BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona was thrown out of Friday night’s game because of what he termed a “silly rule,” and he was none too happy with umpiring crew chief Joe West for West’s actions on the field after the ejection.
Francona leaped off his seat on the bench in the second inning when pitcher Tim Wakefield was called for a balk that negated an inning-ending putout in a rundown and gift-wrapped another run for the Twins, padding Minnesota’s lead to 4-0.
Runners were at first and third with two outs. Wakefield faked a throw to third base and then wheeled and threw to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Denard Span, the runner at first, was cleanly picked off. Gonzalez threw to second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who slapped a tag on Span well before Ben Revere, running from third, even got close to the plate.
The Sox thought they were out of the inning. But a split-second after Wakefield made his throw, plate umpire Angel Hernandez was moving out from behind the plate and calling a “step-balk,” ruling Wakefield had not stepped far enough toward third base for it to be a legal pickoff move.
Arguing step-balks is like arguing balls and strikes -- it's not allowed. Such protests call for automatic ejection if someone argues.
“I actually never got an explanation,” said Francona. “I got out there so quick because I was stunned [at the call]. I’ve seen Wake do that 30 times. I kind of got out there to find out what happened. Once I got out there and was [thrown out] I figured I’d get an explanation, but I was not even allowed to ask, which to me is silly.
“It seems like a bit of a silly rule,” he said of the ejection, his second of the year and 31st of his managerial career.
That’s when West, umpiring at third base, got involved, much to Francona’s displeasure. West tried to shield Francona from getting to Hernandez. There was contact made between the two of them, more than once, though it was difficult to tell whether West or Francona initiated the contact.
“Joe wants to be in everybody’s business,” said an agitated Francona after the game. “That [discussion] was between me and Angel. He [West] grabbed me. I didn’t appreciate that. I thought he was out of line. That was wrong.”
Francona was so steamed on the field that as West helped escort him past the plate and toward the Sox dugout, Francona yanked what he had been chewing from his mouth and tossed it from close range at Hernandez, though it wasn’t clear if anything hit the umpire.
Francona could be looking at being disciplined for his actions.
Wakefield, for his part, did not think he balked after seeing the tape of the play.
“I heard Angel say I stepped toward the plate, but there’s clearly a gap between both my feet,” said Wakefield.
In the sixth inning, Boston pitcher Alfredo Aceves committed another run-producing balk. This one was obvious. He started his motion, then stopped before stepping off the rubber.
“My bad,” said Aceves.
Francona chuckled at that one.
"That was about as much of a balk [as you can commit],” said Francona. “I wanted to run back out there and tell them they got [that one] right.”