Way back in 2016 I wrote about Noah Syndergaard’s ejection against the Dodgers, for a pitch he threw behind Chase Utley in response to Utley’s having broken the leg of shortstop Ruben Tejada during the previous season’s playoffs.
Which brings us to video of umpire Tom Hallion trying to cool the situation, and barely succeeding. (The clip came out last June, but is somehow making the rounds again now. Which is reason enough to dive in with gusto.)
The umpire seems to understand that baseball has a method for delivering retaliation, and even appears receptive to looking the other way. Except, he tells the pitcher, “that’s the wrong time to do it.”
This is where things get confusing. There was one out in the third inning of a scoreless game when Syndergaard threw his pitch well behind Utley. The right-hander had already faced him once, leading off the game, and struck him out. There was also the not-inconsequential detail that the Mets had faced Utley five times, covering 19 plate appearances—including five the previous day—since he’d injured Tejada without so much as a whiff of controversy. If Syndergaard’s timing was wrong, what timing would have been better?
When Terry Collins gets involved, he tells Hallion: “You gotta give us a shot!”
Hallion’s response: “You get your shot. You had your shot right there. … You know the situation, Terry.”
Collins was, of course, talking about a repercussion-free shot, not one in which one of his aces gets tossed in the third inning after throwing only 33 pitches. The best guess here is that Hallion didn’t mean a word he was saying, and was just trying to cool the situation as quickly as possible.
The most vital part of the conversation—and this cannot be understated—came when Hallion broke out the phrase that has since gained him infamy: “Our ass is in the jackpot.” Twice.
The situation is old, the insight is new, and spring training is in full swing. Welcome back to baseball, everybody.