Balks are a part of baseball, a quirky, somewhat subjective part, but a part nonetheless.
And, as far as game situations go, sidearmer Darren O’Day’s balk against the Seattle Mariners in the ninth inning Monday, wasn’t that big of a deal.
It negated a foul out off the bat of Nelson Cruz, but the Mariners ultimately didn’t score anyway and held on for a 5-3 win.
The intrigue surrounding the balk had more to do with who was involved – and what happened afterward. Both O’Day, for the first time, and Showalter for the 32nd, were ejected.
O’Day, who is in his 11th season in the majors, has two balks in his career. Both in the last calendar year – April 30, 2017 and Monday.
Both have been called by the same home plate umpire, 34-year-old Stu Scheurwater, who made his big league debut in 2014 and became a full-time MLB ump last December.
“I’d love to hear an explanation. I don’t know what it could possibly be. I’ve seen the video. Pretty clear stop. It’s the same thing I’ve been doing for many years now,” O’Day said. “And just over a calendar year I’ve gotten balked by the same guy in tight situations, and that’s kind of why I have to apologize to my mom tonight for all those swear words I said.”
After the game, crew chief Gary Cederstrom provided an explanation – at least for why it took a while for the balk to be called, after the play had been made and O’Day was heading back to the mound. Not for exactly what he saw.
“The plate umpire called the balk, and then the pitch came in, so obviously, he can’t be standing up and pointing — he’s got a pitch coming in, because the play is not over yet. Then the ball was hit and you still have to let the play go through because the hitter has got an opportunity to hit and reach base, OK?” Cederstrom said. “Then, after that, is when Stu informed that he had a balk. That was heard around the home plate area, but people out on the bases, the runner or whatever, so once the out is recorded, then Stu came out and said, ‘I’ve got a balk and the runner goes to second base and the hitter gets to come back to the plate.’”
Once O’Day heard a balk had been called, he admittedly, flipped.
“I lost it. … I have two balks and this is my 11th season and they are both in the last year when he’s behind the plate focusing on balls and strikes. And he’s balked me twice for an inside move that hasn’t been a balk any other time in 10 years,” O’Day said. “To be fair, I’ve been warned to stop before. That’s usually how most umpires handle it. They say, ‘Hey, O’Day, make sure you come to a stop.’ Sure, no problem. So, I respect the hell out of umpires. They have a hard job. They really do. But I don’t know what’s going on.”
Scheurwater said he ejected O’Day because, “Just his choice of words directed at me. It’s going to be in the report, though.”
Scheurwater added that O’Day, during his tirade, made a point of saying, “That’s twice we’ve had a situation, yes.”
Scheurwater said Showalter was ejected because he, “came out and continued to argue That’s pretty much how it goes down.”
As for Showalter, well, he had some choice words for Scheurwater’s call post-game.
“He’s just over-umpiring. Inventing an argument. Doesn’t have to be. Same thing happened in New York. Same way he messed up the swing on (Dee) Gordon, too (earlier in Monday’s game),” Showalter said. “Basically, just creating an argument that shouldn’t be there. It’s unfortunate. Hopefully, the league will get it corrected.”
What had Showalter particularly incensed was that Zach Britton had to enter the game and was rushed during his warmup by the umpiring crew, Showalter said.
“Probably what bothers me the most is the guy out there rushing Zach to get ready,” Showalter said. “I will talk to the league office about that. That’s totally unacceptable and unprofessional. I’ll take care of it.”
Added O’Day: “The most unfortunate part about it is that after I lost it and got ejected, Zach had to come in and pitch and then they rushed him warming up, which is just ludicrous. Because he was probably sitting down there (in the bullpen) chewing gum and not even thinking he was going to pitch. So now you’ve got to use a guy, we’ve got a thin bullpen, and you’ve got to use a guy, and now that hurts us tomorrow.”