Wolf in an umpire’s clothing?

What a difference a year makes. Last year’s super-hero ball club, the Clark Kents turned into Supermen, the Kansas City Royals, are quickly becoming the super-villains. The Lex Luthors.  One might expect the Blue Jays to have a heated rivalry with the Red Sox (with the Farrell thing on top of being division rivals) , or the Yankees but the Royals?!

After this weekend’s games and chatter, on field and online, it seems clear that last year’s AL champions are Public Enemy #1 at Rogers Centre… unless umpire Jim Wolf owns that distinction.

For those who might have been enjoying the long weekend out of town and missed Sunday’s game, tempers flared even hotter than the August sky and benches cleared after a series of hit batters and brush backs. KC starter Edison Volquez plunked Josh Donaldson in the first inning, prompting a quick warning from umpire Jim Wolf. After Donaldson was thrown at again, with no response from Wolf, Troy Tulowitzki got drilled in the 7th by Ryan Madson. Still no discipline despite the umpire’s warning. Madson throwing inside at Donaldson yet again was more or less the final straw, causing Josh to lose his temper, John Gibbons to run out and promptly get ejected, soon to be joined in the clubhouse by pitcher Aaron Sanchez who was tossed before the ball he hit Royals hothead Alcides Escobar in the bottom of the inning with touched the dirt.

Benches cleared and while no punches were thrown thankfully, a veritable, verbal series of jabs ran back-and-forth afterwards online and on air. Volquez called Donaldson a “crybaby” and criticized his “pimping” of home runs (something few KC players could be accused of, given their lack of power!); while manager Ned Yost of the Royals had the audacity to praise the “phenomenal” job of umpiring by Wolf.

In response, Jose Bautista tweeted that he “lost a lot of respect” for Yost, prompting Yordano Ventura to call Joey Bats a “nobody” in a tweet he eventually deleted.

Bautista articulately added later on that his comments said “nothing against his managerial capabilities… he’s doing pretty good at that, obviously their record reflects it” but questioned the job of umpiring. “Why put a warning on if somebody is going to get hit with a fastball…and not be taken out of the game?”

A very good question MLB should be asking.

It’s not the first time the Royals have made enemies throwing at batters this year. Benches cleared against Oakland earlier in the season after Ventura plunked an Athletic and days later both Volquez and Ventura got suspended after a brawl with the White Sox, the latter being suspended seven games as baseball deemed him the instigator. So Royals riling up opponents by being head-hunters is hardly anything new. What is is for the umpire to seemingly condone it.

No one in the Jays organization has said it but I will- having Jim Wolf umpire while his brother Randy is an active pitcher is a bad idea. Perhaps Wolf the ump simply thought there was no intent on the pitches brushing back Blue Jays and plunking Tulo. Or forgot that he had warned both benches innings earlier. But am I the  only one who has considered that if Jim’s brother, Randy , was on the Blue Jays bench that he wouldn’t have had the chance to call the game. The fact that Randy is instead toiling in Buffalo (quite well, with a 7-1 record and 2.48 ERA) while Toronto has had a revolving door of pitchers up and down may have been the farthest thing from Jim’s mind. But it sure isn’t a stretch to think that at least on a subconscious level, older bro’ Jim might be a bit angry at the jays for not promoting his little brother Randy and is letting it influence his calling the game.

A wise man once said “justice must not only be done but must be seen as being done.” Jim Wolf tossing a Jays pitcher for hitting a KC player after two Toronto players got hit by pitchers with a notorious history of throwing at players doesn’t seem just.

Nevertheless, the whole incident might be “just” the great bonding event that the team needed. Thanks Kansas City, thanks Jim Wolf. You might have been what our Clark Kents of the ball diamond needed to find the nearest phone booth…

Tuesday addendum: the league announced suspensions for Aaron Sanchez and John Gibbons today yet somehow turn a blind eye to the KC head-hunters. That’s unfair on a hundred levels… but may help cement team unity and determination even better than a trade for an All Star. So, in a roundabout way, thanks MLb!

8 comments

  1. jerder2

    I had always enjoyed watching the Blue Jays and Royals play each other, both a great teams and when the got together it was always worth seeing. However, after the childish and immature behavior exhibited by the Blue Jays pitcher during the fourth game of the series when “he very obviously, and deliberately threw a pitch aimed at hitting the Royals batter in some kind of pathetically stupid revenge for the 2 pitches that hit Blue Jays batters by “two different pitchers” I lost a lot of respect for the Blue Jays. Multiple replays showed very clearly that the last pitch was intended to hit a player. You forget that Royals batter Lorenzo Cain has been hit over 15 times this seasons by pitches, Moussakas at least 7 times, and Alex Gordon over 10 times. You didn’t see them, or Royals pitchers respond with deliberation and going after those other team’s pitchers. I did not sanction Royals behavior when Ventura was suspended for 7 games because of his actions as pitcher, or when Morales was suspended for 4 games for hitting a player in the back (a deliberate throw just like the Blue Jays deliberately aimed pitch on Sunday), or the players who were suspended for 1-4 games for getting involved in tussles with the Athletics. AT LEAST ROYALS PITCHERS/BATTERS LEARNED FROM IT.

    The place a batter stands in conjunction with the home plate, the angle the stand at, the speed and type of pitch a pitcher throws can ALL contribute to players getting hit sometimes. Every team has done it. Heat and/or high humidity can also be a problem for pitchers during a pitch as the palms can be sweaty, etc. The sports analysts say this (many of whom are retired baseball players and even pitchers themselves), coaches, and other experts. MOST pitches that hit players are NOT deliberate, but on occasion they are. And the pitch thrown that resulted in the pitcher being thrown out of the game WAS deliberate.

