3 Strikes You’re Out

Umpire CrewLast month, the Boston Red Sox set a Major League Baseball (MLB) record they’d probably rather forget. They became the first team in baseball history to use four baseball managers in a single game.  Why?  Umpires ejected two of the managers for arguing that a pitcher should be ejected for hitting a batter. Umpires ejected the third manager for simply being the guy on call when a Boston player was thrown out of the game. Four managers, one game, baseball history.

Baseball umpires ejecting baseball managers is as old as baseball itself. But this year, something different is in the air and it has completely changed the relationship between umpires and managers. It’s called instant replay.

What is Instant Replay?

Instant replay is not new to baseball. It’s been around for several years to review home run calls. However in 2014, baseball dramatically expanded instant replay. Now almost anything – except for balls and strikes – can be reviewed. The review is completely off the field; the umpire calls on a team of experts in New York. That team takes a look at all available camera angles and, a short time later, delivers the verdict.

So far in 2014, the system has worked well. As of May 29, 2014, of 431 replayed calls, 46% have been overturned and 54% have not. And the game hasn’t slowed down that much. The average replay length time was 2:09.

Consequences For Manager Ejections

What about the other consequence, reducing manager ejections? Game purists will be happy to know that there hasn’t been that great a reduction in manager ejections through the first two months of the season, likely because the primary sources of contention, the calls of balls and strikes, are unreviewable.

That said, the relationship between managers and umpires has clearly changed. Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon called the current manager-umpire atmosphere a “lovefest.” Philadelphia Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa added that while he will still fight for his players, “How much arguing can you do when they say, ‘We just looked at it from five angles, and you’re wrong’?”

The new technology gives managers a reflection period, a period in which they can cool down, hear the truth (or as close to the truth) of what happened, and consider carefully whether they want to fight it out with the umpire. It’s not just the umpires taking a second look; it’s the managers themselves.

The same bears true for lawyers. One of the great drawbacks of today’s technology is its instantaneous nature. We can send out an angry email to opposing counsel, or even worse, to a client, without thinking twice and with little way of taking it back. We can post to social media in the heat of the moment, encouraged by the false anonymity of the Internet. Take this Indiana attorney for example. His Facebook message to an ex-client’s husband included profanity, threats of violence and a cryptic warning, “I’ve got you in my sights.” After his Facebook tirade, he was charged with felony intimidation, for which a conviction could result in six months to three years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

But technology also offers lawyers the same advantage it does to those baseball managers – the time and opportunity to review their words and consider seriously whether they want to put those words out there. Just as instant replay allows managers a chance to cool down and hear the truth, technology allows lawyers to take a second look about what they might say when provoked.

So always take the opportunity, after writing out a post, comment, email, or text, to step back and review what you just wrote. Failing to do so might result in an unnecessary “ejection.” And remember, unlike an umpire, a judge won’t tell you to hit the showers and retreat to your comfortable office for the rest of the case. Nor will your client feel vindicated by you “going to bat” for her if the result is sanctions against you and adverse findings against your client. It’s also worth noting that what you might think is a little private incivility tussle between you and a client, you and an opposing party, or you and another attorney, might end up in an Avvo or other online review of you, for public consumption.

Take a page out of baseball’s playbook. Before shooting off that angry email or text or post, take a second look and reflect on what you’re writing in the permanent ink of the Internet. In the end, civility and patience can get you much farther than kicking dirt over home plate.



John Edwards, our intern from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, contributed to this post.

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