we are again stuck pleading to fans of Washington to not abandon us. That's what it all boiled down to. In the 70's, after the Senators left Washington (again!), the owner of the Orioles felt that in order to reach out to the newly orphaned fans, he would remove Baltimore from the away jerseys, so as to give everybody a baseball home. That was great for DC, but a huge slap in the face for the people that actually support and pay for the team. All these years later, the away jerseys are still wrong, even after DC got yet another team. I think the time has come for the Orioles to finally stop alienating the fans of Baltimore, and tell the DC fans to go watch their own team if they can't be loyal because of the city on the uniform.
The problem is, of course, Peter Angelos. Since his normal course of action is to hear what the popular voice is and then do the exact opposite, Angelos keeps stalling Orioles' officials long enough to let the deadline pass. It seems as though Angelos is still under the assumption that DC fans can be kept on our side simply by making the team geographically unaffiliated, but that simply won't work. And if that's the case, why don't we rename the team the United States Orioles in order to attract fans from all over the country; afterall, Hawaii and Alaska are baseball orphans as well. Apparently, Angelos has not talked to his accountant though. If he had, he would have realized by now that changing the uniform means they get to sell new uniforms, and that would just be money in the bank for Angelos and the Orioles.
In the grand scheme of things, adding "Baltimore" to the away jersey is a small change and a small gesture to the city. With the way things are, however, and the Orioles mired in a ten year slump that has seen us become the laughing stock of Major League Baseball, a small gesture could win back a lot of fans who feel alienated by the team. I see it as a no lose situation, and yet still, here we are, wondering why it still says "Orioles" on the away jersey of the Baltimore Orioles.