Victor Espinoza, the jockey for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, threw the first pitch at Sunday's Yankees-Angels game. It was low and a little off the plate. It's a wonder plate umpire Dan Bellino didn't call it a strike.
That's what was ironic about CC Sabathia getting thrown out by Bellino for arguing balls and strikes after the sixth inning in the Yankees' 6-2 win.
Bellino had been giving both pitchers the low, and sometimes off the plate, strike all day. If anyone was going to be ejected, it should have been a hitter from one of the 11 times Bellino punched a batter out with an overly emphatic set of gestures reminiscent of fake umpire Leslie Nielsen's hilarious moves in "The Naked Gun" movie (YouTube it, kids).
The official explanation from crew chief Tom Hallion was that Sabathia was thrown out for arguing balls and strikes. Bellino wasn't talking, but our guess is the real reason was the arms-out, palms-up gesture Sabathia made as he was walking off the mound while questioning Bellino's strike zone.
So it's OK for an umpire to do a dance routine Fred Astaire would be proud of when he calls a batter out on strikes, but not OK for a pitcher to "show up" the man in blue with more than words?
No, really, here's the ironic part: Sabathia was upset about not getting a low strike call against Kole Calhoun and decided to air his frustrations after getting Calhoun to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Dude, you won the inning and the guy was calling every pitch that didn't scrape the ground a strike. Better to leave well enough alone.
But Sabathia is a proud athlete going through a difficult transition from staff ace to, at best, league-average pitcher. With Sunday's win, he's 3-7 with a 5.25 ERA.
Asked if the last few years of frustration could have led him to be more emotional than usual, Sabathia said: "I guess so. I don't know."
Brett Gardner, who along with Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are the only holdovers from the 2009 World Series championship team, thinks that might have been the case.
"He's as much a competitor as I've seen, hitter or pitcher," said Gardner, who hit a tiebreaking three-run home run in the fifth as the Yankees won their sixth in a row. "He wants to win, and I think the last year or so has been really tough on him not being able to go out there and do what he loves to do. I know he's glad to be back and we're glad to have him back. It's good to see. Obviously, probably not getting kicked out of the game, but you know that he cares."
Sabathia asked where the pitch was, Bellino appeared to say it was low, Sabathia said it wasn't, Bellino tossed Sabathia, Sabathia became enraged, Joe Girardi hopped over the railing from the dugout, Girardi pushed the 285-poundish Sabathia away from Bellino, Girardi yelled at Bellino, Bellino tossed Girardi and Girardi became enraged.
It was all very entertaining -- and uplifting, in a way. The crowd certainly seemed to think so. Sabathia, booed after allowing back-to-back home runs by Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in the first, was cheered wildly as he finally left the field. So was Girardi.
Sabathia was at 87 pitches, so he probably had only another inning in him anyway. Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller finished off the Angels with three hitless innings.
Betances and Miller totaled five strikeouts, including the side by Miller in the ninth -- the last two looking, courtesy of Dancin' Dan Bellino. The Yankees had no complaints with those calls.
A little bit ironic, don't you think?