One day after signing a multi-year extension, and a few hours after a Zoom conference call on which he talked about his new deal, the team’s struggles, and the franchise’s future, GM Mike Rizzo was ejected from the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves’ series finale this afternoon in Truist Park.
During an at bat in the seventh inning, with Eric Thames up against the Braves’ Chris Martin, veteran umpire Hunter Wendelstedt stepped out from behind the plate after a questionable called strike, and he gestured towards the suite level above home plate, and Joe West asked for help from security having someone removed.
West went into the Braves’ dugout and placed a phone call, and the broadcast from Atlanta showed Rizzo, sans mask, outside a suite checking his phone and aiming words toward the field.
“Somebody screamed,” manager Davey Martinez said after the game. “Honestly, I didn’t even hear it. They stopped the game, I know Joe West went over. I know MLB is going to take a look at what happened, I don’t know the details or anything.
“They stopped for a little bit, but we resumed play right away.”
Martinez said he received no explanation for what was going on.
“No, nothing. I talked to Hunter briefly, and he just said, hey we want to see what we can do about getting a certain guy out, basically I haven’t heard from MLB about anything.”
“Honestly, I had no idea what was going on,” Nats’ utility man Brock Holt said afterwards.
“Yeah, I didn’t know what was going on. We were all kind of questioning. We were trying to get them to get the game going, so, but yeah, I didn’t know what was going on.”
“I heard someone yelling,” Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman told reporters, as quoted by Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer Gabriel Burns.
“I think I heard someone yelling a couple days ago, too, I’m not quite sure. But there are no fans so we have to keep the yelling to ourselves. I don’t know who it was, but someone was frustrated with the strike zone. He was heard throughout the whole stadium. I think Joe was just calling to have him removed. I think they kicked him out.”
A few hours after the game, West cleared things up when he spoke to the Associated Press.
“Mike Rizzo was tossed for yelling at umpires from a luxury suite in Atlanta on Sunday, with longtime crew chief Joe West saying, ‘enough is enough,’” AP writer Ben Walker reported in an article quoting the umpire.
“I wouldn’t take that from a player. I wouldn’t take that from a manager,” West said before offering an additional political comment.
Apparently the umpiring crew reached out to Major League Baseball after, as Freeman had suggested, Rizzo was yelling at umpires during Friday night’s game in Atlanta as well.
“We informed the office that if it continued we’d stop it,” West said. “And we did.”
It continued in the fourth game between the divisional rivals.
“He was saying, ‘you’re brutal’ and other things,” West said. “We’re in a pandemic situation, you can hear everything.”
MLB issued a statement on the incident as well, which is quoted in the AP story:
“We have already been in communication with the Nationals regarding what transpired during today’s game, and we will speak with the umpiring crew today. We will expect Joe West’s crew to provide a full account of their perspective, and we will follow up with them accordingly.”
That’s one way to celebrate what is reportedly a three-year extension, Rizzo.