After being called out on strikes in the fourth inning of the Philadelphia Phillies' loss to the New York Mets on Monday, Bryce Harper barked at umpire Mark Carlson from the dugout, got ejected, and threw a fit.
And I get it. In quiet, rational times, I maintain respect for the work done by referees and umpires to enforce the rules of their sports, but during the heat of competition - any competition, really - I become convinced officials are either grossly incompetent or, for whatever reason, punishing me personally with their calls. I am not someone anyone would ever call "sportsmanlike."
Neither is Bryce Harper. Harper's confrontation with Carlson is only the latest salvo in his longstanding crusade against umpires for their strike zones, which has included F-bombs and helmet tosses and dirt-kicking tantrums. Here's the pitch plot from the at-bat that apparently offended him on Monday, via MLB.com:
The box is the strike zone. Pitches 4 and 5 were both called strikes. Both appear, pretty clearly, to be touching the box. The strike-two call against Cesar Hernandez that ultimately led to Harper's ejection was a bit more suspect, but still not really egregious.
On Thursday, the independent Atlantic League will begin its 2019 season. That circuit will serve as a petri dish of sorts for Major League Baseball this year, experimenting with a series of fairly radical rule changes that include the incorporation of a TrackMan radar system to call balls and strikes. Some fans have been clamoring for an automated strike zone with a plea of "robot umps now" since before such a thing seemed at all feasible. But pitch-tracking technology - like many other technologies - has come a very long way in the last few years.