It makes sense. You see Manny Machado’s name in headlines again for an outburst on the field. You see the Major League Baseball Umpires Association complaining about Machado. It makes sense to fall into the familiar narrative.
The baseball debate du jour this week — Machado’s clash with umpire Bill Welke, his ensuing ejection, his suspension, the umpires union being mad at him — sounds like another instance of Manny being Manny, but if you take a closer look that’s not the case at all.
This time, Manny Machado isn’t the bad guy. Or at least the baddest guy. It’s the umpires union who turned a somewhat routine baseball dust-up into a dumpster-fire social media brouhaha.
It was the umpires union peddling petulant social outbursts. It was the umpires union that got slapped on the wrist by MLB after Twitter and Facebook posts that were better left in draft. And it was the umpires union — of all people — that made itself look worse than Machado.
A quick recap for anybody who missed the theatrics:
• Machado argued a called third strike on Saturday, fumed at Welke, barked at him, allegedly bumped the ump (though Machado said he didn’t) and threw his bat.
• Machado was suspended one game and fined by MLB on Monday for “aggressively arguing.” He elected to appeal and is still playing until his appeal is heard.
• On Tuesday, MLBUA threw a fit that Machado only got a one-game suspension. It fired off a complaining tweet with a bunch of weird hashtags (like #Nonsense #Violence and #RepeatOffender) and a longer Facebook post. You can read them both here, but the boiled-down version: The union said it was “extraordinarily disappointed” and called the whole thing, “a slap in the face of all umpires and a disgrace to the game itself.”
• MLB then had to defend the player it had suspended a day earlier, issuing this statement in response to the umpires association:
Yikes! The entire thing is a mess. And, again, taken in totality, Machado is not the most at fault here.
Yeah, he started the whole thing by getting mad, yelling at an umpire and throwing his bat. Obviously, that’s not the best ways to act — but it’s also relatively routine within baseball. Players and umps fight. When a line gets crossed, the league steps in and punishes the player. Easy enough, right?
Not for the umpires association. Never mind that players don’t usually get suspended for arguing balls and strikes. For whatever reason, this was considered more egregious by the umpires association and it let loose. Just read this:
“Violence in all workplaces is not tolerated. Period. Offenders are made examples of by being dealt with severely; not just for the good of all the employees, but for the good of the company itself. A person is given and granted a level of protection from abusive behavior in any workplace.”
Even players noticed this seemed a little bit — ummm — excessive and spoke up.
MLB had to ask the MLBUA to pump the brakes, saying it was “inappropriate to compare this incident to the extraordinarily serious issue of workplace violence.”
As for Machado, this was his take, via MLB.com, after the suspension was announced. No ranting and raving. No gaslighting. Just a rationale statement.
"I didn't think I touched him," said Machado. "The video says it all. We're going to appeal it, and we think we've got a good case."
It’s pretty obvious that Machado — thrown bat notwithstanding — was much more mature than the umpires union in the aftermath of this confrontation.
And shouldn’t be it the other way around?
Aren’t the umpires supposed to be the ones who keep things under control? Isn’t that literally their job — to keep order on the field? The umpires union’s behind-the-scenes statement writers and tweeters should be held to the same standard.
That would sure beat throwing gas on things from the sidelines.
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