MLB to review umpire contact with Torii
Slight touch occurred during benches-clearing incident in Tigers' win
BALTIMORE -- It appears Bud Norris' fastball to Torii Hunter's ribs won't be the only thing that gets reviewed out of Monday night's benches-clearing exchange in the Tigers-Orioles game.
After all the shouting, the only actual person-to-person contact in question from the whole incident came from umpire Paul Nauert, who appeared to put his right hand up to Hunter's face in an effort to calm him down. That slight contact, too, will be reviewed as part of Major League Baseball's investigation into the incident.
The review is part of the standard operating procedure for all on-field incidents, an MLB spokesperson said. Hunter, for one, is hoping nothing comes out of it.
"That doesn't make sense," Hunter said Tuesday. "I mean, he was just trying to get me to calm down. He was just saying, 'Torii, you're better than this. Come on.' …
"I've known him a long time. He wasn't smacking me like people think. He was trying to calm me down: 'Come on, baby, come back, come back.' Because I was losing it. He was just trying to help me. There's nothing to really investigate."
It was soft contact, and Hunter brushed off any perceived ill will toward Nauert when talking about it after the game. Still, with players often disciplined for making contact with umpires during arguments, it figures that the reverse scenario would also get a look.
Hunter did not make it sound like an incident.
"People probably see that he was smacking me in the face, and if a player did that, he'd probably be fined. But I know him," Hunter said. "It was all for the good. …
"I don't know who came up with this [idea to investigate] or whatever, but obviously they're not human. Must be a robot or something."
The incident came on the follow-up to the original exchange between Norris and Hunter, as Hunter was making his way to first base. Nauert had spent the first part of the argument trying to calm down Norris on the mound.
The tempers had seemingly cooled, and Norris, who had been ejected by home-plate umpire James Hoye, was at the dugout steps when he and Hunter began jawing again. Hunter began shouting back from first base as Tigers first-base coach Omar Vizquel tried to keep him from taking any steps toward the dugout.
Quickly, Nauert intervened and got in between them, which is when the contact happened. Replays seemingly showed Hunter reacting to the contact, but it wasn't clear if he was talking to Nauert or still angry about Norris. The intent, Hunter said, was to get his attention off Norris.
"When he tapped me in the face, I actually looked at him like I came back to," Hunter said. "He stared at me and said, 'Torii, you're better than this.' And I told him, 'Yeah, you're right.' Everything just calmed down because of Paul. He did a great thing. I appreciate that."
Nauert has been a Major League umpire since 1999 and umpired for a decade in the Minor Leagues before that. Hunter's first full Major League season was in '99.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who also knows Nauert from his days as a player, considers the matter closed.
"It's much ado about nothing," Ausmus said Tuesday. "Paul wasn't trying to maliciously slap him. In my mind, it's over."
As the Detroit News pointed out, an argument over a called third strike in 2009 turned heated when umpire Paul Schrieber put his hand on Magglio Ordonez's back during their exchange to try to direct him back to the dugout. Then-Tigers manager Jim Leyland became livid and picked up the argument, admitting later that he "lost it."
Schrieber apologized in a statement the next day, saying he was only trying to keep from having to eject Ordonez.
There is nothing in baseball's rules specifically addressing umpire-player contact, but The Official Baseball Rules has a section called, "General Instructions to Umpires," which includes the following paragraph:
"You are the only official representative of baseball on the ball field. It is often a trying position which requires the exercise of much patience and good judgment, but do not forget that the first essential in working out of a bad situation is to keep your own temper and self-control."