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How to argue with the home-plate umpire

Detroit’s J.D. Martinez (right) took exception with being called out in the first inning by home-plate umpire Paul Nauert on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium.
Detroit’s J.D. Martinez (right) took exception with being called out in the first inning by home-plate umpire Paul Nauert on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. The Kansas City Star

Over the weekend in the Detroit series, baseball fans saw several players take exception to the balls and strikes called by home-plate umpires. The fact we saw the arguments means they were not conducted correctly.

You can argue with the home-plate umpire, but there’s a right and wrong way to do it.

The main rule is the hitter or catcher never looks back at the umpire. Turning around and looking at the ump lets everyone in the stands know the hitter or catcher is having words with the guy in blue behind them. The hitter or catcher can disagree with a call, but they’re supposed to stare straight ahead — at the pitcher — while they do it.

Looking back at the umpire, hand gestures, rolling the eyes; all are considered “showing up” the ump. So is leaving the box too soon when a hitter thinks a pitch should be ball four. Same goes for a pitcher walking off the mound too quickly after he thinks he’s thrown strike three. It’s especially dumb to show up the umpire early in the game; he’s probably three or four more at-bats to get even with you.

Hitters can ask where the umpire has that pitch and when the umpire says on the corner, the hitter can say; “I have it outside.”

Or if the hitter thinks someone else got the same pitch called a ball, he can point that out—but he needs to look straight ahead or down while he does it. That’s why some hitters feel the need to groom the batter’s box; watch their lips and they’re actually having their say.

If an umpire decides he’s heard enough, he might suddenly feel the urge to clean home plate; that gives him the chance to stare someone in the face and say: “That’s it, I don’t want to hear any more.”

Bottom line: Catchers, hitters and umpires spend the entire game talking, and some of that talk is arguing about the strike zone. It’s actually OK to argue with the umpire; you just have to do it in the right way.

| Read more on Lee Judge’s blog at Judging the Royals at KansasCity.com

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