Friday Fire: Double Standard?

Every Friday The Starting Five will pose a question for discussion. We encourage our readers to give their opinions for the sake of the debate TSF style. We hope you all enjoyed the week.

Is there a different public standard for NBA and MLB athletes regarding their reactions to in game officials?


16 Responses to “Friday Fire: Double Standard?”

  1. on it’s face, it appears to be a clear “yes,” but i think that in baseball, because of the pacing of the game, there’s more of an opportunity for a player to exhibit his displeasure with a call. for example, a pitcher doesn’t like a call, he stalks around the mound, turns his back to the plate for a few extra seconds, etc. a batter doesn’t like a call, he takes a little extra time outside the box, drops all his shit on homeplate if it’s a called third strike. a fielder might shout and spin away from the ump if he thinks he got that ag down in time. the NBA player, however, just doesn’t have luxury of that sort of space. the game is faster and he reacts faster. an NBA player can’t afford to stalk around, there’s just not that kind of time. as such, i think the MLB player has a better chance of composing himself before a meltdown occurs, while the NBA’er doesn’t really get that chance. i mean, i guess you could always do the MJ thig and just stand in front of the ref and shake your head while msirking, but it seems that this year expecially in the NBA, even non-verbal things were inviting T’s and ejections. however, that’s also carried over to baseball, as i’ve seen jim edmonds, jeff kent, and jacque jones all ejected for dropping their equipment on homeplate after a called thrid strike. so i don’t know if there’s a double standard, but i do think the pacing of the MLB game gives player space to decompress that NBA game doesn’t and that may be a reason why we see more incidents between NBA players and refs than between MLB players and umps.

  2. allow me to apologize for the atrocious spelling in my last few posts. mea culpa, mea culpa.

  3. Hey it’s Friday Pm, no apologies needed.

  4. Baseball players are also pretty stealth about it. It seems like the biggest rule is not to stare directly at the umpire. So you see guys’ mouths moving a mile a minute but they are looking to the side or off in some other direction, but when you stare directly at the umpire and start bitching you are “showing him up” and usually get ejected. Baseball is weird with that whole “showing people up/bush league” code they’ve got going on.

    Another sidelight to this, do you think it makes a difference in the ratio of size in basketball? I think, because the players generally hulk over the officials physically, that it a more uncomfortable dynamic. Seeing someone who is 8 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier then their counterpart gives it a weird bullying vibe.

  5. i agree that baseball umpiring is bizarrely subjective with that “showing up the umpire” code. some guys will put up with a stream of profanities, while others eject a guy for dropping his bat and helmet on homeplate. wierd stuff. however, i think the physical intimidation thing goes through both sports and i think, while the size differential is larger in the NBA, most MLB players are significantly bigger, either in heighth or musculature, than the umps, who are largely rather, um, rotund. last night pierzynski (who i think is a total assclown) got in an umpire’s face and was clearly trying to loom over him and intimidate him. i think it’s part of a professional athlete’s makeup to try and gain a physico-psychological edge over an opponent, which, in the case of a disputed call, becomes the official. strange that this doesn’t happen more often in the NFL, where the players are all much larger than the officials and clad in a suit of plastic armor!

  6. Yes, and I’d second PM’s points about pacing.

    Another factor is the relative distance of fans, at the arena/stadium or watching on TV. In a basketball game, the fans can see quite a bit–they are relatively close to the game, and so if a player starts arguing with a ref, it is quite obvious. In baseball, everything is more distant, and so if a player is arguing with the ump in anything less than a vehement way, it is easily missed.

  7. I gotta agree with what everyone has said so far and add one word: intensity.
    Basketball is far more intense than baseball. Players are on top of each other, the players are on top of the refs, and the fans are on top of the court. And going with PM’s discussion, what are you more likely to see a blow up in? Speed chess with people huddled around or a leisurely game of chess in a relaxed atmosphere with no one around?
    As well, people enjoy watching MLB arguments. Earl Weaver, Lou Pinnella and Bobby Cox, etc add that physical conflict to the game that is not there usually. Jacks up the intensity level like a fight in hockey. In basketball, the game is so intense to begin with, an argument is seen as deterent to enjoyment.

  8. jordi’s hit on something interesting: why is it acceptable for a manager to argue with an umpire in a way in which it is not for a player? that’s certainly different than the NBA, where the players and the coaches are held to the same standard of behavoir in regards to their “conversations” with the officials.

