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When baseball skippers get the old heave-ho

We've all seen red-faced baseball managers giving umpires a piece of their mind after disputed calls, and the inevitable ejections that follow. But what happens after the manager has to leave the dugout?|

OAKLAND - Orioles manager Buck Showalter was ejected for arguing an umpire’s warnings on Sept. 11. Two days before that, Reds manager Bryan Price got the heave-ho for disputing a strike call. The previous day it was Angels manager Mike Sciosia (check swing), the day before that Marlins manager Dan Jennings (strike call).

Despite the use of instant replay to adjudicate borderline plays, Major League Baseball managers still get bounced. They rage too long, or utter a profanity, or get too close to an umpire’s nose, and that’s it. The man in blue makes a tossing motion, the skipper marches off the field red-faced.

And then … what?

Where do they go when they’re out of the cameras’ sights? What do they do? Are they quarantined, or do they stay in contact with their dugouts?

The answers, it turns out, are as varied as the personalities of the managers, the context of the ejections and, especially, the architecture of the baseball stadiums.

“I remember a couple managers I had in the past yelling out pitching changes (after they were ejected), or how many outs are there?” said Dusty Baker, who played 19 MLB seasons and then managed for another 20, including a decade with the Giants. “Or they’ll hear the crowd applaud or hear jeers and react to that. You know, if you’re on the road and you hear cheers, you figure something bad happened against your team, and you’re like, ‘Somebody tell me what’s happening.’ I’ve seen clubhouse guys running back and forth to the dugout.”

Most managers say their basic post-ejection routine is to head to the clubhouse and watch the game alone on TV or listen to it on the radio while they attempt to cool down.

“I liken it to being on the treadmill, and you’re running hard and you get your heart rate up, and then your heart rate comes back down,” said A’s manager Bob Melvin, who as of Wednesday had been ejected 35 times in 1,731 games as an MLB manager. “At some point you come to your senses a little bit. Emotionally you’re pretty frayed, and sometimes you can be really spent depending on what the argument was about, and how long it went for.”

Melvin does not watch the game in isolation after an ejection. He sets up in the A’s video room. Adam Rhoden, the team’s video coordinator, is there with him, and hitters constantly stream in and out to watch video of their at-bats and nod to the exiled manager.

But this is sort of the corporate-press-release version of ejections. Since the days of Leo Durocher and Billy Martin, MLB managers have done everything they can to stay involved in games from which they have been banished. The practice is so common, in fact, that Art Howe (26 ejections in 2,266 games), who managed for 14 years with the Astros, A’s and Mets, seemed unsure about whether it was against the rules to communicate with your team after getting ejected.

It is.

Section 6.04 (d) (4.07) of the Official Baseball Rules states: “When a manager, player, coach or trainer is ejected from a game, he shall leave the field immediately and take no further part in that game. He shall remain in the club house or change to street clothes and either leave the park or take a seat in the grandstand well removed from the vicinity of his team’s bench or bullpen.”

It might be the most flouted rule in baseball, right up there with base coaches staying inside their appointed boxes.

“You generally still have control of what’s going on, because you have communication,” said Howe, now a studio analyst for the Astros. “Someone will ask what do you think? Should we do this or do that?”

Major League Baseball has, on occasion, sanctioned managers for getting re-engaged. In 2007, then-Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez was suspended one game and fined for coming back to the field in an attempt to restrain his players during a bench-clearing fracas. In 2009, then-Orioles manager Dave Trembley was suspended two games and fined after public acknowledging he had communicated to his team from the dugout runway.

The most renowned violation occurred on June 9, 1999, when then-Mets manager Bobby Valentine was sent off in the 12th inning of a game against the Blue Jays. Valentine returned to the New York dugout wearing sunglasses and a fake mustache. He later claimed it was a gag, but the league fined him $5,000 and suspended him two games.

“Now that was the first time I saw a guy do a Groucho Marx imitation,” Baker (20 ejections in 3,165 games) said. “I like Bobby, but that was a trip.”

