Detroit — At first, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he didn’t care if the umpire’s union was staging a protest against what they consider a lack of support from Major League Baseball.
“I couldn’t be less concerned,” he said. “I don’t even care.”
But then he looked deeper into the content of the umpire’s protest, particularly the part where Ian Kinsler’s rant against umpire Angel Hernandez earlier this week was at the center of it, and that the umpires thought Kinsler’s fine with no suspension was too lenient.
At that point, he called reporters back into his office and was much more fired up, calling the union’s action “petty.”
“To single out one player is completely wrong and goes against what the sport is,” Ausmus said. “It's a team sport. There are often arguments between players and umpires, managers and umpires, coaches and umpires, and it's part of the game. To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for.
“I've been a part of many arguments, and there are many things said both ways, player to umpire and umpire to player.
"To act like anyone's innocent in a particular argument is not only unfounded, it's a lie.”
Two of the four umpires that worked the Tigers 3-0 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday wore white arm bands in protest of the league’s action, the two older umpires, crew chief Bill Miller and Todd Tichenor. The two younger umps, Marquette's Adam Hamari and Chris Segal, did not.
“This is in support of major-league umpires,” Miller said through a pool reporter. “We're directing all questions to our attorney so that everything comes from one mouth.”
But he did say the focus of the union’s protest wasn’t solely on Kinsler.
“He's not the focus of the situation,” Miller said. “That's just part of the puzzle. We've have had several instances where umpires have been called out or challenged. Ejections seem to be up, and we just feel like we need to band together and let people know that we are human beings.”
The World Umpires Association released a statement about the white wristbands before the game.
“This week, a player publicly and harshly impugned the character and integrity of Angel Hernandez — a veteran umpire who has dedicated his career to baseball and the community,” the WUA said in a statement. “The verbal attack on Angel Hernandez denigrated the entire MLB umpiring staff and is unacceptable.
“The Office of the Commissioner has failed to address this and other escalating attacks on umpires. The player who denigrated Hernandez publicly said he thought he would be suspended. Instead, got far more lenient treatment. He shrugged this off and told reporters he has ‘no regrets’ about his offensive statements calling for an end to Hernandez’s career.”
Kinsler’s initial reaction to the umpires’ protest was similar to Ausmus’.
“I don’t really care,” he said. “The white wristband protest has no effect on me.”
Pressed on the issue, he said, “I told you, I really don't think too deeply about it. I hope they wear the white wristbands for the remainder of their careers. I don't care.”
He was asked about the union’s charge that he impugned Hernandez’s character and integrity.
“They can feel how they can feel and I can feel how I want to feel,” he said. “I said what I felt and what I thought, and if they take offense to that, it’s their problem.”
Ausmus was miffed at the characterization of Kinsler’s fine as lenient. He said it was the largest fine he’d seen assessed to a player in 25 years.
“I'm a little surprised MLB didn't take action (against the umps) because if players were unified against one particular umpire, they certainly would,” Ausmus said. “To me, it's a little uncalled for. But I don't really care as long as it doesn't affect baseball games.”
Kinsler said he feels the umpires have been fair to him since the incident. Ausmus doesn’t expect that to change, protest or no protest.
“I would imagine there would be no retribution with respect to Ian because they just put a giant telescope on what happens between him and the umpires,” Ausmus said. “If they want to support their brotherhood, that's fine. I have no problem with that.
“But they have too much pride in their jobs to let this affect anything on the baseball diamond that is called against Ian Kinsler because there's going to be a spotlight now."
Earlier this week, during a game against the Rangers in Texas, Kinsler was ejected by Hernandez, the plate umpire, after beefing about balls and strikes. After the game, Kinsler told reporters, “He needs to reevaluate his career choice, he really does.”
Kinsler and Hernandez shook hands before the next game, which might’ve saved Kinsler a suspension. An undisclosed fine was announced before Friday’s game, and Kinsler told reporters he didn’t regret saying what he said — which also included, “I don’t know, for as many years as he’s been in the league, he can be that bad.”
Earlier in the month, veteran umpire Joe West was suspended three games for comments he made in a Sports Illustrated article in which he called Rangers slugger Adrian Beltre the game’s biggest complainer.
Interestingly, West is president of the World Umpires Association.
“The office of the Commissioner’s lenient treatment to abusive player behavior sends the wrong message to players and managers,” the World Umpires Association continued in its statement. “It’s ‘open season’ on umpires, and that’s bad for the game.
“Enough is enough. Umpires will wear the wristbands until our concerns are taken seriously by the Office of the Commissioner.”