Name one person who doesn’t enjoy the arguments in baseball. Go ahead, name just one person. And if you do find that one person who says they do not enjoy the little angry banter between manager and umpire, guess what? I have a little surprise for you…
They are lying.
Everyone likes the arguing in baseball.
Some of the reasons for this are obvious. Call it the oppressed challenging authority or the little guy standing up for himself. Then there is the cathartic aspect of it. Most of the time people have to bottle up their frustration and anger and shove it deep down until it manifests as an ulcer or high-blood pressure. But in baseball it’s OK to scream, yell and kick dirt like an idiot.
But here’s the thing about a manager kicking up a fuss over a bad call or some other slight by the umpires … it doesn’t help anything. The umpire never changes his mind, never reverses the call, and never says, “You know Chuck, you convinced me. I see things your way now so, yes, I will officially change the call. Kudos to you, sir, for helping me see the error of my ways.”
That never happens. It’s even rarer than the unassisted triple play. Since 1909 there have been exactly 14 unassisted triple plays in Major League Baseball history. But not once has an umpire ever reversed his call.
So that leads us back to the question – why argue? If the umpire is omnipotent and the issue is lost before the manager or coach even step foot out of the dugout. It’s almost as stupid as banging your head against a brick wall, yet it happens several times a week and the fans go crazy for it every time.
Take the row between Charlie Manuel and home plate umpire Dan Iassogna during the sixth inning of the Phils’ 10-5 loss to the Cubs, for instance. Clearly Iassogna missed the call where Paul Bako tipped one into the dirt. However, Iassogna ruled that the catcher Koyie Hill snagged it for strike three. The ump made the call even though dirt splashed around the ball, Bako barked, the Phillies’ bench exploded in protest and the Cubs slunk off the field like they stole something.
No worries, though, because Iassogna drove the getaway car.
Iassogna blowing the call wasn’t the problem, though. Instead that’s where the fun began. After all, ol’ Chuck is known for his hot temper. Oh sure, Charlie is fun, and relaxed and as nice as they come. He loves to tell jokes and stories and can laugh at himself easily.
But don’t cross him.
As Randy Wolf once said, “Don’t mistake his kindness for weakness.” And of course, Jim Thome once retold the story about how Charlie turned a clubhouse ping-pong table into kindling after a game.
Mix Chuck’s temper with Iassogna’s arrogance and, voila … it’s show time! That’s especially the case when a missed call stifles a two-out rally.
Do a quick Google photo search on Iassogna and it appears as if the guy has an anger-management issue, a demand for attention or, hell, maybe he is just an angry guy. What are you going to do … sometimes people are pissed off. Actually, he appears kind of confrontational.
Iassogna, as some remember, was the umpire who always seemed to drive Larry Bowa crazier than any other ump — and that’s saying something. It was Iassogna who got the notch on his belt for running Bowa for the first time as Phillies manager in July of 2001 and the two continued to have some run-ins during the length of Bowa’s stay as Phillies skipper.
In fact, Iassogna is so quick to flip off that mask, puff out his chest and confront any type question that he makes folks feel sympathy for guys like Bowa. Hell, Iassogna has even run Manuel from several games, too.
So what gives? Why does it seem as if Iassogna is in the middle of controversy and ready to throw everyone out of the game? Is there anything in his background that explains this?
Well, not really. According to the umpire media guide, Iassogna has a B.A. in English from the University of Connecticut, so maybe he ejects managers and players for ending sentences with prepositions. He also turned 40 on May 3, went to Catholic school, lives in Georgia and has a wife and two daughters.
The media guide profile also points out that Iassogna is, “a frequent blood platelet donor, [and] proudly works with the Chicago Fire Department in support of the ‘Bucks for the Burn Camp,’ which helps children that were burned in fires.”
Sounds like a good guy, right?
But then there was a story from Sept. of 2007 where ex-Phillie Marlon Anderson fought a suspension following an ejection because of Iassogna’s “lies.”
“I went in there today and read the report that he wrote,” Anderson said. “It’s amazing that a grown man could sit there and lie and say the things that he said and not have to show up and defend what he said.”
He said Iassogna’s report indicated that Anderson cursed the umpire three times with a specific profanity.
“That’s something that doesn’t come out of my mouth. Anybody who knows me as a person has never heard me say that. There was a time in my life when I did use words like that. But that’s no longer what I do,” Anderson said. “It’s pretty sick. It makes me sick in the stomach. I don’t want that on my record. That’s not who I am.”
Look, the job of an umpire is not easy. Far from it. No one ever talks about their work unless they make a mistake, which is sure to give any human being a complex.
However, no one ever went to a baseball game to see Dan Iassogna – or any other umpire for that matter. That’s not a knock on the profession, but umpires know that when they train for the job. They know it’s difficult and they know they can diffuse a lot of problems by simply showing restraint.
But lately it appears as if some (not all) umpires are quick to yank off the mask and confront the players, coaches and managers. They seem to have a bad case of the rabbit ears and ready to jaw with a guy over the tiniest slight.
Then again, we cheer, chant and go crazy when they do, so maybe that’s all part of the show, too. In that case, Iassogna and some of his cronies are the classic heels.