Aaron Judge denies hard feeling over ejection but Yankees ire stays heated at umpire

Umpire signals the ejection of Aaron Judge in Yankees vs. Tigers game as the slugger walks away at Yankee Stadium on May 4, 2024.

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Aaron Judge, known for his stellar sportsmanship, encountered a new career milestone on Saturday afternoon – his first ejection from a game. Though he remained gracious even after he was tossed out, both his Yankees teammates and fans called out the umpire and stayed heated.

In the 870th game of his nine-year MLB career, Aaron Judge dared to express his frustration after home-plate umpire Ryan Blakney called a third strike off the outside corner in the bottom of the seventh inning. The ejection occurred following Aaron Judge’s dispute of the called third strike by home plate umpire Ryan Blakney. The catalyst for his dismissal was merely eight words he uttered while walking away from Blakney.

According to audio captured by on-field microphones, Aaron Judge remarked, “Nah, that’s bulls—. You’ve been bulls—ing all game.”

Despite having his back turned to Blakney, the umpire found an excuse in Aaron Judge’s words to eject the New York Yankees’ captain. Blakney reportedly challenged Judge’s assertion, stating, “You’re not going to tell me I’ve been bullsh–ing all game,” as heard on the YES Network’s audio.

Aaron Judge admitted that he was unaware of his ejection until he heard the Yankee Stadium crowd roar in his defense.

Expressing his astonishment at the situation, the slugger noted that it transpired during a 5-3 game, late in the match, while he was battling through the count. He walked away after voicing his thoughts, adding that he had said worse things in the past. According to Aaron Judge, he typically avoids making a scene in such situations, so he was surprised by what unfolded as he walked away.

“I was very surprised,” Judge said. “(It’s) a 5-3 game, late in the game, battling through the count and kind of walking away saying my piece. I’ve said a lot worse. I usually try to not make a scene in situations like that, so I was a little surprised walking away that happened.”

Standing at 6-foot-7, the slugger is accustomed to having low strikes called against him – although this particular call was a 3-2 fastball that may have just barely clipped the outside edge of the zone – but Aaron Judge seldom displays much outward frustration towards umpires.

A rare incident involving Aaron Judge

aaron-judge-new-york-yankees
AP

Prior to Saturday, Aaron Judge had never experienced ejection in any facet of his life. This encompassed his entire nine-year MLB career, his tenure in the minor leagues spanning three seasons, his collegiate years at Fresno State for three years, his high school stint at Linden High for four years, and even his time in Little League.

Furthermore, Aaron Judge becomes the first Yankees captain to be ejected since Don Mattingly on May 13, 1994.

Following the game, a pool reporter sought insight from Blakney regarding the interaction between him and Aaron Judge. However, Blakney was not available for comment. Instead, crew chief Alan Porter, who served as the third-base umpire on Saturday, spoke with the reporter. Porter mentioned that he had not conversed with Blakney and conveyed that Aaron Judge apparently disagreed with the pitch and made a remark that resulted in his ejection. Porter noted that they strive to assist players in staying in the game, but in this instance, Aaron Judge said something he shouldn’t have.

Prior to his ejection in the seventh, Aaron Judge had not grumbled to Blakney about his strike zone. However, he did express disagreement with a couple of calls early in the game, particularly when Gleyber Torres was on the plate.

During a postgame interview with the YES Network, Aaron Judge acknowledged the challenging nature of the umpires’ job, stating, “I understand their job is tough. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody gets calls wrong. I get a lot of calls wrong in the box when I’m up there.” He expressed respect for the umpires and recognized the challenges they face in making calls, especially in the heat of the moment. 

Aaron Judge mentioned that he has never intentionally tried to undermine them but admitted that he may have inadvertently done so in this particular instance.

Throughout his Yankees tenure, Aaron Judge has often faced strike calls outside the zone, frequently being called out on low pitches below his knees. The slugger admitted that he never intended to undermine the umpires, but he acknowledged that in this case, he may have inadvertently done so.

