Ejected Arenado red hot, then bats go ice cold

August 25th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Nolan Arenado is one of the game’s fieriest players when it comes to his competitiveness, and he uses that as fuel for the engine that drives him to be great. Occasionally, the Cardinals’ third baseman said somewhat apologetically, that fire bubbles over -- especially when he feels he is right about something.
Arenado felt he was right about checking his swing on a 3-2 pitch that would have loaded the bases with two outs in Wednesday’s third inning, and an inspection of video replays later confirmed to him that he did indeed hold up. However, home-plate umpire John Libka not only saw things differently, but he also ejected the nine-time Gold Glover from the game when Arenado vehemently objected.
“I’m not always right, but I feel like I was right there, and I knew I was because I didn’t go [around] at all,” Arenado said following the seventh ejection of his 10-year career and his second this season. “He saw it different. I thought he did, for sure, I thought he had a quick hook.”
A Cardinals squad that had already given All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt the night off was mostly punchless the rest of the night without their other superstar corner infielder. St. Louis, which fell into an early 3-0 hole before Arenado’s ejection, mustered just nine hits and lost, 7-1, to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Afterward, Arenado placed some of the blame for the poor performance on his shoulders for getting tossed from the game.
“You could definitely say I overreacted, and at that moment I probably shouldn’t, especially in the third inning and a lot of ballgame left,” Arenado said. “But, like I said, I knew I didn’t go [around] and I was really upset about it.”
One point of contention for Arenado was that Libka made the call himself and didn’t bother asking first-base umpire Jim Reynolds for help on the play. What irked Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol was his belief that Libka “had a quick trigger” in throwing out a star player whose team is in the middle of a playoff chase.
“The reality is John’s behind the plate, he’s a really good umpire and he does a nice job back there the whole way around -- consistent and fair,” said Marmol, who raced out of the dugout and tried to protect Arenado from getting ejected, but he was too late. “Tonight, wasn’t handled correctly at all. One, I think he got the call wrong, and he should have checked. Two, that should have been handled completely differently with Nolan. There was no reason for an ejection. It impacted the game in the moment, and it impacted the rest of the game with not having one of your best players on the field.”
With the Cardinals already in a hole after starter Miles Mikolas was touched for three runs in the second inning even though only one ball left the infield, their best chance to get back in the game came when Arenado came to the plate in the third inning. Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan singled to set the stage for the Arenado at-bat, and tensions rose when Arenado worked the count full following three foul balls.
Arenado started to offer at Luke Farrell’s 91 mph four-seamer and was so confident that he checked his swing that he took a step toward first base, expecting ball four. That’s when Libka signaled for a strike, and Arenado immediately turned and angrily stomped back toward the umpire. Seconds later, an ejection came and Marmol was seen yelling about “a quick trigger.”
“That’s why I was so mad -- I worked an at-bat, there was a man on first and second and it would have been [bases loaded] with [Nolan] Gorman coming up,” Arenado said. “It was a tough at-bat, and I feel like I did a good job and won that at-bat, as far as getting on base and doing my job. He saw it otherwise. My temper was quick there, but I don’t know how else to explain it other than I know I didn’t go [around].”
Added Marmol: “Listen, this is a high-stakes environment. Bottom line, emotions are going to be high, and you have to have thick skin.”
Arenado came into Wednesday slashing .349/.402/.711 with seven home runs, nine doubles and 22 RBIs in 21 games in August. The NL Player of the Month for April, he could win the monthly award a second time -- that is, if he can beat out torrid teammates Albert Pujols and Goldschmidt.
“Obviously, Albert has been the biggest of the fray with what he’s been doing, and Goldy is the same,” Arenado said of a lineup that had helped the Cardinals win 18 of 22 before Wednesday’s loss. “We need that to continue because we’re not scoring runs, at times.”