Sunday, August 16, 2009

Terry Francona's favorite ejection

When Terry Francona jogged out to give second-base umpire Scott Barry a piece of his mind after J.D. Drew was caught stealing, he knew he was going to get thrown out of the game. It wasn't because he planned to get thrown out. It was because he was going out there intent on arguing a different play.

He still wanted to talk about the play from the first inning where Carlos Guillen, Francona believed, slid out of the baseline to prevent Dustin Pedroia from turning a double play. Barry actually didn't toss him from the game right away, which surprised him, and that's why the argument turned animated when Barry eventually did offer him an early shower.

"I said to him, 'You're probably going to end up throwing me out because I know I can't do this,'" Francona said. "And then when he didn't throw me out, I was like, 'OK, I said my piece, and now I'll get out of here.' And then he threw me out, so I went and yelled at him a little bit more."

He even threw his gum, but that wasn't any sort of extra protest. That actually was out of courtesy to Barry.

"I didn't want to spit on him," Francona said. "I know it looks stupid. It wasn't anything to rile up the fans. When I go out there, if I have it in, I was all of a sudden cognizant of the fact that it was in there and I'd better get rid of it. Jerry (Crawford, the crew chief) was right there. It just happened. That's all I need to do is hit him with it."

Francona isn't a manager who normally goes out to argue with an umpire just to get ejected or to fire up his team somehow -- unlike, say, Bobby Cox. Still, though, it happens.

"I know people like to hear, 'Well, the manager is getting the team fired up,'" Francona said. "I think the other way. When things are going bad, if I lose it, you might see two or three guys behind me (lose it). We don't do that very often here, which is good. Our guys, for the most part, stay in the game and play. ...

"For the most part, it's when an umpire reacts to something normally that, at the time, it strikes me wrong. That's what happens. It could be something I said, too. I understand that. I say something and he reacts and then you say the magic word, and it's, 'Thanks for coming.'"

Sometimes, though, a manager has no choice but to get thrown out of a game.

It was this same time of year almost a decade ago: Aug. 10, 2000. Francona's Phillies were getting soundly trounced by the San Diego Padres and were about to fall 19 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Francona would be relieved of his duties as Phillies manager barely a month and a half later.

(The details in this story are not exactly the same details as the story Francona told local reporters a couple of days ago, but they match closely enough Francona's memory likely is just a little bit fuzzy.)

Randy Wolf had surrendered eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, and relievers Wayne Gomes and Mark Holzemer weren't doing much better. Bret Boone had hit a three-run home run in the third inning, and Phil Nevin and Joe Vitello each had hit home runs in the sixth. It was another frustrating game for a frustrated team.

(You have to wonder sometimes if Francona reminds himself of those days when games get frustrating at this time of year in Boston. Being in contention every year is an unbelievable blessing, and given what he experienced in Philadelphia, it's hard to believe Francona takes it for granted.)

Damian Jackson hit a triple to right field that actually bounced over the fence and should have been ruled a ground-rule double. First-base umpire Charlie Williams ruled it a triple that allowed two runs to score, and Francona went out after him.

"It didn't affect the game, but it was like, 'Charlie, come on, man,'" Francona said.

There were just shy of 16,000 fans in the seats, and all of them either were booing or asleep.

"Listen to this crowd," Francona told Williams upon arriving at the umpire's feet. "When I leave this field, they're going to crucify me. I'm going to have to get thrown out here."

Said Williams, "I will not throw you out because of my bad call."

Francona was flabbergasted.

"Charlie," the manager said, "don't make me tell you something I'm going to regret. Just throw me out."

"I'm not going to throw you out," Williams said.

The two went back and forth for a couple of minutes until the umpire came up with an idea that would save a little face for both of them.

"Take your hat off and throw it," he said.

"No!" Francona said. "I'm not going to embarrass myself! Just throw me out!"

Williams, with an assist from one of the other members of that day's umpiring crew, eventually gave Francona the heave-ho.

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