MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 2: Yadier Molina #4 of the St. Louis Cardinals is thrown out of the game after striking out against the Milwaukee Brewers by home plate umpire Rob Drake in the tenth inning at a Major League Baseball game at Miller Park Stadium on August 2, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cardinals beat the Brewers 8-7 in eleven innings. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)
Molina has been suspended for five games for his confrontation with umpire Rob Drake, which highlights Major League Baseball's favoritism when it comes to the umpires - and the inconsistencies that some thought were the sole property of the NHL.
I've touched on discipline in the NHL and MLB before at my site, Thrashing the Blues. My article, "Dropping the Gloves vs. a Basebrawl Game" was motivated by last season's bench-clearing brawl between the Cards and the Reds. For some analysis of "The Code," check it out.
Do a Google search for "unfair NHL suspensions." You will have 1,450,000 different page hits to peruse. Needless to say, you might want to set some time aside for that light reading. The NHL has a reputation for inconsistency of punishment, much of which has been encouraged by the former head of discipline, Colin Campbell (who handed over the reigns to former Blues forward Brendan Shanahan in June). The same hit by different players in different roles - star player, grinder, fighter, rookie - could either earn huge suspensions or absolutely nothing at all. Hits to the head? Where'd the elbow hit? What happened to the player - did they get hurt? Was the person who did the hit someone with a reputation for dirty play? It seemed that all of this was weighed under Campbell, without application of the rules in a predictable manner. Just look at Down Goes Brown's legendary NHL suspension flow chart to get a shockingly accurate (and hysterical) view at it.
Hockey tends to hand out suspension more often than other leagues because of the nature of the sport, so therefore it has more of a chance to get them wrong, or at least not suspend people with any consistency. MLB usually hands them out for the rare altercation with an umpire, or if there's a fight - which is obviously condoned (to a degree) in hockey. The two things that have a minimum of wiggle room in either league are altercations with the umpires/referees/linesmen and negative interactions with fans (though ironically, the NHL managed to play hypocrite with the last one too, suspending Rangers coach John Tortorella for one playoff game during the 2009 playoffs for squirting a fan with a water bottle, while letting Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith get away with the exact same thing).
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina learned the hard way not to mess with the umpire. Granted, umpire Rob Drake was not doing the best job calling pitches on Tuesday night for either team, and it's understandable for Molina to be upset to be called out on a pitch that had been a ball for the other side. Still, that doesn't excuse Molina's temper tantrum ump bump, for which he was awarded a five game suspension on Thursday. It was an overreaction that could cost his team in the playoff hunt. Not the best choice.
It's interesting how messing with the officiating crews command more of a penalty than conking a player in the head with your shoulder or kicking someone in the head with a cleat. Just arguing with a ref got goaltender Martin Gerber three games in suspension. A year or so later, after the creation of Rule 48 (which bans hits to the head), Shane Doan got the same suspension for a blindside hit on Dan Sexton. Basically, the rule to help discourage hits to the head gets enacted, and players still get suspensions equal to or less than messing with the ref.
Molina gets a deserved five game suspension. Flash back to last year with the bench clearing brawl between the Cardinals and Reds. The most notable thing about it - overshadowing Brandon Phillips' comments about the Cardinals - was Johnny Cueto bicycle kicking people while up against the backstop. He kicked Chris Carpenter in the head, and kicked so hard at backup catcher Jason LaRue that he received rib bruising and a career-ending concussion. Cueto's suspension - for doing something that was incredibly dangerous - was seven games. Since Cueto's a pitcher, he only missed one start.
I'm not trying to say "Hey, Yadi's suspension needs to be shorter because Yadi didn't hurt anyone!" I'm merely pointing out the humor in the situation - and the fact that the NHL isn't the only league who doesn't have their ducks in a row when it comes to discipline. Heck, I could compare Molina's suspension with Ryan Theriot's on July 17th where he argued with and bumped not one but two umps, and only got two games. Now THAT'S consistency in punishment.
Maybe Bud Selig needs to give Colin Campbell a call. Sounds like he'd fit right in.