Despite his obvious discontent and quick ejection after being called out on a close play at first base in the third inning Sunday, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina probably will not be suspended for his actions, although a fine surely will be forthcoming. His manager may be docked a bit more for his criticism as to how the umpires handled the matter.
The Cardinals’ 4-2 loss to San Francisco at Busch Stadium did not stem directly from this play because by most accounts, Molina, indeed, was out at first after a spectacular play by Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who dived to his right for Molina’s grounder and threw out Molina at first with while Crawford was on the ground.
If Molina had been running hard out of the batter’s box, perhaps none of this would have happened. But Molina didn’t accelerate from the box, preparing instead he said, to make the turn at first assuming the ball was going through, as it appeared it would.
“I thought I got a base hit. Then I see the guy diving and making the play and I was just trying to hustle,” said Molina., who bounced his helmet several feet down the right-field line, in frustration at himself for not beating the play.
At the time, two runners were stranded and the Cardinals still were down 2-0. They would tie the game in the fourth on David Freese’s two-run homer. But they would lose it in the seventh when lefthanded specialist Randy Choate, who had allowed only three of 20 inherited runners to score, gave up a two-run pinch double to pinch hitter Brandon Belt.
Molina’s spot in the lineup came up in the eighth but replacement Tony Cruz fanned with a runner on base.
Afterward, crew chief Tim Welke, choosing to speak for rookie umpire Clint Fagan, who made the call, said Molina was ejected for “the violent slamming of the helmet on a bang-bang play. He showed obvious discontent over the call. (Fagan) ejected him right away. When (Molina) realized he was ejected, he protested.”
Second-base umpire Mike Everitt, who rushed into the fray, called Molina’s bumping Fagan in the ensusing argument “incidental contact, in my opinion. But it was violent in nature,” said Everitt. “He had to be restrained by two coaches and the manager.”
Welke said, however, “They did a good job. No, there was not (significant) contact between Molina and the calling umpire. Incidental.”
And when the report is turned in in that fashion, generally suspension is not the judgment against a player although Welke said, “That’s out of our hands. (The commissioner’s office) looks at the tapes, just like we do.”
Matheny was ejected not long afterward.
“He was just sticking up for his player,” said Welke.
“There was no cursing,” said Everitt. “Something was said that does warrant an ejection.”
Then, many things were said by Matheny after the game, which surely will lighten his wallet.
“The explanation was that he threw his equipment,” said Matheny. “It’s a very poor explanation in my mind. He’s frustrated with himself, which happens every single day in this league, and the wrong decision was made.
“He never said a word to the umpire. He thought we had a rally going, then all of a sudden he’s thrown out. I just don’t understand how that call can be made if you’re not out looking for it — especially from a young umpire, it’s frustrating. It changed the game for us. I’m not saying if he stays in the game we win, but I’m saying that wasn’t necessary.”
There certainly is a gray area when such close calls are made on the bases, as to whether the hitter or runner is mad at himself, circumstance or the umpire. But if the same thing had happened at home plate, on a called third strike, Molina almost certainly would have been ejected for bouncing his helmet.
Punishment beyond dollars probably is excessive. Matheny certainly thought so.
“That would be a further tragedy,” he said. “We can’t take the emotion out of these guys. The umpire went out of his way to instigate something.”
Asked specifically if Fagan had said anything to nettle Molina, Welke said, “Absolutely not. He just ejected him and Yadi reacted how you saw.”
Molina admitted, “You don’t want to get thrown out of the game in that situation.
“I was upset because I knew I was out, I wasn’t upset because (Fagan) made the call, I was upset with myself. I tried to hold the helmet. The helmet (came) off my hands, I wasn’t upset with the umpire, but I turned around and was going to the dugout when I heard you’re out, you’re out of the game. I was surprised.
“In my opinion I didn’t do anything, I don’t think I made contact. If I did, it wasn’t on purpose.”
Big brother and first base coach Bengie Molina wasn’t a big fan of how Fagan handled the play.
“That kid out there didn’t have a feel for the game,” he said. “Did he warrant being thrown out? I don’t think so. He threw a helmet. If you’re going to throw him out for that, then you’re going to have to throw out half the team because they get mad sometimes when they get an out or somebody made a good play.”
Bengie Molina, seeing perhaps the only lighter side of the matter, noted that he had incurred some bodily harm trying to restrain his brother, 10 years his junior.
“I’m already hurting in my back and I’m already hurting in my chin,” said Molina. “He already hit me with his shoulder. Now, I’ve got to go get therapy.”
Tom Timmermann of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.