The Pirates lost tonight’s game with the Braves by a score of 7-2. This game didn’t look like it was headed that way at all, until the bottom of the fourth inning. There was one out in the bottom of the fourth, and the Pirates were trailing 2-1, while the Braves had a man on second base. Then all of this happened.
We don’t really know what Russell Martin may have said when he got up to go talk to Burnett (although you can hear him yelling at home plate umpire Dan Iassogna “I did not say that” repeatedly through the video), but whatever it was, Iassogna took offense to it.
Iassogna was clearly calling a small strike zone throughout the game, and it was obviously starting to get to Burnett. For Russell Martin to get up to conference with Burnett is perfectly fine. If Martin’s claims to not have said anything are true, this might be the most pitiful ump show I can remember since Jerry Meals booted the nineteenth inning call against the Pirates in 2011, also in Atlanta. In this case, Martin absolutely must go speak to his pitcher, try to settle him down, and rework the game plan due to the ever tightening strike zone.
If Martin had turned around to argue balls and strikes, it might be a different case. Any competent and professional umpire won’t be upset if a player argues a call with him provided he doesn’t clearly show the umpire up in front of everyone. Russell Martin did nothing of the sort. Even if Martin said something to Iassogna, this was unwarranted, and the kind of unprofessionalism you’d expect from a two-A high school umpire, not a National League umpire. Hurdle’s ejection was expected after Martin’s. Hurdle has to stand up for his player at that point, even to the point of getting tossed from the game, especially on such a silly and blatant call as this one.
Umpires are supposed to be objective, black and white guys whose job it is to call an accurate, fair, and consistent game. If they screw that up, they need to own up to it (a’la Jim Joyce). If you squeeze a pitcher with the strike zone and you know it? Recognize it, and even apologize to him. Don’t go throwing out a team’s catcher for trying to stick up for his pitcher and settle him down when you blow a bunch of ball and strike calls. Nobody buys tickets to watch umpires, they watch tickets to watch baseball players who are the best in the world show off their skill. Iassogna failed to do his job tonight, and subsequently, the Pirates failed to do theirs. Hopefully they can straighten things out and get a win in Atlanta tomorrow.