By STEVE KORNACKISpecial to FOXSportsDetroit.com
Jim Leyland was thrown out of his third game of the month, and retreated to the clubhouse Monday afternoon to watch replays that confirmed what his eyes had told him minutes earlier. The tipped foul by Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles had been caught cleanly by Tigers catcher Gerald Laird, and should have been the third out.
However, first base umpire Bill Welke ruled that the ball had skipped off the dirt before Laird caught it. And so instead of the Fenway Park scoreboard operator posting a zero for the bottom half of the second inning, Aviles singled. Two more hits followed to produce three runs total.
Boston won, 7-4, and Leyland became a topic of conversation around baseball for his pointed comments about the blown call.
It was classic Leyland, and a scene Id witnessed many times before. But it should be noted that it was one of the managers calmer rants. There were no expletives to be deleted, nothing thrown, no abrupt exit stage left.
You can make more of this if you want -- saying that it was a manager letting off steam for the frustrations of a 23-25 start from a team many envisioned reaching the World Series with the addition of Prince Fielder. But Detroit was coming off a three-game sweep in Minnesota that included a dramatic Sunday victory.
Perhaps the earlier ejections were prompted by what has been a challenging season, but Monday was simply a case of Leyland making a point the way he always does when umpires clearly miss one. He doesnt want to draw a fine, and puts the heat on the media to point out the error.
FOX Sports Detroits John Keating began the post-game questioning and alluded to how Bostons three-run rally probably shouldnt have happened.
I mean, there should not have been a second-inning rally, Leyland said in agreement. There was three outs. Ive been in the game a long time, and when the catcher catches the ball and its strike three, you call the guy out. Its that simple, isnt it?
He began raising his voice at that point.
I mean, you guys need to write something and hold people accountable! Leyland said. You know what? Were all accountable in this business! All of us are accountable! And when I say all of us, I mean everybody thats involved in the game needs to be held accountable!
OK? Thats exactly what needs to be done. There should not have been a rally in that inning. Now anybody that saw that, have the nerve to write what you saw and say it -- because Im not going to sit here and rip umpires.
But you saw what you saw; clearly saw what you saw. I just saw it for the 10th time clearly saw what you saw. Write it and say something once in a while. Have the nerve to say something.
Leyland never specifically said the call was blown, but masterfully made his point without crossing the line that would have brought a fine.
Former Boston manager Terry Francona was grinning after watching the clip on ESPNs Baseball Tonight. He is a close friend of Leylands, and apologized for his less-than-serious reaction even though its unlikely Leyland would take any offense to that.
Francona added: The way he does things -- hes great for baseball.
Leyland, 67, is old school. He is a stickler for accountability in a world that demands less and less of it. Thats all he was asking for on Memorial Day.
And umpire crew chief Tim Tschida was accountable after watching replays and being quoted as saying, It looks conclusive that he caught it.
Home plate umpire Jeff Nelson appealed to Welke on the play because he had the clearest view. Nelson said he saw Laird roll the glove open and it appeared the ball wasnt caught. Tschida added that dirt coming up wasnt caused by the ball, but rather the catchers glove. It created an illusion for Welke to deal with.
And so it goes -- human error playing into the game of baseball with an umpires call as it has for more than 100 years.
Leyland has averaged almost exactly three ejections for each of his 21 major league seasons, and has that many in May alone. But there is more for Leyland to be encouraged about lately with the quick impact of speedy center fielder Quintin Berry and Fielder having a big series in Minnesota, where his club took all three games.
This team that was supposed to be a stream roller has fans frustrated and calling for Leylands head -- or at least those of the members of his coaching staff.
But things did not look bright at this time last year, either. Detroit was 25-26 after losing the first game of a double header to Boston at home on May 29. It won the second game that night and went 70-41 the rest of the way, winning the Central Division. The Cleveland Indians, off to another surprising start this season, also took off fast in 2011 before fading.
So, this could be dj vu all over again, as Leylands hero, Yogi Berra, might say.
But dont read too much into Leyland getting huffy after Mondays loss. He was just taking care of business.