Aaron Boone’s ejection and umpire failure; Dave Roberts marvels at Mookie Betts, the shortstop

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Aaron Boone didn’t deserve this one, Mookie Betts is a legitimate shortstop, Jared Jones is soaring in Pittsburgh and Bernie Williams takes on another New York institution. I’m Levi Weaver, here with Ken Rosenthal — welcome to The Windup!


Aaron Boone ejected for …¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Aaron Boone is no stranger to ejections. Before yesterday, the Yankees manager had been tossed 34 times in his six-plus seasons. Some of those — OK, most of those — were earned. Yesterday’s absolutely wasn’t.

You can watch the debacle above (or read a more detailed account here), but the short version goes like this: Five pitches into the game, home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt told Boone, in so many words, to pipe down after Boone had questioned a call.

Boone, to his credit, did just that. Television cameras showed Boone standing in the dugout, not saying a word.

And then he was thrown out of the game.

Boone insisted that a fan behind the dugout was to blame. A microphone caught Wendelstedt saying he didn’t particularly care who said it. After the game, the veteran umpire offered this defense:

“I know what Aaron was saying, that it was a fan above the dugout. That’s fine and dandy. There were plenty of fans that were yelling at me before I called a pitch till the end of the game. What happened was, it wasn’t him, it wasn’t over where (bench coach Brad) Ausmus was. It wasn’t where the coaching staff and Aaron (were), but Aaron Boone is the manager of the New York Yankees and is responsible for everything that happens in that dugout.”

Look, sometimes miscommunications can be funny, but what happened yesterday was preposterous. It was another instance of something that happens a few times a year: umpires escalating a situation unnecessarily.

If sports are meant to be a metaphor for life, here’s the moral of the story, as far as I’m concerned: If you are in a position of authority over someone else — parent-child, police-civilian, umpire-player/manager — you do not have the moral right to escalate conflicts. Authority is a privilege, and the price of power is maturity.

Don’t get me wrong: managers (like children) can become petulant, and sometimes the rules must be enforced — calmly. Umpires do get this right way more often than they get it wrong. But while a blown ball/strike call once in a while is an understandable mistake, escalation of conflict is either a conscious decision or a lack of self-control.

Neither should ever happen, and the continued lack of apology or accountability from umpires when it does is simply inexcusable.


Ken’s Notebook: Marveling at Betts’ shortstop transformation

Dave Roberts can admit it now. Back in spring training, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager doubted whether Mookie Betts could even be an average shortstop.

“Just watching him back then, it was a great athlete trying to play one of the most demanding positions on the field, outside of catcher. It was happening quick. It was hard to imagine,”  he said last weekend.

“As much as you want to believe in Mookie and anything he can do, it’s just something that was really unprecedented. But as I look here today, he looks like a shortstop. And I think that happened over the last week to 10 days.

“Now I see a shortstop standing at that position. It went from an athlete to then an outfielder playing the infield to then a second baseman playing on the other side of the diamond to now he looks like a shortstop. I marvel at how fast he’s done that.”

Defensive metrics are notoriously unreliable in small samples, and the two leading public systems rate the former right fielder quite differently. In 18 starts at shortstop — his other six starts were at second base — Betts is tied for second in Defensive Runs Saved yet ranks 24th in Outs Above Average. He also has four errors at short, but overall has acquitted himself well. Until last season, he had not played the position since 2013.

Of course Roberts had doubts. How could he not?

“It’s not to say you’re not hopeful. If there’s anyone you can bet on, it’s him,” Roberts said. “But for anyone to say they can’t doubt something that has never been done, that’s a lie. You haven’t seen it, let alone in this small of a window. I think he doubted it. I know he doubted it. But he didn’t run from it, I promise you that. And I’ve seen that every single day.”

Betts, 31, takes early groundballs at short with teammate Miguel Rojas, then goes through his normal set of drills with the Dodgers’ infielders. If anything, the Dodgers worry he is working too hard. But Betts has told club officials he will not slow down until he is fully comfortable at the position.

His transition to short after winning six Gold Gloves in right field remains one of the most compelling stories of the first month. I wrote at greater length about the move during spring training.

Do you have a question for Ken? Send it our way — he will answer a few in an upcoming Windup mailbag.