“I’ve never tried to show them up, but I guess in this case I did,” Aaron Judge said.

It’s noteworthy that Judge hadn’t been ejected since entering the big leagues, despite facing 586 incorrectly called strikes against him, ranking fourth among all players in that period.

Yankees stay heated toward the umpire

Aaron Judge was ejected during the Yankees' 5-3 win against the Detroit Tigers on May 4, 2024.
NY POST

This represents the second contentious Yankees ejection in the last two weeks. Home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ejected manager Aaron Boone under the assumption that the manager was protesting from the dugout, although it was actually a fan expressing dissatisfaction with the strike zone.

As soon as the umpire tossed out Aaron Judge, Boone ran out of the dugout to defend his captain, occasionally restraining him during his interaction with Blakney. The skipper expressed surprise at the snappy ejection, stating that he “didn’t think it was warranted.”

Boone mentioned that he typically intervenes in such situations whenever possible, particularly in defense of Yankees players. According to him, Aaron Judge occasionally expresses his opinion but doesn’t become overly confrontational. Boone didn’t perceive him to be so on this occasion either.

The YES Network’s cameras captured Yankees first baseman Anthony Rizzo yelling, “That’s the softest s— I’ve ever seen,” following Aaron Judge’s ejection.

After the game, Rizzo strongly defended his friend Aaron Judge while calling out the umpire. The first baseman emphasized the captain’s impeccable reputation in the game, labeling him a first-class player. “Everyone knows that,” he commented. From the Yankees’ viewpoint, the most baffling aspect of the incident was Blakney’s choice to eject Aaron Judge when he was already making his way back to the dugout.

Rizzo proposed that there would be an improved understanding between teams and umpires if both sides shared the same understanding of the strike zone, as there is disagreement on what constitutes a strike and what does not.

He also remarked on the technological disparity between the minor and major leagues, and the lack of alignment between players and umpires regarding the strike zone. Rizzo stressed the importance of both parties being on the same page, suggesting that mutual understanding would benefit everyone involved.

“We have all of this stuff that they’re testing in the minor leagues … but they won’t let the players and umpires get in sync with what the strike zone is,” he said. “They have a completely different system than what we see. They think we’re crazy sometimes. We think they’re crazy. We all agree that if we could see the same sheet of music, that would be beneficial for all of us.

Rizzo conveyed understanding and appreciation for the efforts of umpires, acknowledging the challenges they face with their constant travel schedule and lack of a permanent home. He empathized with their demanding lifestyle, often enduring weeks on the road with minimal breaks. However, he highlighted how they operate in a strike zone that differs from what players are accustomed to seeing. According to him, the inherent discrepancy in perception gives rise to disagreements regarding calls, umpires’ judgments prevail as they adhere to their unique strike zone, which players may perceive differently.

At the top of the eighth, the Tigers also encountered issues with Blakney. He called third strikes against Mark Canha, Kerry Carpenter, and Vierling. The pitches to Carpenter and Vierling appeared outside the Statcast strike zone box.

Anthony Rizzo screams at umpire, who ordered the ejection of Aaron Judge in Yankees vs. Tigers game at Yankee Stadium on May 4, 2024.

Yankees fans take on umpire

Aaron Judge had ample reason to feel aggrieved by the call, it’s worth noting. He had diligently worked the count full against Tigers reliever Tyler Holton, seeking to capitalize on a strong performance that included two hits, one of which was an RBI double earlier in the game. The full-count fastball from Holton wasn’t merely slightly off the outside edge; it was a clear missed location, forcing Tigers catcher Carson Kelly to stretch across the zone to retrieve it.

A crowd exceeding 45,000 at Yankee Stadium reacted vehemently to the call. Chants of “UMP YOU SUCK” reverberated throughout the stadium as Judge and manager Aaron Boone confronted Blakney, perplexed by his swift decision to eject Judge.

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