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MLB

It’s Important To Appreciate The Human Element In Baseball, Like An Ump Forgetting How To Count

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

It’s hard to convince people to go to Marlins Park, only slightly less difficult when the Marlins are playing, but still. Thus, it is incumbent on the fellows to give the audience a show, especially when there is an actual audience.

So credit for last night’s piefight goes to the umpiring crew run by Bill Welke for giving the 12,941 announced human attendees a bit of show, and to Miami hitting coach Marcus Thames for getting into the spirit of the thing. Since the crowd was a standard Saturday-sized crowd and the Milwaukee Brewers are a very good team but not yet a magnet, Welke and Thames saw their moment, and delivered.

Miami was in the midst of a second four-run inning in the sixth (they’d had an earlier one in the fourth off Brewers starter Eric Lauer) when Welke, working the plate, got confused about the count to center fielder Jesus Sanchez after Sanchez checked his swing on a stolen base attempt by Avisail Garcia. But not only Welke, but the entire crew of Chris Segal, Dan Merzel and Andy Fletcher. The count, which was 1-1 at the time of Trevor Gott’s pitch, became a mystery for the ages, which can best be summed up this way:

This led to Thames pointing out, surely in the politest possible way, that remembering two pitches should not be that much of a task, and to Welke responding that sending Thames to the clubhouse is actually easier than that. Between them, they saw that a four-minute delay in a game that ultimately lasted three hours and thirty minutes is intolerable if occasionally unavoidable and sensed that the crowd needed something to keep their attentions.

So they improv-ed Thames’ ejection, doubtless for the entertainment value while New York was gathering the fingers of everyone in the video booth to count to three. This isn’t a case for robo-umpires or a complaint about the standard of officiating, and sometimes stuff just happens that seems inexplicable to us normal folk, but hats off to Welke and Thames for understanding the entertainment component that baseball often forgets. Though Thames could have spiced up his end by throwing a few bats and a Gatorade cooler onto the field to make his ejection more of an audience-delighting spectacle, it’s the initial effort that matters. After all, the folks who talk about the human element very often forget the component that makes humans valuable — the willingness to take a ridiculous situation (which the Marlins won 9-3) and make it preposterous.