Not Fine: Gardenhire's unjustified sanction

There is nothing “fine” about the next check that Ron Gardenhire will be writing out to the MLB offices. On Tuesday, Gardy and Houston Manager Cecil Cooper were fined by the league for failure to adhere to the league’s new order to amp up the pace of play.

Gardy’s fine was the result of an ejection suffered last Sunday after he argued (shock) with home plate umpire Brian Runge about the blue’s failure to allow time for Twins’ batter Brendan Harris, resulting in a called third strike to the batter while he had one leg out of the box and his head transfixed on the dirt about his cleats. The out proved pivotal in the 8th inning scenario in which the Good Guys trailed 3-2. Following the incident, Gardy was quoted as saying:

"I was in shock. I honestly didn't know what I saw. My guy is looking down and not even looking at the pitcher. If he gets hit in the head, what are we going to do then? That's embarrassing. ‘Call the league,' that's what I was told."

I considered that perhaps the league was exercising the fine as something of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” considering Gardy’s 38-career ejections, but the fact that Cooper is just a second-year skipper would signify that the league is trying to make a blunt statement with this latest attempt to quicken play. Cooper, it should be noted, has been ejected 4 times this season in his own right. His fine was a result of not appropriately having somebody ready to warm-up a pitcher after his own catcher, Brad Ausmus, was stranded on base to conclude the prior inning.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, games this season are taking 29-seconds longer than games were in 2007, coming in at an average clip of 2 hours, 51 minutes, 42 seconds. In 2003, games were more than 5 minutes shorter. Dating to the end of May of this season, the Twins were averaging 2:45:09 for their ballgames, third quickest in baseball. Said games times were reported by Ken Rosenthal at FOX Sports last month, and coincided with MLB’s gauntlet reminder that games needed to move faster, going to the extent to order that pitching coaches and mangers needed to hustle out to the mound when conversing with/or removing pitchers.

“A lot of them take the most leisurely strolls you can imagine out to the mound,” Jimmie Lee Solomon, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations said last month. “We're going to ask them to jog out there unless there is some physical ailment that would cause them not to.”

As both a baseball fan and a sportswriter, this caught my attention. The recent, undisclosed fine levied against Gardenhire caught my temper.

Note to Jimmie Lee Solomon: Have you looked at these coaches lately, Jimmie? Just because they don the same uniforms as their players, and just because most of them used to be ballers themselves, it doesn’t mean they are still moving ass for a place on a roster. These guys are old. The lion’s share of them don’t look like Joe Girardi. Rather, they’re tubby and keep weird hours. Get off their ass and let them do their jobs instead of making yourself look like a dick by making old guys run fast.

“Action will be taken this time,” Solomon added. “Umpires will enforce the rules. Everyone is on notice now.”

If “everyone” includes the otherwise organic outcome of games, then touché to Jimmie.

In my mind, the call the birthed Gardy’s ejection back on the 15th, the fact that he got ejected, the fact that he received an ensuing fine under the cloak of slowing the game while he was in part doing nothing more than trying to protect his player, and the fact that umpire Runge passed the buck upstairs by saying -- according to Gardenhire -- that the skipper should “Call the league,” for further conversation about the matter, is a large pile of crap.

Real baseball fans don’t give a shit if a game takes 29 seconds longer.

But alas: Jimmie and those of his ilk have company. In that same Rosenthal story from last month, in a Poll asking, “Are MLB Games Too Slow?” 65% of responders replied “Yes.” Nearly 41,000 votes were tallied.

Concurrent to the issue has been the matter of instant replay in baseball. Back in the off-season, 25 out of 30 MLB general managers informed Commissioner Bud Selig via vote that they were in approval of adding instant reply to baseball on a basis that would review boundary calls on home runs that may require clarification regarding fair/foul calls, or balls that may/may not clear the fence.

Overwhelming support from the suits, no doubt. And Gardy actually backed this measure, too.

But personally, I find this stance running perpendicular to the order that baseball wants to quicken pace. It’s a dichotomy of intention. Does nobody upstairs in baseball remember what instant replay initially did to football? Games were lengthened, what, another 30-minutes? Sure, they’ve ironed it out over time. But this is baseball. And baseball doesn't need to mirror the rapidity of the rest of our modern-day lives. Rather, baseball's at its best when it echoes the past. Being consistent is too often confused with being stubborn.

For my money, once you open that replay door, even just a sliver, the vultures fly in and peck away. They’ll eat what’s pure, devour history, peck at the sport’s humanity, and in a mere matter of seasons, they’ll caw, “Hey, this works for home runs. Let’s try it out for balls-and-strikes, too.”

And Jimmie moves quickly. Although instant replay was formerly said to introduced on a trial basis for the Arizona Fall League and then the 2009 World Baseball Classic, MLB (they like things fast) is now pushing for replay by early-to-mid August of this season.

Debate will ensue. Votes, too. Opinions in the next six weeks will become more prevalent than the incessant Joba Chamberlain highlights on SportsCenter. But in this space, let it be known that I’d rather hear the errand-boy’s explanations of a Brian Runge, than a beep, whirl, and click that told Brendan Harris he just struck out.

I guess I’m a purist. Our national Futuretime just doesn’t do it for me.

I’m antiquated. I’d write on, but maw’ is calling from the porch, signifying my shift to churn the butter.

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