CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs veteran Ben Zobrist made the most of his first career ejection after telling plate umpire Phil Cuzzi that players would prefer robot umpires late in Tuesday’s 7-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Zobrist had been called out on a pitch that looked wide of the zone earlier in the game.
“I basically said, ‘That’s why we want an electronic strike zone,'” Zobrist explained afterward. “That’s what obviously got me tossed. I’m not going to lie. I think he was going toss me anyway, before I said that, just because I wouldn’t go away.”
Zobrist and Cuzzi talked calmly near home plate between the eighth and ninth innings before Zobrist was kicked out. He indicated Cuzzi wanted no part of hearing he called some pitches wrong earlier in the afternoon.
“I was told, basically, ‘be quiet,'” Zobrist said of his discussion after striking out in the sixth. “Then I was threatened with being kicked out of the game so I walked away.”
Eventually, Zobrist made his way back to Cuzzi, though it came after he was switched out of the game anyway.
“He knows I’m not going to argue if it’s close,” Zobrist said. “I rarely do that. I know the zone pretty well I feel like. If it’s close I’m going to walk back. This one I knew. I knew it was never on the plate. I didn’t need to look on the video. I got animated, at first, and he didn’t even want me to be animated about it. I was told that later.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the slider Zobrist took from Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin for strike three is called a strike 44.7 percent of the time. In the seventh, Cuzzi called Kyle Schwarber out on a similar pitch, which is called a strike just 18.4 percent of the time. Zobrist was asked if saying something so inflammatory to an umpire might carry over to the next day or to other umpires in the league.
“The integrity of us doing our jobs and them doing their jobs should keep that from happening,” he replied. “But they are human beings. That’s the point. They get upset. We get upset. They don’t want to hear us say certain things and we don’t want to feel like they don’t care. I do think all the umpires care but sometimes it frustrating when you feel like you know the zone and I feel like the at-bat was taken away from me.”
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said it’s “rare” for Zobrist to get that upset and made sure he protected him by getting himself kicked out after the at-bat in the sixth inning. It’s the second time in four games Maddon has been ejected as the Cubs aren’t treading some water despite holding onto first place in the National League Central. The Brewers pulled to within two games after the win. The players even had a hitter’s-only meeting on Tuesday morning.
“Good discussion as a group,” Zobrist said. “We’ll be fine and keep making adjustments.”
The outcome of the game won’t get the headline Zobrist will receive after touching on a sensitive subject with an umpire in the middle of the game.
“We had a discussion,” Zobrist said. “It didn’t go that great. He kicked me out of the game.”
As for robot umpires, Zobrist didn’t want to comment any further having said his piece to Cuzzi and to reporters.
“That discussion will happen eventually,” he stated.