Checking in from Arlington, where it’s warm but not nearly as hot or humid as it will get later in the summer …
A’s left fielder Josh Willingham was fined and handed a one-game suspension by Major League Baseball for “inappropriate conduct” during his argument with home plate umpire Bill Miller on Saturday that led to his ejection. Willingham has filed an appeal, and he’s eligible to play until a decision on his appeal is handed down. He’s starting in left field tonight in the series opener against the Rangers.
Willingham was unhappy about a called third strike in the eighth inning Saturday and slammed his helmet down, immediately getting the thumb from Miller. During the ensuing argument, Willingham bumped Miller, though he said after Saturday’s game that the contact was accidental, and might have occurred as Miller turned toward him during the argument. The umpire contact was cited in the MLB press release announcing the suspension. And typically, any contact with an umpire draws such a penalty. “I felt like there was contact,” Willingham said Monday. “If they would have just fined me for throwing my helmet I would have been fine. But, you know, I thought the contact wasn’t really initiated by me, so I appealed it.”
A’s manager Bob Geren declined any comment on the suspension, saying he’d let the appeal process play out, but he added that he supported Willingham’s decision to appeal.
A’s – Crisp CF, Barton 1B, Jackson RF, Willingham LF, Suzuki DH, LaRoche 3B, Ellis 2B, Powell C, Pennington SS; Cahill RHP.
Rangers – Kinsler 2B, Andrus SS, Young 1B, Napoli DH, Murphy LF, Torrealba C, Moreland RF, Davis 3B, Borbon CF; Wilson LHP.
–So the A’s have Willingham for tonight’s game, but DH Hideki Matsui is out of the lineup for the second straight day. The A’s faced a left-hander Sunday in Kansas City’s Jeff Francis and they get another lefty tonight in Texas’ C.J. Wilson. Matsui is hitting just .171 against lefties this season, and he’s 2 for 13 with five strikeouts against Wilson in his career. Geren mentioned Sunday morning that he’d stack his lineup with righties against Wilson, giving an indication that Matsui might sit for two games.
You could question the timing of sitting Matsui considering he was coming off a two-double game Saturday night. And he’s a .302 hitter with six homers and 18 RBIs in 28 career games at Rangers Ballpark. But I wouldn’t say Matsui has been ripping the cover off the ball. Honestly, I’m more surprised that Kevin Kouzmanoff didn’t get the start at third base after homering and going 2 for 4 yesterday. The guy’s been struggling big-time, and yesterday’s game was his best in a while. If you have any thoughts of this guy still being a regular contributor to this team, why not let him try and build on the confidence he must have felt after Sunday’s game? Geren pointed out that Andy LaRoche is hitting lefties really well this season (8 for 19), which is true. But given the circumstances, I would have stuck with Kouzmanoff.