WASHINGTON — Never too early to start workin’ the umps, apparently.
Before a single pitch was thrown in the NL Division Series between the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers, managers Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts stirred things up a bit Friday with some balk talk — indicating they might try to plant a seed with the umpires about opposing pitchers’ windups with men on base.
It all began hours before Game 1, when out of the blue, Nationals skipper Baker raised the notion that Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw might be doing something he shouldn’t when there are runners aboard.
“Quite frankly, I’m hoping that … we get some baserunners, and the umpires might call a balk or two on him, because he kind of rolls through the set position, which they don’t call. But I heard that really upsets him if they do call one,” Baker said with a grin. “So I’m hoping that they call maybe a couple of them.”
Asked whether he would lobby the umpires before Kershaw pitched Friday, Baker said he wouldn’t — but his first base coach, Davey Lopes, would.
“Davey always alerts the umpires,” said Baker, in his 21st season as a manager in the majors.
When that was relayed to Roberts, the Dodgers’ rookie manager, he smiled and offered this initial response: “I didn’t know Dusty wanted to play that game.”
Roberts continued: “It’s a little gamesmanship. Clayton has been around a long time. His move’s been the same. I think he’s been called for a balk a couple times.”
Turning his attention to some Nationals pitchers, Roberts said, “Yeah, you know what? There’s a couple guys that I might put a bug in the umpires’ ears (about), as well.”
He then referenced Game 3 starter Gio Gonzalez, closer Mark Melancon and relievers Shawn Kelley and Marc Rzepczynski.
So does it work when managers try to get a message to umpires before a game?
“Well, I think Dusty is going to try,” Roberts said. “Yeah, it does, and I think that there’s a little bit of banter with … home plate umpires. But I think that you might see it from both sides of the dugout this series.”
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