(Image: Pat Sullivan/AP)
On Sunday, the Brewers lost in disappointing fashion when the Diamondback scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth at Salt River Fields. It was a tough loss, but it’s hard to get too frustrated when a game doesn’t go your way in spring training…or is it? Manager Ron Roenicke was frustrated enough to get his damn self ejected. Roenicke thought the tying runner went outside the baseline trying to avoid Martin Maldonado’s tag, and made enough of a fuss about I to get tossed. From a spring training game. Isn’t that just a bit silly?
"It is silly," [Roenicke] said. "And then, I’ve got no place to go because there is no exit. I was like, ‘C’mon, are you kidding me?’”
In every other dimension of the preseason, one would expect players, managers, and umpires to treat exhibition games as seriously as real games. But I must admit, the idea of anyone getting ejected from a spring training game seemed bizarre at first. Like Roenicke said, where the heck is he supposed to go?
As it turns out, spring training ejections are not exactly unheard of. In fact, Roenicke’s ejection was the fourth of 2014 MLB exhibition play. There’s a helpful site called Close Call Sports that “objectively tracks and analyzes close and controversial calls in sport” and runs something called the Umpire Ejection Fantasy League. According to Close Call, the three other spring training ejections this year have been Fernando Rodney by Adam Hamari on March 16, Brennan Boesch by Jeff Morrow on March 15, and Bob Melvin by Adam Hamari on March 8.
In 2013, there were five spring training ejections, the last being Anthony Rizzo by Allen Bailey five days before the start of the season. With two weeks left to go in 2014 spring training, there’s plenty of time to tie or exceed that mark. In 2012 (the only other year MLB spring training ejection data is available from Close Call), there were three ejections. The third was Jeff Francoeur by John Tumpane, which also occurred during a Brewers game.
Although a handful of spring training ejections happen each year, most folks seem surprised and mildly amused to be thrown out of a game that doesn’t count. Last year, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly got tossed for arguing a check swing:
"Really, I wasn't even mad," said Mattingly. "You think he might want to check. It wasn't so obvious that he didn't need to check. He told me I was arguing balls and strikes. I said, 'What are you going to do? Throw me out of a bleeping Spring Training game?' And he did."
Also in 2013, Pirates catcher Russell Martin was ejected for arguing balls and strikes:
Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin couldn't recall ever being ejected from a spring training game before.
"Not that I can remember, but I'll have to check the archives," Martin said with a laugh Sunday after he was tossed during a 12-10 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Then there’s legendary hothead Ozzie Guillen, who wasn’t much surprised when he was ejected in 2012:
Guillen said he'd been ejected from a few exhibition games.
"What's the difference between spring training and during the season? I do my job. The umpires have to do their job. The players have to do their jobs. My job is to protect the players. I don't see this game different than other games," he said.
It appears spring training ejections have been a part of the sport for some time. I honestly had no idea – it was just something I never paid attention to. Even though baseball has been around for over 150 years, I can still discover things about it I didn’t know. What a game.