Judging the Royals

Why Eric Hosmer got ejected from Wednesday’s ballgame

Home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor ejected the Royals’ Eric Hosmer in the sixth inning Wednesday.
Home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor ejected the Royals’ Eric Hosmer in the sixth inning Wednesday. jsleezer@kcstar.com

When a team loses 13-2 I’m not sure you can say there were any highlights, but maybe we can find some points of interest. Let’s start with Eric Hosmer’s first-ever ejection from a major-league ballgame.

C.B. Bucknor was the home plate umpire Wednesday. Bucknor is not known for having a great strike zone, and by “great” I mean consistent.

It frustrates hitters and pitchers when a pitch is a ball in one at-bat and then a strike in another, or if one hitter gets a small strike zone (usually an All-Star) and another hitter gets a large one (usually a rookie).

Theoretically, hitters aren’t supposed to argue balls and strikes, but in reality there’s a constant three-way conversation going on at home plate among the umpire, catcher and hitter. The catcher might say “nice call” and the hitter might say “I’ve got that pitch outside.” The umpire might say “both of you shut up.”

As long as they all keep staring straight ahead while talking it doesn’t look like anything’s going on.

But if a hitter turns and looks back at an umpire after a borderline call (and Billy Butler did this all the time) umpires don’t like that. A hitter can disagree with a call if he does it the right way, but looking back at the umpire lets everyone in the stadium know the hitter disagrees with the call and that look back is considered “showing up” the umpire.

If a hitter wants to make a point that requires more than a few words he might suddenly decide to smooth out the dirt in the batter’s box and say his piece while looking straight down. When a hitter is smoothing out the dirt watch his lips; if they’re moving he’s giving the umpire a piece of his mind.

If the umpire wants to say his piece he might suddenly decide to clean home plate; cleaning home plate and fixing the dirt in the batter’s box are distractions so fans don’t realize there’s an argument going on.

Now let’s throw whether “getaway day” was a factor. Getaway day is the last day before teams and umpire crews travel to the next city on the schedule, and because it’s going to be long day, everybody hopes for a quick game.

And one way to speed a game up is for all the bang-bang plays to be outs and all the borderline pitches to be strikes. (Instant replay is making that harder to do, but not impossible.) And if getaway day also turns into a blowout, it might be a good idea for hitters to swing the bat; don’t expect a borderline call to go your way when you’re down 11 runs and everyone wants to get on the plane and go.

OK, so there’s your background.

In the sixth inning Hosmer got a couple calls he didn’t like and didn’t think Bucknor was locked in on doing his job. Not every conversation behind the plate has to do with the ballgame and catchers and umpires are talking all the time. Hosmer said Bucknor was having a conversation with Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos and in Hosmer’s opinion Bucknor was missing calls while that conversation went on.

Hosmer struck out and then apparently kept barking from the bench until Bucknor ejected him. Yelling from the bench lets everyone in earshot know you think the umpire is doing a lousy job; you can say something at the plate and if no one hears you say it, that’s OK — but yell it from the bench and you’re “showing up” the umpire and you can get tossed.

And Hosmer did.

Those three errors

Make three errors in one inning — and the Royals did that in the top of the first — and people are going to question your defense. All three plays were ones that could and should have been made, but none of the plays were 100 percent routine.

Mike Moustakas made an error on the first ball in play, a grounder by Michael Taylor. You could tell Moustakas was in trouble because it appeared he didn’t know whether to charge the ball and shorten the hop, or back up and play it on a long hop. He wound up getting an in-between hop that went over his glove.

The second error of the inning was made by second baseman Omar Infante, who had to field a ball after it went between the second base umpire’s legs. I’m guessing Infante didn’t get the best view possible of a ball that got on him quickly.

The final error was by right fielder Jarrod Dyson. Daniel Murphy doubled down the right-field line and Dyson went over to play the carom off the wall. The ball ricocheted off the wall and shot by Dyson, but balls off the wall in Kauffman Stadium’s corners can be tricky. If the ball is low enough and hits the footing beneath the outfield wall pads it comes off with more velocity than if it hits two inches higher.

All three plays should have been made, but none of those plays were routine.

Finally, Kris Medlen had a bad day

After a six-run first inning the game was pretty much over and while the Royals defense didn’t help him, starting pitcher Kris Medlen made most of his own problems.

Medlen faced nine batters in the first inning and fell behind in the count to five of them. And even when Medlen threw a strike he was still missing the mitt. A pitcher can be “wild in the zone” and Medlen was.

The Royals start a three-game series in Cleveland this Friday, but have Thursday off and I think everyone — including Royals fans and baseball writers — could use one.

If you’re a Royals fan you already know first baseman Eric Hosmer has perfect hair, cut in a semi-faux hawk; a hairstyle so popular that thousands of Kansas Citians — mainly kids — now wear the “Hos” hairdo. The Hos is the creation of Hosmer and D