Major League Baseball has fined and suspended Nationals third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. for one game following his ejection from Friday night’s game and what MLB termed “his aggressive actions, which included making contact with umpire Ed Hickox.”
Hairston was incensed when Padres pitcher Clayton Richard was allowed to throw a “quick pitch” to him in the seventh inning after Hairston believed he’d called time. Hairston lofted Richard’s pitch into center field but did not run to first base, instead arguing with home plate umpire Hickox that he had been granted time and asking him to appeal for help. Hickox refused; Hairston continued his argument and was thrown out of the game.
MLB is alleging that Hairston bumped Hickox during the argument, but video replays show that any contact was certainly incidental. Hairston may have brushed Hickox’s shoulder immediately after being ejected, and he did brush third-base umpire Brian O'Nora later, in what looked to be more incidental contact, while continuing his conversation with Hickox, but O'Nora moved out of the way immediately.
Hairston, who turned 35 of Sunday, appealed the suspension.
“I was definitely shocked they were suspending me,” Hairston said. “I wanted to see the video, and the Nationals just showed me the video from every angle. It showed I didn’t push or shove him, so I don’t know what they were seeing, but it’s clear as day in the video that that wasn’t the case. … You can’t make up the video; it’s right there for everybody to see. The video speaks for itself.”
“I had no clue that in my wildest dreams I’d get suspended,” he added. “That’s why I’m appealing. If I did something wrong, I would admit it. I’d step up, but I never pushed or shoved him, and the video shows that.”
Players are fined automatically when they’re thrown out of a game, but it doesn’t always result in a suspension. Hairston has never been suspended during his major league career, which spans 14 years.
Hairston’s also played with Richard and knew about his tendency to quick-pitch hitters. Hairston believes he’d been granted time before that pitch and, whether the umpire remembered that fact or not, wasn’t allowed time to set himself in the batter’s box.
“I was out of the batter’s box after he gave me time, and as soon as I walked in the batter’s box, he was coming (with the pitch),” Hairston said. “You’ve got to give time for the hitter to get set. I even talked to Clayton about it yesterday, and that’s what he does. He quick-pitches most of the time, and when I came back into the batter’s box, he was already on his way and I wasn’t set. That’s why I was trying to plead my case … I just wanted for (Hickox) to get help.”
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman raced out of the dugout to prevent Hairston from continuing his argument and getting tossed, but he was too late. Hickox was the third-base umpire on Saturday, and Hairston said the two acknowledged that the issue was over and it was in the past.
“You’re going to have your ups and downs as far as disagreements with umpires, but I respect every umpire,” Hairston said. “Never have I ever pushed or shoved an umpire, and I never will. I never cussed at him. I pleaded my case, and that’s all I did. Sometimes I’m an emotional guy. I can be very showy at times, but I never pushed or shoved him. … Clearly, I went around him … look at the video — I just saw every angle. It speaks loud and clear.”
MLB denied a request for comment from Hickox because of the pending appeal.
Hairston has been the Nationals primary third baseman in the absence of Ryan Zimmerman, and he’s performed well in that capacity, especially defensively. He’s hitting .252 with a .313 on-base percentage in 44 games this season.
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Amanda Comak covers the Washington Nationals and comes to The Washington Times from the Cape Cod Times and after stints with MLB.com and the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Recorder. A Massachusetts native and 2008 graduate of Boston University, Amanda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter @acomak.
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