TORONTO — If you walked around a quiet Toronto Blue Jays clubhouse Friday evening, following a 19-inning, 6.5 hour, ultra marathon of a ballgame, and asked about home plate umpire Vic Carapazza’s work that day, you’d get a lot of similar answers.
A lot of, “no comment.” A lot of, “it is what it is.” A lot of, “I mean, we all saw it.”
And that’s fair enough, because the MLB is listening. And the umpires are listening, too. And going off on a particularly atrocious afternoon of balls and strikes—not to mention several unwarranted, quick-trigger ejections—can lead to issues down the road, whether in the form of in-game treatment or a white envelope that appears in your locker saying you’ve been fined by the league.
But Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin, who had the same view of the strike zone of Carapazza until the 36-year-old umpire ejected him in the 13th inning, wasn’t in the mood to let the ejections go.
“I told him, ‘the first curveball, I had that pitch being away.’ And then he said, ‘I don’t want to hear it.’ And then I was like, ‘well, it’s still away.’ And as I’m walking away he threw me out of the game,” Martin said, breaking down the series of events that led to his ejection after an inning-ending strikeout. “I wasn’t being aggressive. I didn’t tell him that he sucked personally. I didn’t tell him that he was bad. I didn’t do anything like that. All the things that everybody in the ballpark was thinking, I didn’t say any of that. I felt like he really didn’t have to throw me out in that situation.”
The veteran catcher felt similarly about Carapazza’s first inning ejections of Edwin Encarnacion and John Gibbons following a third consecutive called strikeout.
“It’s another situation where Eddy doesn’t get personal with him. He talks about the pitch and what he feels about the pitch,” Martin said. “Eddy didn’t need to get thrown out right there in that situation.”
Of course, Toronto has had issues with Carapazza before, notably in the second game of last season’s ALDS when neither the Blue Jays nor the Texas Rangers could make any sense of the strike zone Carapazza was calling.
A quick glance at the PITCHf/x data from Friday afternoon’s game tells a similar story of an umpire who was calling balls and strikes with absolutely zero consistency.
But balls and strikes are one thing, and ejections are another. Both Encarnacion and Martin were tossed while walking away from Carapazza. And who’s to say what the result of the game would have been if two of the Blue Jays’ best hitters were permitted to have an opinion and continue playing the game.
“It’s tough as a player when the umpire makes a mistake and you say your piece about it and then you get thrown out for being right,” Martin said. “I think umpires just need to sometimes take a deep breath and not flip the switch too quick. Hopefully [Carapazza] gets talked to and the veteran umpires tell him that there’s a certain way to do things. But we’ll see.”
The fireworks between Carapazza and the Blue Jays were just one storyline in what was a truly absurd, bizarre, seemingly never-ending ballgame. Both teams emptied their bullpens, with Cleveland burning Saturday’s starter Trevor Bauer to get them through the 19th inning, while Toronto threw a pair of infielders on the mound, Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney.
When Bo Schultz entered in the 15th, Goins was told to head out to the bullpen and standby. He sat nervously on a chair behind the outfield fence until the phone rang and he was told to warm up.
“It’s a little different seeing the game from out there,” Goins said. “Every ball that comes off the bat looks like a homer.”
When Goins came in to pitch the 18th, it energized what was left of a sold out Canada Day crowd, who gave him a standing ovation. Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker caught his warm-up pitches and nearly lost his head when one got away.
Throwing a variety of pitches with velocities that ranged between 73 and 90 mph, Goins got into a bases-loaded jam with one out before getting Chris Gimenez to bounce into an inning-ending double play. Goins called it an eephus; Martin called it “the biggest pitch of the night.”
Barney pitched the 19th, allowing the game-winning run on a solo shot by Carlos Santana. After playing the first 18 innings at second base, Barney took the mound throwing 85-86 mph. It was the first time the 30-year-old had pitched since high school.
“Honestly, you’re just trying to be efficient; and to not hit anybody. You don’t want to injure somebody in a situation like that where you’re just out there filling an inning,” Barney said. “That’s the only thing I was nervous about—one getting away. I just tried to keep it under control and throw strikes.”
Barney said he enjoyed his 19 innings of baseball for the most part, save for the result and the moment in the 14th when he hit a double down the left field line and ran into second base with his legs seizing beneath him.
“Both my calves just started cramping up,” Barney said. “I went into the clubhouse after that and was just pounding electrolytes. You have nothing in your stomach but these electrolyte packets and some seeds. It’s rough.”
Barney wasn’t alone—many Blue Jays battled cramps throughout the game. Most players don’t eat much before day games, which made Friday’s extra-long affair especially challenging.
“Physically, mentally, it takes a lot out of you,” said Justin Smoak, who played 14 innings before being lifted for a pinch runner. “When I got taken out, I came into the clubhouse and just took the tape off my ankles, tried to let my feet air out a little bit. But you want to be out there for your teammates. They’re grinding through it.
“I’m sure guys were starving, hungry, hurting. We’ll just try to get some sleep tonight. We’ve got another day game tomorrow.”