<
>

Piniella, Weaver among kings of confrontation

It took 123 games and more than four months but Seattle manager Bob Melvin finally earned his first real ejection last weekend (not counting an earlier automatic tossing when a Mariners pitcher hit a batter following a warning).

Melvin has done an excellent job in his first year managing the Mariners, but this is the one area where Seattle fans really miss Lou Piniella. After a terrible call at first base, Melvin merely yelled at umpire Jerry Meals; Piniella would have put on a performance that would have required a curtain, special lighting and a fat woman in a Viking helmet. For such a glaring, bad call, Piniella would have moved more earth than John Deere to get his point across.

But it's unfair to compare Melvin to Piniella in this area. Melvin is a patient rookie learning the ropes. Piniella is a true artist at the peak of his powers. Watching him yell at an umpire is like watching Van Gogh paint sunflowers. Dirt is Piniella's true medium -- last year he completely covered home plate to protest ball and strike calls -- but his strength is that he can use anything available. Caps, bases, balls -- he'll toss them all. Last year he uprooted first base and heaved it down the right field line. Unsatisfied (Lou is a perfectionist in such matters), he picked it up and tossed the base into fair territory.

If nothing is available, he'll just scream. He's gotten in the face of the men in blue so many times that the umpires' union once sued him for defamation of character.

I hope Melvin can one day approach that level but I doubt it. He's too even-keeled, too polite. And besides, like so many things in today's genteel society, arguing with umpires has become a lost art. Sure, managers still get easily irritated -- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has already been ejected more times in less than two seasons than his predecessor, Tom Kelly, was in 15 years -- but they lack the artistry of these past masters:

John McGraw. The Babe Ruth of Ejections, McGraw holds the major-league record for most career ejections with 131, including 13 in one season. Notorious for his dirty tricks as a player (he used to trip players, hold their belts and run inside the baseline back when there was only one umpire), he continued them as a manager. He once was ejected on Opening Day. He once was ejected and responded by banning the umpire, James Johnstone, from the stadium the next day. A true maestro.

Billy Martin. Getting yelled at and cursed loudly for screwing up is never pleasant but imagine if the person doing it was this little tyrant. And if that wasn't humiliation enough, think about it being done in front of thousands of jeering fans. Martin complained so dramatically that he was suspended twice in one season for abusing umpires. And while anyone can kick dirt on an umpire; Martin once picked up two handfuls of dirt and threw it on umpire Terry Cooney.

Alvin Dark. A vastly underrated instigator. We all know about Piniella heaving first base into the outfield and Pittsburgh manager Lloyd McLendon picking up first base and taking it with him into the dugout. But Dark once picked up third base and tossed it over the dugout into the stands. Now that's a Hall of Fame move.

And of course, Earl Weaver.

Weaver once said that it's the manager's job to argue with the umpire because he doesn't hurt the team by getting ejected -- and he did. He was ejected at least 91 times (one source says 98) and suspended four times in his career. Ron Luciano alone ejected Weaver eight times in the majors and four consecutive games in the minors.

Weaver was ejected in the regular season. He was ejected in the playoffs. He was ejected in the World Series. He was ejected from both ends of a doubleheader -- three times. He was ejected before a game started -- twice. And he was creative. He once tore up the rule book and scattered its pages on the field. He once faked a heart attack. He once ripped up second base and carried it into the dugout.

He once told an umpire that he could appear on "What's My Line" wearing his mask, chest protector and ball/strike indicator and still nobody would guess he was an umpire.

God, baseball misses him.

Boxscore line of the week

Greg Maddux gave up two hits on his first two pitches against the Padres last week and it never got much better. Before his start was over, he gave up 13 hits, one shy of his career worst. His line:

5 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

"We're trying to get Maddux's numbers up so we won't have to pay him as much next year," Phil Nevin joked to reporters. "We want him to be in San Diego next year."

Lies, damn lies and statistics

If Seattle holds on to win the AL West, here are two words why the Mariners will root for the Athletics to win the wild card instead of Boston: Pedro Martinez. When the Mariners scored one run in the first inning Saturday, it marked just the second time Seattle held a lead against Pedro in their 11 games versus the pitcher. It didn't last. The Red Sox scored in the top of the second and went on to win 5-1, improving Pedro's record against the Mariners to 11-0 with a 0.96 ERA. Seattle has held a lead in only two of the 99 innings they've played in games Pedro started against them, none of the leads after the fifth inning. ... By the way, the Mariners aren't alone. Pedro is 33-4 with a 1.45 ERA against the AL West. ... This week's edition of How Bad Are The Tigers? After Tuesday's loss, they're back to being on pace to match the 1962 Mets' losing percentage of .750, and because New York played only 160 games that year, are on pace to break its record of 120 losses. They're the first team since the expansion 1969 Padres to be 60 games under .500 at any point in the season. Worse, they're 34 games out of first place in the horrid AL Central. ... Of the 16 National League teams, 10 have winning records.

From left field

Oh, Canada, it's been a pretty good year for Canadian baseball. Gary Carter went into Cooperstown as the first Hall of Famer representing a Canadian team. Eric Gagne has been the best closer in baseball. And British Columbia's Rich Harden is one of the top pitching prospects in the majors.

Here are the Canadians currently on big-league rosters:

Player Team
Rheal Cormier Philadelphia
Ryan Dempster Cincinnati
Eric Gagne Los Angeles
Aaron Guiel Kansas City
Rich Harden Oakland
Corey Koskie Minnesota
Justin Morneau Minnesota
Paul Quantrill Los Angeles
Chris Reitsma Cincinnati
Matt Stairs Pittsburgh
Larry Walker Colorado
Jeff Zimmerman Texas

Infield chatter

Ted Williams belongs in the Hall, not the Fridge.

-- Bill Mahre on "Real Time"

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.