Scott Kazmir was ejected in the second inning of Saturday’s Indians vs. Athletics game for arguing balls and strikes. What’s unusual is that Kazmir didn’t appear to swear, and umpire Jerry Layne ejected him with no warning whatsoever. Kazmir appeared to say something along the lines of “Come on, you’re gonna mess with me now? For what?” Jerry Layne responded by immediately ejecting him from the game. This is by no means a ordinary occurrence. Usually a player won’t get an immediate ejection unless they utter the magic swear word, or at the very least directly insult the umpire behind the plate. So why did Kazmir get thrown out of his first game back at Progressive field before he could pitch two innings against his former team?
According to this article by Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Layne was the umpire calling the balls and strikes during Game 4 of the 2009 American League Championship Series. During that game, Kazmir was the starting pitcher and didn’t have a great night. He gave up four runs on six hits over four innings while throwing just 49 of his 89 pitches for strikes. The Angels would go on to win that game 10-1.
This article by Jim Caple of ESPN tells us that a few blown calls may have at least helped the Yankees’ cause against Kazmir. One of these was on a play in which Kazmir had very clearly picked none other than Nick Swisher at second base. However, none of the blown calls in this game were the fault of Jerry Layne. So what’s the connection here? The only thing to speak of is that Kazmir appeared to disagree with Layne’s strike zone through disrespectful body language. You can decide for yourself by watching the game here.
Take a close look from 23:45 to 24:10, and you’ll see Kazmir pounding his glove and yelling something after Layne blew a call, turning what should have been a strikeout into a walk. The pitch looks almost identical to the pitch Kazmir was thrown for arguing on Saturday at Progressive Field. Throughout the inning, Mike Sciosia is very vocal about his distaste for Layne’s strike zone, but Kazmir keeps his comments to a minimum.
According to the article by DiGiovanna, Kazmir was not disrespectful towards Layne after the game. He mostly took the blame on himself for not attacking the strike zone. But he did describe Layne’s strike zone as “frustrating”. Could this have rubbed Layne the wrong way? Is there more behind this confrontation? We’ll keep searching, but it seems likely that Layne already had it out for Kazmir to some degree, for some reason. Kazmir’s language seems to suggest that he was already paranoid about Layne “coming after him”, and there is at least a connection between the two of them dating back to a playoff game in 2009.
One thing’s for sure. If there is any sort of personal tension between them (and it seems likely), it’s incredibly disappointing and unprofessional of umpire Jerry Layne to let it influence his calling on the field. If you take a close look at the Umpire’s Ten Commandments, it’s very clear that he broke quite a few of them. At the very least, the ejection was ridiculously premature and Kazmir should have at least been given a warning. I have zero respect for Layne and his power trip, and I am severely disappointed that something like this happened in a major league baseball game.