  9. Cornelius Says:

    Personally, I don’t see any difference and haven’t noticed any public differences. I would say that it’s a bigger spectacle to see a basketball player thrown out of a game, partially due to the smaller playing area. Without knowing the statistics of how often players are ejected in each sport, it seems that baseball has a higher frequency.

    There is far less “whining” to officials in basketball and baseball when compared to sports like soccer and hockey. But anyone who has played sports, know that it’s a part of the game.

  10. I also think with the difference in the disputability of calls, an the frequency and intensity in which they happen in basketball rather to baseball lends itself to more arguing and a different dynamic. Calls are very subjective and iffy in the NBA whereas you rarely see MLB calls dissected and disputed–for there are less disputable calls, and few really affect the outcome of the game in an egregious way (except balls and strikes, but you can’t argue that). Also, its ingrained in baseball for managers to come out and argue, for some reason they are given more respect when arguing than NBA coaches. Another issues is the crowd dynamic: much more lively and loud in the NBA than MLB, contributing to the intensity factor.

  11. Cornelius Says:


    It’s interesting what you said, because I truly feel that there is more arguing in baseball, partially due to the expected nature of it. It seems to be part of that tradition that baseball is always trying to sell the fans on. The showmanship of a manager striding out to the umpire, or a pitcher glaring towards the mound.

    To me, no sport sticks out more than the other, it’s just that some of the rules in basketball (no leaving the bench) make certain violations seem so much worse than if they happened in other sports. Hockey for example on this subject is known to have bench clearing brawls from time to time and that’s a way bigger deal as the bench is litterally gated in. Personally, I think the no leaving the bench rule in the NBA is fine, it just leaves the league vulnerable to situations like PHX/SA, which no one wants to happen. But way off topic, sorry.

    But on topic, to me it seems NBA officials are given a little more leeway in in ejection discretion. Or at least it’s discussed more afterwards than when it happens on the diamond.

  12. Less penalties for baseball players/coaches because bad behavior only results in ejection.

    If a basketball coach were to pull the stunt the Atlanta Braves’ AA minor league coach did (need I remind you of the rosin bag grenade toss?), he would rack up so many T’s the game would be over.

    A baseball player gets ejected, and that’s it. In any other sport, the penalties affect the outcome of the game (beyond eliminating the player).

    Since there is less impact on the outcome of the game, there will be less public outcry.

    (of course, this analysis ignores the impact of racism).

  13. i dunno, ken, MLB has actually started to hand out suspensions with ejections. part of what spurred sheff’s outburst was the fact that he’d recieved a suspension for being ejected for arguing balls and strikes then throwing his bat on the field (MLB judged that he threw it at the ump). lou pinella got four games for “inciting the crowd” during his latest eruption. i think edmonds got a two-gamer this year, as well. they’re starting to really crack down on what can go on in these confrontations with umpires.

  14. Yes, suspensions, but they don’t lose the game when the outburst happens. In the NFL, pinella’s outburst would have resulted in three 15 yard fouls, serious field position. In hockey, the team has to play a man down for 5 minutes. In baseball they just have to leave the field.

  15. ah, i see what you mean. there’s no immediate ramification in baseball. that’s an intersting point. what sort of penalty could they really give team, though? i mean, in peizynski’s case last night, you lose your frontline catcher in a close game. that’s a big hit. on the other hand, when the manager gets suspended, they manage from the owner’s box anyway, so it’s a push. i think the way baseball is structured makes it hard to mete out any sort of punishment that has the immediate imapct that an ejection or a personal foul has…plus the fact that there are a few more players on abseball team, so you can compensate for the loss of a player. you’ve raised an intruiging point here. do you think the lack of high-impact/immediate impact penalties in baseball encourages players and coaches to have these outbursts?

  16. I would state unequivocally yes there is a difference. A lot of the disparity can be traced towards tradition, but a lot of it is soley based on actions the N.B.A has recently undertaken. Its been standard issue that baseball managers can get with murder, only getting thrown out of a game, after saying that the umpires daughter was in his favorite porn dvd, while NBA coaches are more libel to get the hook. The bench clearing brawl, although to me, not as excusable as hocky fights, also has been casually looked at as just part of the game, while N.B.A fighting never has attained such liberal judgment.
    What irks me about the difference in treatment really is almost the emasculation of the players by the N.B.A. Every since the palace incident, the N.B.A has become more and more repressive. When a player is ejected for clapping, you know something is wrong.

    The public, no matter how ridicouls will laugh at managers hiding and throwing bases and 50 players trying to bash each others face in, but as soon as to 6ft tall basket ball players get in to a altercation the world stops spinning and fear permeates everywhere.
    Why? Image is everything

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