Maddon, Gardenhire make history with ejections
First time two managers tossed on same day in postseason
It had been five years since a manager was ejected from a postseason game. It had been five years since Braves manager Bobby Cox -- the all-time leader in ejections -- had been at the helm during the playoffs.Yet on a day that saw two skippers get tossed for the first time in postseason history, Cox wasn't even one of them. Go figure. The Rays' Joe Maddon and Ron Gardenhire of the Twins were both given early exits during Thursday's American League Division Series action. In the first game, Game 2 of the American League Division Series between the Rays and Rangers, Maddon became the 16th manager to be ejected from a postseason game, and the first since Tony La Russa was thrown out of a National League Championship Series game on Oct. 16, 2005, according to STATS LLC. With two on and one out in the fifth inning of a 6-0 loss to the Rangers that put Tampa Bay in an 0-2 hole in the series, Maddon decided to pull starter James Shields in favor of Chad Qualls to face Michael Young.
Qualls threw a 2-2 pitch to Young, who tried to check his swing. Replays showed Young appeared to go too far, but first-base umpire Jerry Meals ruled he didn't swing.Given a reprieve, Young struck a three-run homer to center field on the next pitch to turn a 2-0 lead into a 5-0 advantage. Maddon went to the mound following the blast to talk to Qualls. Before returning to the dugout, Maddon detoured to the plate to have a discussion with umpire Jim Wolf. Midway through his message, Maddon was ejected from the game by Wolf. "For those of you that have been around us the last couple months, we've had several of those moments occur," Maddon said. "So this was a pretty big moment right there. I really thought he had been struck out." Not long after Maddon became No. 16 on the list of skippers to be given an early shower courtesy of the umpires, Gardenhire followed in his footsteps -- albeit under different circumstances. The Twins skipper was ejected in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the ALDS by home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt for arguing balls and strikes in a 5-2 loss to the Yankees, also putting Minnesota in an 0-2 hole in the series.
Twins starter Carl Pavano appeared to have struck out Lance Berkman, but Wendelstedt called the pitch a ball. On MLB.com's Pitch-f/x, the pitch appeared to be a strike. Berkman hit a double on the next offering that put the Yankees ahead, 3-2.Gardenhire went out to the mound to talk to Pavano and stayed long enough that Wendelstedt headed to the hill. As Gardenhire walked off with Wendelstedt, he began arguing about the non-strike call. It didn't take long for Wendelstedt to toss Gardenhire from the game. Gardenhire, who has something of a checkered past with Wendelstedt -- he's twice been tossed by the ump -- didn't want to dwell on their rocky history. "It has nothing to do with it," Gardenhire said. "Hunter and I talked and we kind of straightened all our stuff away. I went out to make sure my guys were straight on what we were going to do next and make my side of the story known. I thought the ball was a strike, he didn't call it a strike and I wanted to make sure he knew that." The torchbearer of tossings, Cox may have actually had cause to add to his tally in the Braves' loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Buster Posey came across with what would prove to be the game's only run on an an RBI single by Cody Ross. Just prior to that, Posey had singled and swiped his first career base, but replays appeared to show him being tagged out by Brooks Conrad on the play. It's unlikely Cox had any qualms at the time -- his track record says he would have made them known -- though after the game he did hint at what he was ultimately thinking about the play. "I haven't seen it," Cox said of the tag. "Some of the guys came down after that inning and said he was out by six, eight inches. From the dugout, you can't see anything, and I didn't see a reaction from our infielders." If Cox had seen what some of his players saw, he may well have met a similar fate as his pair of colleagues, Maddon and Gardenhire. It's widely understood that every pitch and subsequent play carry enormous significance in the playoffs. And managers -- always the first line of defense in response to a controversial call -- are operating with emotions that are even higher and more pronounced than usual. Typically, umpires take that into account and meet them halfway when confronted by a bit of ire. It's not a coincidence that five years had passed since a manager was last ejected from a postseason game. But the stars clearly aligned against Maddon and Gardenhire on this day, which resulted in a bit of history being made.
Matt Chaprales is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.