Shirai Ballplayer Who Intimidated Akira Sasaki Past Troubles and “Real Problems | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Shirai Ballplayer Who Intimidated Akira Sasaki Past Troubles and “Real Problems

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Sasaki on the mound being courted by umpire Shirai (top left). Catcher Matsukawa is there to stop him (Image: Kyodo News)

I don’t think we should say anything about the decision. I just wish the umpire would be more calm.”

After the Orix game on April 24, Lotte manager Yoshihito Iguchi complained about the attitude of the umpires.

The trouble occurred in the bottom of the second inning with two outs and one on base. Lotte starter Akinori Sasaki (20) threw a confident pitch to the batter. However, a straight ball that appeared to be low on the outside corner was ruled a ball. Sasaki, on the mound, looked unhappy and smiled bitterly as he headed for home base. The umpire, Kazuyuki Shirai (44), took off his mask and angrily approached him.

Mr. Shirai approached Sasaki in a threatening manner, mouthing something to him. He seemed to be repulsed by Sasaki’s attitude. Sensing something was wrong, Torao Matsukawa, a first-year catcher, came between them, and Tetsuya Shimada, the umpire in charge at second base, calmed Shirai down, and the situation was somehow resolved.

From the first inning, it was clear that Shirai’s judgment was harsh. A pitch he thought was a strike was ruled a ball, and Sasaki was not happy about it. As for Mr. Shirai, he may have been frustrated.

Both Manager Kuriyama and Messenger are ……

Shirai is a veteran umpire who joined the Pacific League umpire’s office in February 1997. In September 2009, he became the 98th umpire in history to appear in 1,500 games. But there had been “trouble” before.

In May 2001, Hideki Kuriyama, the manager of Nippon Ham, was ejected from the game for appealing a decision on a dead ball. In April 2006, he sent off Hanshin starter Messenger for verbal abuse. After the game, Messenger complained, “Mr. Shirai’s strike zone was not consistent.

Perhaps he felt that he should not be licked by the young Sasaki, who again showed a frustrated expression on his face. However, Matsukawa, the catcher, is also 18 years old, and his attitude toward players 20 years younger than him could be seen as unkind. If he wanted to warn them, he could have handled the situation differently, such as meeting them after the game.

Natsuo Yamazaki, an umpire in the Pacific League from the 1980s to the 2000s and author of “Behind the Judges” and other books, said, “There are points that can be defended and points that are problematic.

First, there are points in which Mr. Shirai should be defended. The official rules of professional baseball state that neither managers, coaches, nor players may dispute the umpire’s decision. It also stipulates that if they approach home base (where the ball umpire is) to object, they will be given a warning. I have seen the video, and Sasaki is indeed walking off the mound in the direction of home base with a frustrated look on his face. I can say that Mr. Shirai, as an umpire, followed the rules.

The problem is how he handled the press after the game. He said, ‘I don’t have anything else to say, so I won’t comment at all. This only gives the impression of arrogance. When trouble occurs, the most important thing is to deal with the aftermath. If you don’t give a clear explanation to the fans, it is the same as abdicating your responsibility as a referee. He should have said, ‘I was careful according to the rulebook,’ and apologized if he had been emotional.

The “Monster of 2025” achieved a perfect game. Whatever happens, it may be a time for excessive attention to be paid to his surroundings.

  • Photo Kyodo News

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