HOUSTON — Dave Martinez began to step away from home plate umpire Sam Holbrook, appearing ready to wrap up his diatribe and return to the Washington Nationals‘ dugout. Crew chief Gary Cederstrom then pointed at Martinez’s chest and began to shout, to which Martinez responded in kind.
Washington bench coach Chip Hale wrestled his livid boss several steps away from the umpires, but Martinez pushed back. First base coach Tim Bogar came to help — now two men were restraining Martinez. The manager struggled with every step as he shouted at the umpires. Holbrook stared him down, motionless, as Martinez was brought further and further away.
Then came Holbrook’s ejection motion. Martinez saw it, barreled through his coaches, spun around to try to shake Hale loose and launched a final barrage of shouting square into Holbrook’s face.
The Nationals have disagreed with many of this crew’s calls all series, and blood had been steadily boiling until this moment. But Martinez’s protest of the umpires’ decision to call Trea Turner out on baserunner interference during Game 6 of the World Series was a rare display of extreme anger from the good-natured skipper.
Martinez was the first manager ejected from a World Series game since Bobby Cox in 1996. But after the game, he shifted into passive mode, saying he didn’t want to take attention off his team’s 7-2 win that forced a Game 7 — even as MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre defended Holbrook’s call as being correct.
“In the heat of the moment things get blown out of hand,” Martinez said. “I saw things differently. But I’m not going to — like I said, I’m never going to criticize any umpires or anything, because they’re a big part of the game.”
Torre said the violation occurred when Turner prevented Houston first baseman Yuli Gurriel from being able to catch a ball thrown to him.
The problem: Turner was running straight ahead in the basepath, simply lunging one last stride to the bag to try to beat the throw. With the throw a bit off-target, Gurriel’s glove moved over to attempt the catch — and Turner made incidental contact with the glove.
Turner was asked whether he watched the replay during the umpires’ review, looking for what he could have done to avoid the call.
“I mean, what else do you do?” Turner said. “I don’t know — the batter’s box is in fair territory, first base is in fair territory. I swung, I ran a straight line. I got hit with the ball. I’m out. I don’t understand it. I mean I could understand it if I had like veered one way or another. I didn’t.”
But Torre argued that Turner was running inside the line toward the grass infield rather than the 45-foot line.
“If he had been running in the 45-foot line he’d have been coming from a different angle and the first baseman may have had an easier chance catching the ball,” Torre said. “But as you know, as you saw, the glove came off Gurriel’s hand and he wasn’t doing anything but trying to catch the ball. And my view, if he catches the ball, Turner, he’s fast, but he hadn’t gotten to first base yet.”
During the ordeal, a hot microphone caught Turner saying, “Why are you hiding?” It was clear whom that was directed toward.
“I’ll probably get in trouble for all this, but Joe Torre’s in charge of the umpires, and I think if we want clarification, then we should do everything we possibly can to get the calls on the field right,” Turner said. “And if it’s in the rules that I did the wrong thing then so be it. But I think this stage is just too big and too important to a lot of people to have every avenue not taken advantage of, I guess … I just think we should do everything we can to get everything as right as possible, and let the players decide the outcome.”
Word spread after the play that the Nationals would play the rest of the game under protest, but teams are not allowed to protest a judgment call. Martinez later admitted that he knew the rules, and his protest was for “honestly nothing” other than to try to force a rules check.
“I mean, I wanted them to go look at the replay. Go look and just give me a rules check, that’s all,” he said. “They came back and honestly, that was it. I dropped it. Done. They went and checked. They spent a few minutes. I’ve done it before knowing that you can’t do anything about it. And then things escalated.”
Torre said on the Fox’s postgame coverage that Martinez was “out of control,” leading to his ejection.
In the clubhouse, Ryan Zimmerman said the bang-bang play at first was not that unusual to see.
“The game is so fast. That’s a tough call,” Zimmerman said. “Like the other night, I don’t like to talk about the umpires. They have the hardest job in the world.”
Much worse could have transpired if the Nationals hadn’t gone on to win — if the potential run they lost with Turner ruled out would have been a difference-maker. Instead, Anthony Rendon stepped up two batters later and belted a two-run home run, then added a two-run double in the ninth inning, padding a lead that was enough to take the game.
According to Turner, there was no extra emotion in the dugout celebration of Rendon’s home run after what had just transpired.
“No, I think for me, it’s just having a bigger lead in Game 6 and an elimination game in the World Series. Nothing more than that,” he said. “You’ve got to put stuff behind you and I felt like we did. We moved on. I thought we played great after that as well. I think we, like I keep saying, we have all the motivation we need. We know what’s at stake. We don’t need extra motivation or people to say things or do things or whatever it is. We feel good.”
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