BOSTON -- It's not every day that a home plate umpire ejects a player who's sitting at the end of the bench in the dugout. Yet Alex Verdugo found himself as the not-so-lucky man to earn that distinction on Tuesday night.
It came in the fourth inning in Houston, when Verdugo said something from the bench that triggered umpire Pat Hoberg to give the heave-ho to the Red Sox outfielder. With Verdugo in the leadoff spot, that ejection certainly put a dent into Boston's offensive plans. The Red Sox ended up losing 7-3.
After the loss, Verdugo didn't express any regret for what he said that led to the ejection. In fact, he shifted the blame to Hoberg for not offering a warning before the ejection.
"No, there was no warning, bro. I already said it. There's no warning," Verdugo told reporters in Houston. "At the end of the day, if an umpire needs to throw somebody out, especially if it's about arguing balls and strikes like he claims, you need to have a hard warning. You need to say, 'OK, that's it. The next word that comes out, the next thing I hear, you're gone.' He was a little too quick, that's all."
Verdugo said he wasn't arguing balls and strikes specifically -- "just yelling, I mean, nothing crazy, nothing bad, just chirping" -- and went so far as to say that Hoberg was soft and sensitive.
"I'm not at home plate. I'm sitting on the bench. Like so many people don't even know what happened. So that's why it was frustrating. It was like, you've gotta give a warning. And to me, he was being soft," Verdugo said. "It is what it is, man. It's one of those things, I feel like, personally, umpires are protected too much, especially with that. It's part of their job to be good, right? And I understand the human error aspect of it and you know you're not gonna get every call. But don't be so sensitive when we let you know our side of it. That's baseball. Have a little bit tougher skin and deal with it."
Verdugo argued that he has the right to chirp however he sees fit.
"Just chirping. I can yell and mess around to any umpire like however I feel, you know what I mean?" he said. "It doesn't have to always -- just 'cuz you're yelling at somebody or chirping doesn't necessarily mean it's about balls or strikes. He was feeling self-conscious because the dugout was already letting him know about some balls and strikes. So he was already on edge feeling some type of way and saw me move my mouth. I was sitting on the bench. I wasn't even in the front like popping up really like mad. I said something while I was sitting down -- a little jokingly, a little to just kind of make some noise. And he saw me and threw me out."
Manager Alex Cora initially seemed upset by the ejection, perhaps believing that he had been thrown out. After Hoberg explained the situation to Cora, though, the Red Sox manager calmly accepted the news and tapped the umpire on the shoulder. That reaction perhaps indicated that the manager was not too pleased with Verdugo for getting himself thrown out.
However, Cora gave away any high ground he might have had in the matter by... for arguing balls and strikes.
All of it works to embody the frustration that the Red Sox are clearly feeling. They overcame what they felt to be poor umpiring on Sunday in New York, but they've now lost two straight in Houston to fall five games out of a wild card spot, and they're losing leadoff hitters and managers to ejections. Verdugo, Cora and the Red Sox will have to be smart -- even if the umpires are soft -- if they want to navigate out of this hole.
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