Pirates rookie Jared Jones is showing he belongs


Jared Jones has been able to tame some impressive offensive teams. (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

OK, it’s time we talked about Pirates starting pitcher Jared Jones.

Jones, a second-round pick in 2020, made his big-league debut in the Pirates’ opening series against the Marlins, striking out 10 hitters in 5 2/3 innings, but boy did the Marlins look bleak. How would he do when he faced a team with a little more offensive firepower?

Well …

Jared Jones’ Hot Start

OPPONENT IP ER H K BB

MIA

5 2/3

3

3

10

2

BAL

6

2

6

7

0

PHI

6 1/3

3

6

8

0

NYM

5

0

1

7

0

MIL

6

1

4

7

2

Total

29

9

20

39

4

After the Marlins, Jones faced the teams that entered last night’s games ranked fifth (Orioles), ninth (Brewers) 13th (Mets) and 16th (Phillies, who are currently 15-8). I’m not saying Jones is an early NL Rookie of the Year favorite (hello, Shota Imanaga, c and Jackson Merrill), but the 22-year-old deserves to be in the conversation.

The success isn’t a huge surprise; Jones racked up 391 strikeouts in 315 minor-league innings from 2021 to 2023 and entered the season ranked No. 39 on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list. In March, Eno Sarris and Andrea Arcadipane listed him as one of four pitching prospects who could crack the big leagues this year.

But there’s a huge difference between those minor-league numbers and what he’s doing in the big leagues. In those 315 innings, he walked 135 hitters, or about one every 2.3 innings. In 29 big league innings, his four walks equate to one every 7.25 innings.

Fully in command, Jones induced 25 whiffs against the Brewers yesterday — the most in one game by any pitcher in the big leagues this year, and per MLB.com, the most by any Pirate in the pitch-tracking era (2008-present).

He’s not the Pirates’ only exciting young arm. Paul Skenes, taken first overall by the Pirates in the 2023 draft, has been on a heavily controlled per-game workload at Triple-A Indianapolis, but in 12 2/3 innings through four starts, he hasn’t allowed a run and had 27 strikeouts (57.4 percent of batters he has faced) against just four walks.


Bernie Williams plays New York Philharmonic

As a former touring musician who migrated to the world of baseball, I’ve always had an affinity for Bernie Williams making the opposite move (admittedly at a much higher level in both arenas).

In 16 seasons with the Yankees, Williams was a five-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and 1996 ALCS MVP. His 80 postseason RBI are still best in the sport’s history (and his 22 home runs rank third, behind only Manny Ramirez and Jose Altuve). His baseball bona fides are indisputable.

But his music resume is pretty impressive as well. Sure, anyone with over $130 million in career earnings can record a couple of albums, an EP and a few singles. But a Latin Grammy? An induction into The Athletic’s Athlete Music Hall of Fame? They don’t just go around handing those out.

Tonight, Williams will perform with the New York Philharmonic. Dan Brown spoke to Williams ahead of the performance and gives us the backstory on how Williams came to learn the guitar (spoiler: it came off a boat from Spain) and the steps he took to refine the skill after his baseball career was over.

(Bonus: Brown also includes the best pun I’ve seen in print in months.)


Handshakes and High Fives

There’s a new No. 1 in our Power Rankings, as our team picks out one standout stat for each team.

Rex Hudler joined the Starkville crew to talk about Bobby Witt Jr. and the Royals.

Here’s a list of pitchers who have ever thrown a game of seven innings, zero walks and no more than one hit at Coors Field: Dylan Cease (who has looked like an ace thus far for the Padres).

Jackson Holliday’s big-league career is off to a bumpy start. He’s hitting .033 (1-for-30) after nine games.

The Cardinals hit a home run! Two of them, actually, including a walk-off by Nolan Gorman, as they beat the Diamondbacks 5-3. Meanwhile, in a “Stars of Monday’s Windup” matchup, the Giants beat the Mets 5-2.

Jim Bowden lists 15 players under consideration for Comeback Player of the Year.

Before I go: While researching Bernie Williams numbers, I learned a fun stat I have to share. Now that the Negro Leagues stats have been integrated into the record books, here are the two all-time leaders in postseason batting average, per Baseball Reference:

(Henry Aaron is now third, at .362.)

You can buy tickets to every MLB game here.


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(Top photo of Boone arguing with home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt: Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

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