    It’s funny how it is always the expelled pitcher, or player, who gets on national television and cries and moans about how unfairly they were treated. You don’t the batters who get hit by the pitch get on television and gripe about it. The Blue Jay’s pitcher said “he lost respect for Ned Yost!!” Well Ned Yost never said anything negative about his players/pitchers getting get expelled early in the season, in fact he agree publically with the decisions. I am assuming because Yost didn’t jump right up and get in the middle of everything in support of the Blue Jays, he is NOW the bad guy. A coaches job is to coach “his team”, ask for play reviews, and on occasion as an umpire about a decision. Ned Yost, himself, was thrown out of one game.

    A lot of teams have never thought it fair that the Royals even made it to the post season, let alone the World Series, but when you can stay alive against a great team like the Giants and only lose the series in the “7th game”, then you have a good teams. There record this year, both as a team, and individual records prove that Royals deserve to be where they are now, 8 1/2 games ahead in their division.

    Suck it up Blue Jays, you play great baseball, now act like mature adults who understand that players get hit with baseballs sometimes, own up to the fact you deliberately delivered a pitch which hit the Royals player, and that you deserved what you got.

    • Michael

      First of all Jose Bautista is a RF not a pitcher get your players right before you embarrass yourself anymore. The facts of this game is Kansas played dirty early on in the game and Jim Wolf issues a warning for a toss at Donaldson obviously you would aim for a team’s best offensive player to take the risk out for the rest of the game. The fact that Jim Wolf did nothing about the other tosses at blue jay players shows his inconsistency at calling plays, don’t tell me two more times at Donaldson’s head wasn’t intentional you’d have to be blind or just stupid to think that. Ejecting Gibby for standing up for his players on an intentional toss at a player shows that Jim Wolf either doesn’t know what he’s doing in mlb or that he’s obviously very bias to certain teams and should be reviewed by mlb. Aaron Sanchez toss maybe intentional maybe not but really if you’re going to intentionally toss at a player you’d pick a better position why toss top of the order with no outs … he’d be stacking the bases against his team. Sanchez tosses and hits one player he’s ejected while Troy Tulo gets hit the pitcher stays in the game …. how is that fair ?

      Tl:Dr Jim Wolf is a terrible umpire that shouldn’t be in mlb and Kansas City Royals play dirty and are snakes against other contenting teams

      • mlblogsoneflewoverthejaysnest

        I’m not sure I agree with your pick of wording, Michael, but I agree with the sentiment which is pretty much what I’d expressed originally in the blog- that Wolf seemed biased against toronto. Since that time I notice that once again maybe Toronto was smarter than it seemed in not promoting the ump’s brother, Randy Wolf , based on how terrible he’s been since being jettisoned to Detroit. I guess getting minor league players out is easier for a soft-tossing, one-trick pony southpaw like Randy than savvy major leaguers! It will be interesting to see how the 2 teams will get on or how long their memories are should they meet in the ALCS!

  2. mlblogsoneflewoverthejaysnest

    Thanks for your comments, Jerder. I appreciate the feedback and knowing people are taking time to read my thoughts! Obviously you are a KC fan, which is fine– I was actually rooting whole-heartedly for them in the playoffs last year. I will concur that Sanchez threw at Escobar, and don’t necessarily disagree with him being punished. However, i find it totally unfair- ridiculous actually- that the umpire ignored so the Royals hitting Troy and continuing to throw inside at Donaldson. As Bautista said, why issue a “Warning” if it won’t be enforced? One might expect that Sanchez wouldn’t have felt like throwing at Escobar had Madson been ejected for hitting a Jays batter. Anyhow, thanks for commenting.

  3. dave

    Are you guys complete morons. Why would Sanchez put the tying run on baseball. Sanchez has tons of movement on his ball and it got away. You have obviously never seen Sanchez pitch before. I have never seen a pitcher aim a pitch at the knees for a warning. If he was trying to ‘scare’ KC batter it would be at the head. Anyway KC hitter can barely get it out of the infield so why warn them them for grounding out. Royals survive on pitching an timely hitting. Unfortunately that game was exposed by a real power hitting team. Umpire Wolf is just mad that the Jays leave his soft throwing brother Randy in the minors at AAA Buffalo so that’s his sad little revenge and MBL needs to back him up or look like idiots for hiring him. I am sure he got a lecture behind the scenes. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t get any playoff games. No way show he be allowed in Umpire MLB with a brother playing AAA. Conflict of interest perhaps lol!!.

    .

    • mlblogsoneflewoverthejaysnest

      First I should make it clear whoever the Dave was that replied, he’s not yours truly (my name is Dave too, in case you didn’t know). Anyway, I think perhaps Sanchez was trying to protect his teammates and send a message without causing an all out war, hence the throwing at Escobar low rather than at his head. However, I”m glad you and Dawn as well seem to agree with my theory on Jim Wolf. No way should he be umpiring any games that involve teams his brother is on or COULD be with. What was MLB thinking anyway? for all they knew, when they assigned Jim the series, Toronto could have had an injury the night before and called his brother Randy up from Buffalo to pitch that very game. I do think though the Jays will have the last laugh about it all.

  4. Dwayne Stricklin

    In nearly all levels of organized baseball, including the majors, an umpiring crew rotates so that each umpire in the crew works each position, including plate umpire, an equal number of games.

    • mlblogsoneflewoverthejaysnest

      that’s true Dwayne, however I think the issue is more whether or not Wolf should have even been assigned to games with toronto in it when his brother was in the Jays organization. What, for instance, would have happned had Toronto called up Randy to make a spot start, unexpectedly, on that day? thankfully it won’t be an issue anymore for T.O. since Randy Wolf was traded to Detroit

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