In what might be the most inane story I have ever heard in Major League Baseball, Russell Martin complained that umpire Laz Diaz was a “d—” because Diaz insisted on throwing new baseballs back to the mound as opposed to handing them to Martin to toss back to the pitcher. He alleges that this was done in retaliation for Martin getting into a dispute with Diaz earlier in the game.
The reason this became an issue is because Martin likes to throw the ball back to the pitcher himself to keep his arm loose when there are runners on base. If that’s the case, then all the tosses back to the mound where a new baseball is not introduced should be sufficient to keep his arm warm. The average lifespan of a baseball is six pitches. Based on that average, Martin would throw the ball back to the mound on average 85.71 percent of the time before Diaz would theoretically throw a new baseball to the pitcher.
Assuming that Diaz really did refuse to let Martin throw the new baseballs back out of spite there is no denying the pettiness of it all. Part of a catcher’s job is to stay on the good side of the home plate umpire to help insure your pitcher on the mound isn’t squeezed by an umpire holding a grudge. Jason Varitek was one of the best at this. If he was batting and disagreed with a call, he would take three quick steps straight back out of the batter’s box, not say a word and compose himself before stepping back up to the plate. He would never show up the umpires and they respected him for that.
Baseball is an emotional game and, perhaps, I am being harsh on Martin. Still, nobody looks good coming out of something so absurd as this.