Jim Leyland: Saliva, Sunflower Seeds,
and a Suspension


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"Say it, don't spray it, Dr. Fuzzenstein!"

The big news out of St. Pete on Monday night was that Rays starter Matt Garza brought home the first no-hitter ever for the Tampa Bay franchise. But almost lost in the shuffle was a smaller story that has turned out to be more than a footnote to the night's proceedings. In the bottom of the third inning, Tigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected by second base umpire Marty Foster for arguing a safe call on a B.J. Upton stolen-base attempt. And now, Leyland has been suspended for one game and fined an undisclosed amount for his conduct. While Leyland will serve his suspension tonight, that may not put the matter completely to rest.

The apparent blown call got things started, but what really set Leyland off was that Foster accused him of intentionally spraying the umpire with spit. Leyland said it didn't happen that way and explained the interaction as follows: "I had some sunflower seeds and when I was talking some sprayed on him." Okay, sounds possible. Leyland then continued, "Did some of the sunflower seeds spray on his shirt? Yes they did, without any question."

As it turns out, now that MLB has found Leyland at fault and suspended him for his "inappropriate and aggressive" actions, there's not really much more he can do about it. Believe it or not, there is no appeals process in place for managers. Which is exactly why it so important next time around - if there is a next time - that Leyland chooses his words carefully.

To be clear, Jim Leyland and his spit don't need to make excuses, they just need to set the record straight. So just in case Leyland finds himself on the wrong side of a sunflower seed at some point in the future, here are a few other explanations he can float out there before it's too late:

- It wasn't spit. It wasn't even sunflower seeds. It was moustache wax that had melted in the Florida heat. People can't really expect the man to endure the humidity of St. Pete without properly treating his cookie duster, can they?

- What the ump felt were tears - tears of disbelief and bewilderment. In fact, Leyland hasn't been able to stop the waterworks since he saw "The Last Airbender" at the local cineplex last weekend. Seriously, it was that bad. This is a completely feasible set of circumstances.

- Have you ever been in Florida in July? It rains periodically all of the time, every day, sometimes without warning. Sometimes it even rains one or two drops at a time. Horizontally. That's Florida's problem, not Leyland's.