In defense of David Bell’s ejections: He’s protecting his players

Manager David Bell has been ejected from eight of the Reds games and taking misplaced heat from some quarters. Check out this chronicle of those eight games, watch the videos and note the common theme:

  • April 7 The Derek Dietrich-Chris Archer game with the Pirates. David Bell thought the pitch from Chris Archer was intentional and the umpire didn’t so anything. [video]
  • April 17 Protecting players in dugout arguing about balls and strikes [video]
  • May 2 Pushed Jesse Winker out of the way to argue with umpire to keep Winker in a 1-0 game in the 9th inning [video]
  • May 29 Eugenio Suarez hit on the hand by a pitch from the Pirates with the score 7-0. Suarez had missed time in 2018 for a similar event. Umpire does nothing. [video]
  • June 26 Gets between Yasiel Puig, who was arguing the strike zone, and the home plate umpire [video]
  • June 29 Tossed with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in a game Reds were losing 6-0 to the Cubs, arguing about Reds players being hit by pitches [video]
  • July 19 Gets between Eugenio Suarez and umpires [video]
  • July 30 Prevents Yasiel Puig from being thrown out of the game against the Pirates when batting with bases loaded [video]

It is indeed a franchise record. A man named Clark Griffith was given the heave-ho six times in 1909 as a player-manager and six more times as a manager the next season. At this pace, Bell would break the single-season MLB record of 11 held by John McGraw (1905), Bill Dahlen (1911) and Bobby Cox (2001).

Arguments between managers and umpires are part of baseball like hot dogs and overpriced beer. Except they’re a lot more entertaining. You can’t watch Lou Piniella and other managers out making their cases without laughing out loud.

Yelling face-to-face veins bulging, tossing helmets or bats onto the field, throwing ball caps followed by teeing off on those same ball caps, kicking dirt on home plate, even kicking or throwing dirt on umpires, is all part of the routine. Earl Weaver turned his ball cap around so he could get even closer to the umpire without touching him. Lou Piniella pulled up bases and threw them around the field like it was an Olympic sport. Lloyd McClendon pulled out first base and walked off the field with it.

Sadly, replay review has cut way back on the number one cause of manager ejections — disagreeing with a call on the field. Managers ask for reviews now instead of storming the field. Umpires with headsets are less amusing than managers stomping around.

But back to David Bell.

Bell’s ejection rate must be a big national concern because it has caught the attention of writers at the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. They say the only thing worse than people talking about you is people not talking about you.

Bell has been tossed on the East coast and the West coast, in day games and night games, on the road and at Great American Ball Park, in the 1st inning and the 9th.

But the common theme: David Bell is an equal opportunity defender. Defender.

Notice David Bell push his own players out of trouble. Notice former major leaguer Chris Welsh using the words “protect” or “stand up for” when describing what Bell is doing. It’s a common theme in every last one of the situations where Bell has been tossed.

David Bell is defending his players. When a player gets thrown out, the manager is expected to show common cause. Beyond that, managers insert themselves in the argument to prevent the player from being ejected. Bell does all of that. Faithfully.

In the most literal sense, David Bell is trying to defend his players from being hit on the hand or the head with a baseball. It’s clear he feels strongly about the issue. Three of his eight ejections were about beanballs. “Well, we know they’ll do it intentionally,” said Bell. “I was protecting my players.”

In certain corners of Reds World, critics complain about how much time Bell has missed. They calculate the percentage of games he’s been tossed and tut tut. But it’s all pretext. Phony baloney outrage. The crowd that complains about Bell not being in the game are the same folks who moan about every decision he makes on the field.

The food is so bad here. And such small portions.

Does getting tossed from a baseball game indicate a character flaw? Poor judgment? An inability to control one’s emotions? Not in this case.

Yes, David Bell is passionate, or choose “fiery,” a good baseball word. But he’s also cold calculating.

In more than 1400 games as a major league player, Bell was ejected seven times.

He’s got self control.

The sportswriters who interact with him every day attest that Bell is anything but a hothead.

Veteran baseball reporter Hal McCoy — he’s covered a dugout full of Reds managers — has written that Bell’s manner before and after games reminds him of Caspar Milquetoast. For those of you who aren’t of McCoy’s generation, Milquetoast a character from a comic strip called “The Timid Soul” created by H.T. Webster in the 1920s. Dictionaries now include an entry for “milquetoast.” [Webster’s: A timid, unassertive person]

McCoy says Bell presents such an even keel after games you can’t tell whether the Reds won or lost.

David Bell knows exactly what he’s doing.

If you think frequent ejection means Bell is a bad manager, I’ve got a couple lists for you. Both contain the names Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella, Bruce Bochy, Tony LaRussa, Leo Durocher and Earl Weaver. You’ll find those names at the top of “Most Ejections” lists and (most of them) on plaques in Cooperstown.

Yes, managers have a responsibility to stay in the game. They should set examples for their players and young (and no-so-young) fans who might be watching. But they have other duties, too. Including standing up for their players and keeping them out of trouble.

Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver said the job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager because it won’t hurt the team if he gets thrown out. That’s even more true today when the substitute manager is armed with the same mountain of information from the analytics department as the manager. David Bell has talked about the Reds detailed pre-game coaching staff meetings where they talk through situations, matchups, bullpen availability and so forth.

Unlike others who have managed the Reds in recent years, you don’t get the impression David Bell views himself as indispensable, as too important to be thrown out.

In grading his on-field tantrums, David Bell doesn’t have the flair or stamina of Lou Pinella, the vocabulary of Earl Weaver or the sheer audacity of Bobby Cox. (Cox got thrown out of Game Six of the 1996 World Series. Replay showed he was right.)

But Bell is just a rookie as a big league manager, give him time to develop.

If I haven’t convinced you about Bell’s ejections, and you still think a manager getting thrown out of a game indicates a character flaw, you’re entitled to your opinion.

But I’ll let you be the one to tell it to Sweet Lou.

Steve Mancuso

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

3 Responses

  1. Armo21 says:

    Bell is a terrific manager and will continue to get better. He makes decisions based on his distinguished playing career, experience managing in the minor leagues, experience as a bench coach and position as a front office executive. He appears to run a great club house, utilizes the entire roster and with the help of his staff has made the Reds respectable this season.

    Now spend more money to put the players needed to compete with St. Louis and Chicago in our division, which it looks like the Reds will be doing in 2020. The Reds got back to respectability this season, Bell, the coaches and the FO of Williams, Krall, Castellini are responsible for the plan/process. I like the direction the Reds are heading.

  2. vegastypo says:

    I think what struck me, on a few of his ejections, it seemed like Bell left the dugout calmly, the umpire seemed to respond calmly, and it was a rather civil conversation. Almost as if the umpire was saying, OK, you had your say, now go back to the dugout. Of course the umpire was not going to reverse his call. That happens … never.

    … Then it seemed like Bell felt the need to escalate the argument to make sure he got ejected, so he hurriedly kicks it into frenzy mode. If he was truly that angry about the issue at the time, don’t go out there like “milquetoast” (nice reference, had never heard that origin before) in the first place. If the context requires that he get ejected to stand up for his player, go out there like you mean business.

    Funny thing is, Bell caught so much heat for returning to the field for that fight, and I had no problem with that. THAT fight really was based on trying to protect his team. Anyway, I ramble.

    • Steve Mancuso says:

      If you ever have a moment, watch the videos. It really amazed me how similar they all are.