Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is absolutely right that the on-deck circle can be a dangerous place to be. Players have gotten injured there. Juan Encarnacion comes to mind. Butch Wynegar, too.Beltre said he has gotten smoked a time or two over the years, and he had a few other
Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is absolutely right that the on-deck circle can be a dangerous place to be. Players have gotten injured there. Juan Encarnacion comes to mind. Butch Wynegar, too.
Beltre said he has gotten smoked a time or two over the years, and he had a few other close calls. Because of those incidents, he prefers to stand almost directly behind home plate.
So maybe being in that spot isn't about getting a better look at a pitcher's stuff in an attempt to gain a competitive edge. Rather, it may just be where he feels safest.
We take Beltre at his word on this. He has 20 years of credibility in the bank. Besides, until Wednesday, it hadn't been an issue.
Beltre seemed to be standing where he always has stood when umpires ordered him to get back to the on-deck circle. That's when things got out of hand.
Beltre refused. Then he gave us one of those memes for which he has become famous. Rather than go to the on-deck circle, he tried to bring the on-deck circle with him behind home plate.
One person who was not amused was umpire Gerry Davis, who tossed Beltre in the bottom of the eighth inning in Arlington. Rangers manager Jeff Banister, defending his player, bolted from the dugout and was also ejected.
If we could sit down with cooler heads to discuss the incident now, this is what we would tell both sides. No matter what Beltre thinks, the on-deck circle -- or someplace closer to it -- is safer than that area behind the plate.
At least there's some reaction time. If every hitter stood in that area behind home plate, someone would be injured, and probably badly.
When umpires ask Beltre to move back toward his dugout, if only six or seven steps, they're doing the right thing.
On the other hand …
Why eject him? If the Marlins didn't complain, was it really that big of a deal? Miami manager Don Mattingly has been around the block a time or two, and if he's unbothered, then no one else should be. At some point, common sense should rule the day.
Maybe Beltre will be permanently ordered back to the on-deck circle. But that conversation has to occur before the first pitch of the game.
"Listen, tell Beltre he has to be around the on-deck circle," the umpire will tell Banister when lineup cards are exchanged.
No sweat. Done.
Beltre has earned that kind of courtesy. He's one of the game's best players and also one of its most respected. Umpire love him because he's funny, self-deprecating and respectful of them.
At a time when Beltre is closing in on his 3,000th Major League game and is four hits from joining the 3,000-hit club, cut the guy some slack. If he's sure he's safer there, it's at least worth a conversation.
But Beltre is going to have to move from behind home plate. For one thing, it's not safe. On that, there's no debate.
For another, it can provide a competitive advantage, as a hitter has a chance to measure a pitcher's stuff and his arm angle.
Some hitters -- probably Beltre is one of these -- don't even find that kind of thing to be helpful.
But these things shouldn't be decided in the bottom of the eighth inning. We surely can find a better way.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.