Royals pitcher Mike Montgomery was ejected for arguing about balls and strikes on Friday, crew chief Sam Holbrook said. But Montgomery would take exception to that — it wasn’t the calls that made him mad, it was home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez’s intent.
“I felt like he was after me personally, and the team,” Montgomery said after a fifth-inning argument with Gonzalez wound up costing him his first career ejection. “He had a bad day. What really just [made me mad] was, he was intentionally trying to screw me over.”
Montgomery, a five-year veteran who was traded from the Cubs to Kansas City in July, had been complaining about Gonzalez’s strike zone for much of the game, but it boiled over when Mitch Garver led off the fifth inning with a home run. Gonzalez called a couple of low curveballs that might have nicked the strike zone balls, and Garver eventually worked the count to 3-2 by fouling off a fastball. He was was lying in wait for the next one.
“He threw me a fastball, and I was extremely late. I think that kind of played into my hand,” Garver said. “So then I was sitting dead red, right down the middle, and got it.”
Montgomery was clearly fuming, and pitching coach Cal Eldred walked out to calm him down. Gonzalez came out too as Eldred walked away. As the umpire turned back toward home plate, Montgomery said something in his direction, and Gonzalez turned back.
He pointed at the pitcher and warned him to stop talking. Montgomery didn’t.
“He knew he was wrong. That’s why he took so long coming out,” Montgomery said. “He pointed out toward me and machoed up. And I say, ‘Throw me out, then.’ My emotions got the best of me. We’re trying to win a game.”
Afterward, he repeated that he is used to umpires missing calls — “Umpires are human, and he had a bad night,” Montgomery said — but that his biggest objection was that “I thought he was intentionally doing it because I had mentioned a few times earlier in the game that I thought a few balls were strikes. That’s the issue i have — they are supposed to be objective and call the game the right way. I don’t think he did tonight.”
Montgomery insisted that he had no issue with Gonzalez before Friday’s game. “I’m sure he’s usually a pretty good umpire. But he’s got to do his job,” Montgomery said. “And if he doesn’t, there has to be some consequences for those guys. We definitely have it as players.”
What should the consequences be? Maybe we don’t need umpires calling balls and strikes, Montgomery suggested.
“He was giving me that look like, ‘I’m going to [mess with] you.’ I don’t think umpires should have that right,” the pitcher said. “They have to be objective, and if they can’t be, I hate to say it, we need to go to automated [strike] zones. I’ve never been one to advocate that. But it’s definitely something for the league to consider.”