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Washington Nationals to file complaint against star of Wednesday's game?

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37,648 fans paid to see the Washington Nationals and their star slugger Bryce Harper take on the New York Yankees last night. Unfortunately, home plate umpire Marvin Hudson decided that he wanted to be the star of the show.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Let's just go straight to the video.....

You'll probably want to enlarge the video so you can see Marvin Hudson in all his glory.  First off, let's check out that form by Marvin Hudson at 0:29 of the video!  He's so graceful as he stops mid-sentence, turns, and thrusts his right hand forward to toss Bryce Harper.  You can actually get an even better view of all of the hard work that he's put into perfecting this motion at about 2:04 of the video.  The blur that he creates over his mouth for most of his argument with Matt Williams is a skill that I've been told he learned on a soul searching trip through the Himalayas from Tibetan monks.  There are apparently only about forty people in the world capable of pulling such a trick.

OK... That's enough snark.  We saw yet another instance of an embarrassing trend from MLB umpires in Wednesday's game.  On social media, we generally know this as an #Umpshow.  This was an instance where Marvin Hudson put his own (apparently fragile) ego above doing his primary job, which is to call balls and strikes and determine whether runners are safe or out.  By doing so, he ejected the best player on either team and the player that many in the park paid to see most from the game for what initially appeared to be a fairly minor incident.  The incident appeared to escalate when Hudson called time out to scream at Harper and the Nats dugout.

Just as we did when Harper got ejected last week in San Diego, let's go through the video step by step......

  • At 0:03, we see the pitch in question.  It's a slider just above the shins and clearly below the knees.  Harper turns his head away towards first base and waggles the bat behind his back hip.
  • At 0:05, Harper does turn his head back towards the plate and starts chirping a bit.  We don't know exactly what was said, but Harper obviously seems to be disagreeing with the call.  Regardless, he never steps out of the box and by 0:12 of the video Harper seems to be ready for Adam Warren to throw the 0-1 pitch.
  • This is when Hudson decides to truly make himself the star of the show. At the 0:14 mark, he seems to be glaring towards Harper rather than looking towards the pitcher (who is set and ready to go) or home plate.  At 0:16, Marvin Hudson calls timeout and yells something (indiscernable, since Carp and F.P. start talking over him) towards the dugout.  Harper steps out of the box while Hudson screams at Williams.
  • By the 0:25 mark, Hudson stops yelling at Williams and starts pointing at Harper to get in the batter's box.  We'll see later in the replay (1:57) that Harper points towards the batter's box, saying that he was in there and ready to go before (donkey) called timeout and started yelling towards the Nats dugout.  Harper puts his hand on his chest, points towards the box again, and pretty much runs towards the batter's box before Hudson blows this even more out of proportion than he already has. As Harper gets to the edge of the box, Hudson tosses him.

Without having a microphone (or a lip reader) on Harper, we don't know exactly what he said to Hudson after the pitch.  Arguing balls and strikes is an automatic ejection, but that's a rule that we rarely see enforced unless a situation gets out of hand.  We see hitters and pitchers question home plate umpires' calls all the time*, but we rarely see players ejected unless they actually continue to press the matter and let a situation escalate.

*When's the last game you watched a game on TV and didn't hear the commentators say something after a batter turned around speculating that the batter asked an umpire if that's "as low as the zone is going to get tonight" or something similar to that?

Harper expressed some distaste for the call initially and we do see that he said something.  He didn't get in Hudson's face about it.  He didn't step out of the box.  He was ready to let it go and move onto the next pitch in a pretty timely manner (8-10 seconds) without making a huge deal out of it.  Marvin Hudson was not ready to move on.

The entire situation escalated because of Marvin Hudson.  Hudson called time out so that he could blow off some steam, yell about Harper, and yell at Matt Williams.  That delay caused Harper to step out of the box.  He very quickly shifted from shouting at Williams back to shouting at Harper to "get in the box, get the (expletive) in the box."  As soon as Harper did go back to the box, Hudson tossed him.  Hudson is supposed to be a veteran umpire capable of defusing a situation, but instead he decided to pick a fight.  He looked like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum throughout the entire sequence.

There were reports that the Nats were considering filing an official complaint about Hudson to the league office.  Barry Svrluga tweeted out that Nats officials were very upset about the situation...

There's a history between Harper and Marvin Hudson.  Harper made the final out of a game against the Braves in 2013 when Hudson said he went on an appeal of a check swing.  Harper screamed at Hudson about the call, but was never ejected from the game because it was over.  Hudson also has a history with the Nats other than Harper.  He tossed three Nats (Stephen Strasburg, Davey Johnson, and Scott Hairston) in the same game in 2013.  He also ran Davey Johnson from a game in September 2012 after this nonsense........

That call was pure incompetence, and it drastically impacted the game (Jason Heyward followed with a game-tying two run homer).  Davey probably did deserve to get run in that game (he probably wanted to by the end of the argument), but hey... we're looking at a pattern of run-ins with this particular umpire.  The issue here is that there shouldn't be patterns with any umpire consistently getting into arguments with any team.

In Wednesday's game, the blown call (and it was a blown call) was just a bad strike call.  The player rolls his eyes, says a word or two, and moves on.  The umpire should be doing exactly the same thing when the player just says a word or two.  They're supposed to be the "grown-ups."  Marvin Hudson didn't take that role... not at all.

MLB has a lengthy history of not doing anything to umpires for actions such as Marvin Hudson's on Wednesday night.  It's doubtful that MLB's response to Wednesday's incident is going to be any different from what we've seen in the past.  Until MLB starts holding umpires more accountable for their actions, let's just strap in for more #Umpshows.  The next time that you see an umpire decide to take center stage, just remember that the umps are who MLB thinks that fans are paying their hard earned money to see.