Baseball must fire Bob Davidson. It has no choice. Not after Tuesday night's NL Central clash between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee's Miller Park.
Davidson, in the middle of a game where he and his crew ejected a manager, a coach, and a player, decided to complete the superfecta by ejecting a fan.
There was only one problem: the fan never interfered with the playing field. Nowhere in the Major League Baseball rulebook does an umpire have the power to eject a fan who never enters the playing field.
According to the official MLB Rule Book under rule 9.02(e), “each umpire has authority at his discretion to eject from the playing field any spectator or other person not authorized to be on the playing field.”
Rule 1.04 specifies that the playing field is, as would be assumed, just the field of play, the 400 or so feet to center field, the foul territory, and everything else in between.
Nowhere in the MLB rule book is an umpire given the authority to eject a fan from the stands, unless, of course, he enters the field of play.
So when Davidson stopped the game in the seventh inning and turned to the stands to eject Sean Ottow, 44, of Waukesha, Wis., Davidson was showing a blatant disregard to the rules of Major League Baseball.
Or, even worse, Davidson displayed a lack of knowledge of the rulebook.
In either instance, his display should be intolerable.
Davidson already has a long history of controversial calls including a fair-foul call that cost the Florida Marlins a walk-off victory against the Philadelphia Phillies in August, but he had never shown a blatant disregard for the rules.
Up until now, his errors were no different than those of other high-ranking umpires like Jim Joyce and Don Denkinger.
Sure, in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, Davidson ignored the rule that states that an umpire cannot overturn another umpire's call without being asked by that umpire for input, but in fairness to him the baseball rule book also stated that Davidson, not the second base umpire, had precedence to decide if a runner tagging up from third had left the bag after the catch. Davidson was only ignoring an invalid ruling by that umpire.
But over their careers, Joyce and Denkinger never went this far. Never did they eject a fan from the stands for jeering a player.
After Davidson issued the order ejecting Ottow from the stadium, he signaled for an usher to escort Ottow out of his seat. The usher guided Ottow up and out from the stands behind home plates. While leaving, Ottow made a v-shape with his arms and the rest of the Brewers fans cheered him.
Ottow was booked and charged with disorderly conduct.
Ottow told the Associated Press that he had been jeering Cardinals' catcher Yadier Molina for some time, but insisted that he never swore. If he swore, then certainly he could have been thrown out of the game and booked for disorderly conduct.
But in no situation could he have been thrown out of the game by Davidson. Not if Davidson chose to follow the rule book.
Now, there are situations where umpires are given discretion to determine what is fair regarding fan behavior.
If a fan reaches over into the field of play and interferes with a live ball, the crew chief has the right to eject the fan. While the rule book technically only gives him the authority to eject the spectator from the playing field itself, security understands that in essence the fan has been ejected from the game and he or she will be escorted out of the stadium.
Just the same, if a spectator (hereafter referred to as an idiot to save space) jumps onto the field of play just because he wants to take some girl to the prom, the umpire has the right to ask a police officer to run the idiot down and taze him and make sure he never attends another baseball game the rest of his life.
Idiocy on the playing field can be ejected.
But nowhere in the MLB rulebook is an umpire given the authority to eject a fan from the stadium, and especially not to signal an usher to escort him out.
Yet on a power trip as revolting as when Joey Crawford ejected Tim Duncan for laughing, Davidson decided to rewrite 140 years of precedent and eject a fan from the game.
And there is only one right course of action MLB can possibly take: it must immediately relieve Bob Davidson of his duties. Anything less can only be interpreted as a statement that umpires don't have to follow the rules.
In my life, I never thought I would see an ejection more nonsensical than the one my lacrosse coach received during my senior year of high school. In the fourth quarter, the umpire ejected the coach for shouting at his team for a line change. Nobody thought the referee could be serious.
But somehow, Davidson was able to top that.
If baseball wants to keep whatever semblance of credibility it has left after years of Bud Selig tweaking the rule book at his whim, it must fire Bob Davidson immediately. It must show that it will not tolerate umpires blatantly ignoring the rule book at the expense of the fans who allow MLB to be as profitable as it is. If Davidson is allowed into Miller Park tonight for the final game of the three-game series between the Cardinals and Brewers, it will be a slap in the face to every single fan of baseball.
Will he be there? Of course. I'm not stupid. Davidson has about as much chance of being fired or even suspended as I do of becoming the next manager of the New York Yankees.
But it doesn't change the fact that he needs to be dismissed. He must be dismissed.
Anything less and baseball might as well throw out the rule book and start over.
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