Orioles reliever Darren O’Day is both a straight-shooter and incredibly aware of his surroundings. I often go to him when I want perspective on things that happen in the game. When he can, he gives me his unfiltered opinion.
A lot of times, though, he’ll choose his words carefully when he is being quoted for the record because he understands the weight that his words carry.
That’s why what he said after Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers was even more surprising than the two home runs he gave up on successive pitches in the eighth that led directly to the Orioles’ defeat.
In a calm, measured voice, O’Day told reporters after the game that first base umpire Mark Wegner “absolutely embarrassed himself” on a decision in the eighth that, in a sense, changed the game.
With two outs and the count 2-2, O’Day threw an 80-mph slider to slugger J.D. Martinez that appeared to get Martinez to chase. O’Day started toward the dugout while home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg immediately signaled to Wegner to rule whether Martinez had checked his swing. Wegner said Martinez did – though replays showed Martinez’s bat crossed a large chunk of the plate before he pulled it back.
Martinez hammered the very next pitch into the Orioles’ bullpen to tie the game at 5-5. O’Day, obviously frustrated, served up the game-deciding homer on his following pitch, one that Miguel Cabrera hammered over the left field wall. O’Day had allowed one homer in his first 15 innings, then gave up two on two pitches. It’s the first time he’s allowed back-to-back homers in his O’s career (the only other time was when he was with Texas in 2011).
After Sunday’s game, O’Day took major offense to Wegner’s call and the fact that umpires aren’t held accountable for such mistakes (check swings are not reviewable under current replay rules).
“It was a good pitch. I tried to get him to swing at it and I did. Mark Wegner absolutely embarrassed himself,” O’Day said. “I have a great relationship with a lot of umpires. Some I consider friends. They have a tough job. It’s a judgment call. But that was pretty egregious. You look at all the replays, it’s a swing. Hitters that good don’t need extra chances.”
O’Day said he had no problem with Kellogg checking – that’s what home plate umpires should do. But, he said, Wegner flat-out missed it.
“It’s a tough job, but you’ve got to be better than that,” O’Day said about Wegner. “I’ll take the loss. I blew it. The pitch to Cabrera was especially bad. That’s not like me. I’m pretty collected out there. I’ll take that loss. It’s under my name in the box score, but that was terrible, terrible. Games like that, assuming (closer Zach Britton) does what he normally does in the ninth inning, that’s a win and a series sweep against a really good team.”
Instead, it was a loss to the Tigers. And it likely will be a hefty fine for O’Day, the club’s union rep who clearly knows that the league doesn’t like players criticizing umpires. That makes O’Day’s comments even more pointed. He knew he’d be paying for the words, and didn’t care.
“Umpiring is a tough job. It’s happened to me before, and I’ve gotten out of it before, and now I look petulant, whiny because I’m complaining about it, but there’s no accountability, and that costs games,” O’Day said. “If we lose the division by one game, there’s no telling what that costs. When you’re out there trying to do your job to the best of your ability, I’m trying to pitch. He’s trying to umpire. Somebody dropped the ball today. I consequently dropped the ball after that.”