A tale of two disputed strikeouts -- but just one ejection
Seniority may be a factor in Harper, not Fielder, being tossed for arguing call
Bryce Harper is 20 years old, has been in the Majors for two years, often wears eye black that covers half his face while styling his hair in a mohawk and has a father who is a Las Vegas ironworker.
The umpire who tossed Harper in the first inning of Sunday's game against the Pirates after he'd showed discontent following a called third strike is John Hirschbeck. Hirschbeck has been a full-time Major League umpire since 1984, has worked three World Series and spent nine years as the president of the World Umpires Association. Hirschbeck became widely known after Roberto Alomar infamously spit in his face during an argument in 1996. Alomar has said that the two have since become close friends.
Prince Fielder is 28 years old, has been in the Majors for nine years, often wears sunglasses instead of eye black while styling his hair in braids, and has a father who won a World Series.
The umpire who chose not to toss Fielder in the fourth inning of Saturday's game against the Astros despite a lengthy protest after a called third strike is Scott Barry. Barry has been a full-time Major League umpire since 2011 and has not worked in a World Series.
One could dig for reasons why Harper was ejected and Fielder wasn't, but the fact remains that a 20-year-old was ejected for arguing a called third strike by an ump with almost 30 years of Major League experience and a 28-year-old was not ejected for arguing a called third strike by an ump with almost three years of Major League experience.
These things tend to unfold that way.
"It's just something that happened," Harper said about his ejection. "It's just something that happened."
Harper had worked the count to 2-2 against Wandy Rodriguez before taking a looping curveball that appeared to drop in the strike zone, which was highlighted by the local broadcast. After Harper checked his swing, home-plate umpire Bob Davidson didn't call a strike but immediately signaled to Hirschbeck, who was serving as the third-base umpire.
Hirschbeck wasted no time pumping his fist for the swinging third strike, and Harper threw his hands in the air while yelling something from the batter's box. Hirschbeck threw his own hands in the air, almost mimicking Harper's movements, and starting walking toward the outfielder while pointing at the dugout. A few seconds later, Harper threw down his bat and then his helmet in disgust, and Hirschbeck ejected him.
"First of all, he put both arms up in the air," Hirschbeck told MLB.com's Bill Ladson. "To me, I felt like that's showing me up. I yelled at him and warned him to stop. And then he continued and he slammed his bat down. I actually warned him again, and then the next thing, he slammed his helmet down, and I felt three warnings are more than enough."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson wishes that Hirschbeck would have walked away from the incident, but he believes the longtime umpire is a good one, who made the right call.
It was Harper's second career ejection.
On Saturday, Fielder had worked a full count against Lucas Harrell before taking a pitch that was ruled a strike by Barry, the home-plate umpire. Stunned, Fielder shared words with Barry for an extended time before slowly making his way toward the dugout.
Fielder had also argued a called third strike in the first inning.
Comparing Harper's ejection and Fielder's non-ejection could be pointless, or it could be a story of seniority -- and the respect baseball still has for it.