The Dodgers series in St. Louis last weekend ended on a low note, with losses on Saturday and Sunday. The team’s only series loss in the last four weeks included anger at home plate umpire Paul Emmel in the ninth inning on Saturday, with that ire carrying over into Sunday when Max Muncy was ejected — by Emmel, now at third base — while muttering on his way back to the dugout.
After Sunday’s game, Muncy explained he thought Cardinals catchers Willson Contreras and Andrew Knizner were “bullying” umpires into getting strikes. From Jack Harris at the Los Angeles Times:
“The pitch before was almost the exact same location,” Muncy said. “For the catcher to sit there and tell him that’s a terrible call and he missed it and needs to be better, and then the next one he gives it to him. That, to me, is where the frustration was coming from. I felt like that was happening all weekend long.”
On Monday, the anger melted into reasonable explanation. Muncy expanded on his postgame statements as a guest on Foul Territory.
“I don’t think the catchers did anything wrong. They’re doing their job,” Muncy said Monday. “It was like the more you complained the bigger zone you got, as the catcher. It was just something we’d all had enough of. I said what needed to be said, then I took it too far by pointing at the third base umpire with my bat.
“I was kind of saying, ‘All you guys are getting tricked into this right now.’”
Derrick Goold at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch talked to both Cardinals catchers about it, in what seemed to be a good-natured, if not tongue-in-cheek discussion.
“I don’t think I bully umpires,” catcher Andrew Knizner said, smiling.
They give a lot of calls on both sides,” Contreras said. “That’s the thing. When you have a really good catcher like (LA’s) Will Smith, who is getting calls, right? And you’re happy about it, you’re getting calls. And then you have me on the other side getting calls, and you’re not happy about it? That’s one thing that I was kind of shocked about watching (Muncy’s) video.”
For what it’s worth, Dodgers batters got 187 strikes called on pitches out of the strike zone through Tuesday, tied for third-most in the majors, and 139 pitches in the strike zone called balls. The missed call deficit of 48 pitches is sixth-highest in the majors.
How about on the batters side? The Cubs hitters have the most pitches in zone called balls but it has mostly evened out for them.#NextStartsHere pic.twitter.com/1AejIJTaZa— Inside Edge (@IE_MLB) May 23, 2023
Zach Buchanan at The Athletic went to Michigan to watch some minor league baseball, and profiled a pair of Dodgers at High-A Great Lakes.
On catcher Dalton Rushing, the Dodgers’ top draft pick in 2022, org catching instructor and old friend Rocky Gale told Buchanan, “I’m starting to see more quiet games behind the plate, which is a good thing. It’s one of the ultimate compliments, not to be noticed back there. Then as soon as he throws a baseball, you’re like, ‘Oh, there he is.’”
Gauthier, who enters Thursday ranked fifth in the minors in on-base percentage, hitting ..., told Buchanan, “Last year, I took a more passive approach and sticking to my pitch and my spot and not swinging. This year, I’m not expanding too much, but enough to where I can do damage and stay consistent with it.”
Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus wrote about the late Eli Wolff, the man behind Major League Baseball changing its nomenclature from disabled list to injured list:
“At the time, you might have shrugged, and said, “OK, fine.” I certainly did. But then you think about that substitution, realize what it meant, and what it means. It’s a seemingly small change. But it’s one that makes our sport better. And for that, we can thank Eli Wolff.”