In perhaps the most egregious display of inconsistency we’ve seen in a very long time, home plate umpire Jim Wolfe ejected Cubs’ Ted Lilly after facing just 2 batters in Sunday night’s game in Atlanta. Lilly hit Edgar Renteria on the left hand with 2 out in the bottom of the first and Renteria walked toward the mound before catcher Michael Barret stepped in to stop him. Wolf immediately warned both benches, and then, inexplicably ejected Lilly. Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano had been beaned the day before by Tim Hudson the day after Soriano crushed 3 home runs. Both teams were warned after Hudson’s beanball, but no warnings were issues before the start of Sunday night’s game. Joe Morgan and John Miller both expressed their disbelief on the broadcast. Then, perhaps even more incredibly, Renteria stole second base, and during his slide punched Cubs shortstop Fontenot squarely in the nose. No incidents ensued, but there can be doubt that Renteria can expect payback one day. Bobby Cox pulled Renteria in fourth because he knew that the Cubs knew that this was the last game between the two of them this season, and Renteria’s punch will require some sort of reciprocation, probably in the form of a hard cleats-up slide at second base since Wolf had already set the tone for beanballs for the night. The claim was that he hurt his hand when he was hit, but it certainly didn’t seem to bother him when slammed it into Fontenot’s face. Cox pulled him to prevent an all out brawl. ESPN had Wolf mic’ed up, and it may cost him a suspension. Here is the exchange near the mound during the aftermath:
WOLF: I have to throw you out
WOLF: Because you threw at him. You threw at his head
LILLY:No I didn’t
WOLF: Yes you did.
And then later (to Pinella):
WOLF: Because threw at him
PINELLA: How do you know he threw at him?
WOLF: I know he did.
PINELLA: How do you know he did?
WOLF: Because I was waiting for it. I knew it was going to happen.
This sounds pretty incriminating evidence of bias from major league umpire. How can the home plate umpire know for certain that Lilly intentionally hit Renteria and also know for certain that Tim Hudson did not intentionally hit Soriano on Monday? An umpire overreacting like Wolf did here, only makes the silent wars that go on in baseball worse. The game and the players have a way of managing themselves, and had Wolf just warned both benches, it would have been over, but he didn’t and now it not over because Renteria punched Fontenot and Cubs got screwed. They had to juggle pitchers and lost the game. Jim Wolf felt like it was his responsibility to keep the beanings from escalating, but maybe he also feels angry that Pinella, who uses umpires as props in his famous entertainment style argument techniques, should have suspended longer than the four games he got by MLB. The problem for Wolf is that Pinella paid his stiff penalty, and we’ll be surprised if MLB doesn’t make Wolf’s pay.