Gonzalez, Trembley and Valentine violated the cardinal rule of ejections. They made their involvement too obvious. Most have learned that if you make the smallest effort to stay out of sight, the baseball powers don’t care a whole lot about what you’re up to.

And if the stadium is constructed beneficially, it isn’t particularly hard to remain hidden.

At O.co Coliseum in Oakland, the clubhouse tunnels are far removed from the dugouts. It’s not like a manager can park himself in the tunnel and carry on a conversation with his coaches. San Francisco’s AT&T Park gives its managers better vantage points, but exposes them to being spotted. Other facilities are more forgiving.

“I think of an Anaheim,” A’s broadcaster Ray Fosse said. “In Anaheim, you walk down the stairs and you can look up. The umpires can’t see you, but your bench coach can just stand there like this and you say, ‘Hey, make a move.’ ”

Fosse noted that such side-mouth whispering was more easily accomplished in baseball’s older stadiums, many of them gone now.

“I think of Memorial Stadium, where the Orioles played,” he said. “And I think of Earl Weaver. I mean, he would just - dugout’s here, walkway’s there, he’d just stand there. He’s within shouting distance.”

Tom Kelly (remarkably, just five ejections in 2,385 games) was based at the Metrodome for his 16 seasons managing the Twins.

“There were 44 steps that go down or up between the clubhouse and the dugout,” said Kelly, who does studio work for the Twins. “There were two doors at the bottom of the dugout there, and you could leave one of the doors open. Sometimes it would be open, sometimes closed, but mostly it was open. You could actually close one and sit there if you wanted.”

As an active manager, Melvin has to be a little more guarded in his comments. At first he denied ever having a back-door channel to the dugout. But he couldn’t help himself.

“You know what? I got one,” Melvin said. “One time in Detroit, years back. It’s a couple steps down, so you can mosey over there and kind of peek in. You don’t get a very good perspective there, but you feel a little bit closer to the action. I’ve done that once. But it really didn’t do anything for me, because I couldn’t see what was going on.”

Some field generals have used players to shuttle instructions in to their “relief manager.” Nowadays, of course, cell phones make it easy to call or text unobtrusively from inside the clubhouse.

“If you watch Mike Aldrete (the A’s bench coach, second in command under Melvin), he’ll be given the (lineup) card,” Fosse said. “But he’s on the phone. … And that’s not hidden. I think from the umpire’s standpoint, if you’re ejected you have to leave the field. Once you leave the field, they don’t care.”

In truth, a manager doesn’t always want to keep pulling the strings.

“If you’re not there in the action, anything you send in will be behind the action,” Baker said. “Managing is not being in the action, it’s being in advance of the action.”

Anyway, most managers have a high degree of confidence in their underlings. The staff has collaborated on personnel strategy and availability before the game, and discussed key matchups. The transition from manager to bench coach tends to be pretty seamless.

“I usually try to leave these guys alone out here, for the most part,” said Showalter, the Orioles manager (29 ejections in 2,565 games). “They don’t need me over their shoulder. John (Russell, the bench coach) has managed a lot of baseball games. Wally (pitching coach Dave Wallace) can do it. It’s not brain surgery.”

Baker agrees - to a point. If a manager gets tossed from a September game with his team eight games back, what’s the point of loitering around the tunnel door? He might as well pop a cold one in the clubhouse and cool his jets. But things are a little different in the heat of a pennant race, when every call to the bullpen might have a bearing on the playoffs.

Baker trusted his coaches. Just not as much as he trusted himself.

“It’s like driving to the airport,” he said. “If you’re late to the airport, isn’t it easier hanging on the steering wheel than sitting in the passenger seat? From the passenger seat, you feel like the person is driving all wild and crazy. At the wheel you feel like you’re in control.”

The good news for Major League Baseball, and the sad news for fans who are amused by red-faced managers getting 86’ed, is that ejections are sharply declining in the era of the replay review. There isn’t as much reason for a manager to charge out of his dugout and mist an ump’s face with spittle when he can simply initiate a challenge.

As a result, there aren’t as many managers sneaking around the tunnels, trying to get a peek at how the center fielder is shaded. Just in case, though, you may want to leave a door ajar.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter @Skinny_Post.

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