TORONTO – Edwin Encarnacion witnessed the confrontation between Brook Jacoby and umpire Doug Eddings in a Fenway Park tunnel last week, and the slugger insists the Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach didn’t do anything to merit a 14-game suspension.
“That surprised me,” Encarnacion said of the punishment Tuesday. “I never expected that kind of suspension the way I saw it in the tunnel. What happened isn’t supposed to be that many games, because they just yelled at each other. They had contact, but not like the way they say. What I heard is (the umpires) said Brook got the umpire against the wall. That never happened.”
What kind of contact?
“Just bumping each other,” he says. “But no hands.”
The Blue Jays are appealing the unusually harsh punishment for their hitting coach, a sanction that would cost Jacoby nearly nine per cent of his salary in 2015.
According to multiple sources, the umpires’ report – perhaps a corroborated report from the Resident Security Agent stationed at each ballpark whose duties include escorting the umpires off the field – says that Jacoby pinned Eddings against the wall and had his arm around his throat.
Encarnacion said bench coach DeMarlo Hale got in between Jacoby and Eddings before matters reached that point – an account corroborated by other sources who preferred to speak anonymously.
“Nothing happened,” said Encarnacion. “It could have been worse, but nothing happened like what they said.”
The Blue Jays haven’t commented on the matter while Major League Baseball’s only statement came in the news release announcing Jacoby’s suspension for “his post-game conduct toward the umpire crew.”
Still, details of the incident from last Wednesday in Boston have slowly trickled out, and the following account is based upon multiple interviews.
Visiting teams and umpires at Fenway Park share the same exit route from the field, and that’s where the trouble took place. As the umpires passed through the visitors’ dugout, some Blue Jays coaches complained about the home plate umpire Adrian Johnson’s strike zone that night in a 4-1 loss to the Red Sox. Russell Martin’s called strike three for the final out of the game was among several disputed calls.
According to one account, crew chief Bill Miller hung back to engage with the coaches while the rest of the umpires proceeded down the narrow tunnel that connects to both the visiting clubhouse and an access door that leads to the umpires’ dressing room.
That led to a mix of umpires and Blue Jays in the tunnel – the umpires are supposed to descend in a group amid security personnel with the RSA behind them – where the chirping continued.
At some point Eddings, who had been walking up the stairway that leads out of the tunnel, heard something that caused him to turn back down and engage Jacoby.
“The umpire came back and talked loud, in front of his face,” said Encarnacion.
Hale then intervened, shoving the men apart according to one account, and eventually the tunnel cleared, the Blue Jays and umpires heading to their respective rooms.
How Major League Baseball reached its decision is unknown, although it did speak with the Blue Jays about the matter before a ruling was made, and the appeal process remains unclear. For context’s sake, Kelvin Herrera of the Kansas City Royals got five games recently for throwing at the head of Oakland’s Brett Lawrie.
Since the incident new procedures have been implemented at Fenway that stipulate that visiting teams can’t enter the tunnel until umpires have cleared the walkway. A better idea is to use an access point in the left-field corner which connects to the service corridor that leads to the umpires’ room.
“They’ve got to figure out something so the umpires go a different way,” said Encarnacion.