Minor league manager loses cool, fined, suspended

Updated: June 27, 2006, 1:31 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Once the umpire called Roger Clemens' kid safe, a minor league manager threw a major league tantrum that would have made Lou Piniella, Earl Weaver and Tommy Lasorda proud.

It also cost Asheville Tourists manager Joe Mikulik a seven-day suspension and $1,000 fine.

Mikulik, who used to write "Never Surrender" on his wristbands when he played in the minors, put on a throwing, kicking and screaming show Sunday that was still the talk of baseball a day later.

The South Atlantic League also spent a lot of time talking about his antics and penalized him Monday night.

"I expected to be fined and suspended," Mikulik told the Asheville Citizen-Times. "I accept it and I will take it like a man. I respect Mr. [league president John Henry] Moss and I understand he had to take action."

"This is not about Joe or the umpires; it is about player development," Colorado Marc Gustafson, the Rockies' director of player development, told the Citizen-Times. "This has happened and now it is time to move on. We're going to back Joe because he is a great guy who is an asset to his community and then organization. This is an isolated incident."

Asheville is a farm club for the Rockies.

"This ain't my first rodeo. ... I didn't touch anybody. I never bumped anybody. ... I actually cleaned home plate for them, so they should give me a tip for that."
Asheville Tourists manager Joe Mikulik

Upset that umpire Andy Russell called Clemens safe at second base in the fifth inning of Asheville's 5-2 loss, Mikulik rushed onto the field. He made a headfirst dive into second base and later pulled up the bag -- taking a few tugs to get it done -- before throwing it into right field.

By the time he got ejected, Mikulik was just getting warmed up. And by the time he was done, he had thrown a resin bag, several bats and blocked the umpires' locker room.

"I don't think I ever lost total control, though it may look like it," Mikulik told the Citizen-Times earlier Monday. "It was just frustration, and I obviously went a little bit too far. I apologize to fans and to the umpires for my actions, and I regret what happened."

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Kenny Lofton played with Mikulik in the Houston organization, and watched television highlights of the tirade his former teammate put on after Lexington's Koby Clemens was called safe at second base on a pickoff try.

"He was crazy," Lofton said, laughing hard before Monday night's game at Minnesota. "Whoo. When I saw it, I was like, 'OK, that's something that he had in him.' That explosiveness. I didn't know he was going to do all that.

"He had a lot of intensity, boy. Whoo. It wasn't bad. He was just ready to go. That's how he was. When I saw that, I was like, 'Well, it just finally came out,'" he said.

Piniella, Weaver and Lasorda were famed for their wild arguments with umpires. Mikulik's antics were equally volatile.

Mikulik tossed the resin bag into the bullpen, covered home plate with dirt and cleaned it with a water bottle, which he finally spiked onto the plate.

Back in the dugout, he threw a bunch of bats onto the field, enough to send a batboy ducking for cover.

In the clubhouse, Mikulik pushed a couple of water coolers, a chair and a batting practice screen in front of the umpires' locker room.

Along the way, he kept yelling at the umps, who calmly listened to his tirade.

"I could get two mannequins at Sears and umpire better than what I saw this whole series," he told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"I thought the strike was over," Mikulik said. "When will the real umpires show up? That's what I want to know."

The regular minor league umpires began the season on strike, and returned earlier this month.

After the game, Mikulik said he wasn't concerned about his actions and had spoken to Moss.

"I already talked to John Henry, I've got that covered," he said. "This ain't my first rodeo. ... I didn't touch anybody. I never bumped anybody. ... I actually cleaned home plate for them, so they should give me a tip for that."

Colorado pitcher Aaron Cook played for Mikulik at Asheville in 2000.

"It was kind of entertaining," Cook said. "Will he get fired from the Rockies? Naw, I don't think so. Right now, it's getting a lot of publicity, but probably about a month from now, nobody will remember it happened."

Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes also played for Mikulik.

"I've seen it happen a few times -- maybe not to that extent -- but he's had a few pretty exciting events when he'd gotten thrown out of games," Barmes said. "It's been balls or bats or something like that, and obviously he can get in an umpire's face."

Rockies officials declined to comment Monday before the team's game against the Angels in Anaheim.

Now in his seventh year of managing Asheville, Mikulik was a career minor league outfielder who never made it to the majors.

In 1991, Mikulik's hit in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Tucson a victory over Calgary in the deciding game of the Pacific Coast League championship series. Lofton was on base at the time.

"This was nothing new about him being intense. He loved the game. He wanted to play every day. He had the same intensity every day," Lofton said. "If he didn't play, he was mad, because he wanted to play. That's how he was. And he loved baseball, boy. He'd live and die for it."

"That's just his nature. You'd see him after the game, you know at dinner or lunch or something, he was just hyped. Just ready. He was just wired that way. Some people are," he said. "I'm wired, but he had me beat. I'm always moving and fidgeting, too, but he had me beat. He was a good guy. It's just funny to see."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.