Obviously, the no-hitter is the big story coming out of Tropicana Filed last night. But for Tigers fans, there’s yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of Jim Leyland and umpires, and it was uglier than the blown call in the would-be perfect game or the blown call that ended a game at Atlanta.
This time, Marty Foster’s blown call on a B.J. Upton stolen base brought Leyland out of the dugout in a huff. But it was a Foster accusation that really set him off.
“He accused me of something I didn’t do, and that ticked me off,” Leyland said, “and that’s what got me going. I had some sunflower seeds in [my mouth] when I was talking. Some sprayed on him, and he indicated that I deliberately spit on him, and I’m not going to take that from anybody. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to take that kind of accusation from anybody. That’s a blatant lie.
“Now, did some of the sunflower seeds spray on his shirt? Yes, they did, without any question. [But] I don’t even spit on the ground. But I’m not going to take that. I’m tired of protecting umpires, tired of not being able to say anything. I’m defending myself. If they want to kick me out, that’s fine, I don’t care about that, because [seeds] sprayed on his shirt. But when you start accusing somebody of deliberately doing something, you better be careful.
“I don’t give a care what [Foster] says, and I don’t give a care about what anybody else thinks when they read it in the [Commissioner's] office. I’m tired of not saying anything. I don’t care that he missed the play. That’s part of the game. When you make an accusation that’s a total, blatant lie, that’s upsetting to me.”
Keep in mind, this is the same umpiring crew that handed Leyland his other ejection during that series in Atlanta June 27, the day after crew chief Gary Cederstrom rang up Johnny Damon on strike three to strand the tying run on third with a pitch that was clearly outside on replay.
That reaction is likely to get a reaction of some sort from the Commissioner’s office, even if Leyland is one of the prime figures on the 14-person Special Committee for On-Field Matters that the Commissioner put together to look at ways to improve the game.
“I asked [Foster] if he was going to write me up,” Leyland said. “He said, ‘You spit on me.’ I said, ‘You mean to tell me that you’re going to write up that I deliberately spit on you?’ He said yes. I said, ‘Well that’s a blatant lie.’ I’m tired of protecting them, worrying about what you should say and what you can’t say. I don’t care that he missed the play. I don’t care that he threw me out. But when you make accusations like that, I’m not going to accept that. That’s a blatant lie. I don’t even spit on the ground. That’s a serious accusation, and I’m not going to accept that.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do, and I don’t give a care. They can do whatever they want to do. I’m tired of it. I don’t care that they missed the play. That’s part of the game. I don’t care that he ran me. That’s part of the game.”