Homeplate umpire Eric Cooper dished out warnings in the first inning when Jeremy Bonderman hit Brett Gardner in the leg with the first pitch of the game. Brett Gardner, as you know, is the dude that took out Guillen with a half clean/half steroidal slide a couple nights ago. Due to the slide and Guillen’s inability to stay healthy, it landed Guillen on the DL today, and he could miss 2-3 weeks because of it.
The Tigers apparently felt a little pay-back plunking wouldn’t hurt anybody. After all, what’s a little bruise on Gardner’s thigh compared to Guillen being out for 2-3 weeks? It’s a part of baseball.
Gardner took it like a man, but Eric Cooper didn’t. He issued warnings to both sides and that meant the next HBP could be grounds for an ejection (of the pitcher and the manager), if he deemed it to be on purpose. Seven innings and two Miguel Cabrera home runs later, Miggy gets a 91 MPH fastball to the left side of his back on a 1-1 pitch by Chad Gaudin, who has good control (19 BB in 46+ innings).
Eric Cooper does nothing, but leisurely flip a new ball to Gaudin.
Naturally, Leyland wants to see some ejections, but gets nothing. Cooper warned both benches after the first pitch of the game and does nothing when the Tigers’ best hitter gets bean balled after he’s hit two home runs? For somebody who was so aware of the situation on the first pitch of the game, Mr. Umpireman was clueless in the latter spot. And Leyland let him know it.
Thankfully, Fox Sports Detroit — most likely indemnifying its viewers for not showing the footage of the Galarraga/Avila/Laird squabble last Sunday– left their field mics on and we got to hear Leyland at his hoarsest:
We’re going to get somebody [expletive] hurt. I can [expletive] promise you that. (garble, garble) They’re going to the [expletive] playoffs, I ain’t going anywhere.
And Leyland’s right. Cooper, by not acting on his warnings, might force Leyland’s hand to have his pitchers retaliate once again because nobody was punished for his best hitter getting plunked. The playoffs comment, I’m guessing, means that Cooper’s only hurting the Yankees, who actually have something to play for and probably can’t afford one of their guys getting hit/suspended for a brawl. (For anyone upset Leyland might be waving the white flag on the season with that comment, well, the truth stings like a fissure in my ass).
Surprisingly, Leyland was not tossed after his initial argument (he was tossed later in the inning). In the bottom of the 8th, Enrique Gonzalez threw a pitch behind Derek Jeter, the second hitter of the inning, but it’s awfully hard to tell if it was on purpose — Enrique Gonzalez sucks and wound up walking the bases full. Even if it was on purpose, Cooper would’ve been assassinated if he ejected a Tigers pitcher for throwing behind a guy after he did nothing when Cabrera got hit.
I have shoddy video of the incident (enjoy it before Jim Joyce & the MLB takes it away):
If Cooper would’ve ejected Gaudin and Girardi, this little tift between the two teams probably would be over and chalked up to a normal part of baseball. Instead, Cooper has suddenly made tomorrow’s day game very interesting. The game is on MLB Network and their analysts think something will happen. As Rod Allen said, speaking from experience, nobody is going to want to dig in. And guess what? Rick Porcello’s starting for the Tigers. He’s no stranger to plunking and then body slamming somebody.