9:01 AM CDT, August 28, 2012
Maybe it’s me, but listening to the sounds of silence during the sixth inning of the White Sox game in Baltimore on Monday night sounded like Hawk Harrelson was called into the principal's office again.
Or at least got a phone call.
The point of the likely conversation -- probably with Chairman Reinsdorf -- was shut up about balls and strikes because the umps know what you’re saying and might hold it against a team trying to win a division.
Or maybe they already have.
I believe the Chairman loves Harrelson because he sounds like a Sox fan during the broadcasts -- soaring with the highs, knocking on death’s door during the lows, and raging over the injustices. Kind of what you imagine the 500 level of the Cell sounds like.
But I have to believe the Chairman told Harrelson to pipe down on the bad calls after Saturday night’s eruption during Sox-Mariners, and here’s why:
Umps talk. They hear things. They know Harrelson can go all Roman candle on them. Harrelson makes it personal when he calls this umpire brutal and that umpire terrible and says many of them shouldn’t be in the major leagues.
Harrelson is usually right, but being right isn’t necessarily helpful. You'd like to believe that umpires can maintain their professionalism. You'd also be naive. Look, umps are human, so how could they not hold something against the Sox? Consciously, subconsciously, doesn’t matter.
I don’t know if that was the Chairman’s point to Harrelson because I can’t say for sure that the Chairman rang Harrelson’s cell phone over the weekend. But that’s the way to bet because there was nothing coming out of Harrelson for several seconds during a critical time of Monday night’s game -- a silence that resounded.
In the bottom of the sixth, Sox reliever Jesse Crain threw a dandy curve that looked like strike three to Nate McLouth.
Ball four. Tying run walks home.
Rant burying plate umpire Tim McClelland coming up?
Nope. Silence. Just silence during a replay of the pitch and analysis from Steve Stone.
This, mind you, came two days after Harrelson went off on Lance Barrett. The plate umpire ejected Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski and then manager Robin Ventura after a Jose Quintana curve was called a ball even though the same pitch was called a strike to Adam Dunn an inning earlier.
Harrelson went off on Barrett, but not nearly the way he hit Mach I when plate umpire Mark Wegner ejected Quintana in Tampa on May 30. That entertaining diatribe earned Harrelson calls from Commissioner Bud Selig and the Chairman.
Harrelson came out of the episode apologizing to Wegner, but also saying he couldn’t guarantee it wouldn’t happen again.
And then it just did.
Harrelson was calm for a while. You could spot those times when he was ripe for an eruption in the ensuing 2 1/2 months. But no. Nothing. Just a calm remark about a bad call, then moving right along.
And then came Saturday night’s blast followed by Monday’s night’s mute act.
Yeah, it sounds like Harrelson got a talking to. It sounds like he was told that every time he goes off, he might hurt the Sox, if he hasn’t hurt them already. Like, maybe in the bottom of the sixth Monday night.
Or maybe two innings later when Sox reliever Brett Myers didn’t get some calls. Myers walked Mark Reynolds to put the go-ahead run on base, a run that would score on a home run one batter later.
Harrelson’s years of venting about umpiring set up this sort of conspiratorial thinking. I can’t say for sure it’s happening, but you certainly can imagine it, and that’s a problem.
A tired bullpen and the possibility of vengeful umpiring is no way to go through a playoff race. Ken Williams has done something about the bullpen. It sounds like the Chairman might’ve already done something about making nice with the umpires.
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