Of all the umpire-related stories we've seen this year, here's one that's just really odd: Jordan Baker is a rookie umpire who's getting noticed for tossing his gum into the outfield after every half inning. If he's umping — like he was Tuesday night in the St. Louis Cardinals-Arizona Diamondbacks game — you'll see wads of gum behind him.
The announcers of Tuesday's game noticed as much and talked about it on the air. That wasn't the only reason Baker was noticed. He also threw Diamondbacks bench coach Alan Trammell out of the game after an argument about a stolen base call. (For what it's worth, it looks like Baker blew the call). But back to the gum-throwing: You'll hear it described by TV announcers as Baker's "tradition" and a "salute" to baseball.
If you ask a group of fans in San Diego, however, they'll tell you something different. A blogger from San Diego-centered sports site Lobshots took notice of Baker and his gum-throwing last weekend. What followed is well documented on Lobshots, including the blogger giving Baker an ear-full because the ump was "a disgrace to the game and disrespecting the players, the field, and umpires everywhere."
Here's Baker tossing gum and getting booed by San Diego fans:
Here's a photo via Lobshots of Baker's gum graveyard:
After Lobshots posted all this, it says it received an e-mail response from Baker's wife defending his gum-throwing. The blog said it would post her retort, but it hasn't yet. It has, however, kept an eye on Baker.
There hasn't been any comment from MLB about Baker and his gum-throwing. His fellow umpires and their bosses couldn't have missed it. So that has to mean the powers that be think it's OK.
There's something to be said about ritual — batters have theirs, pitchers have theirs. But umps? Generally their purpose isn't to be at the forefront of the conversation. Yet, here we go again with an umpire getting thrust into the spotlight.