Ryoji Aikawa (Yakult) snapped when Matt Murton (Hanshin) slid hard into home plate in the 6th inning of Saturdays Hanshin-Yakult game. Maybe it was because he remembered how his teammate Masahiko Tanaka suffered a fracture in his collar bone the last time Murton slid hard into home, or maybe it was dislocated shoulder he suffered himself when Tony Blanco (Yokohama) barreled over him in April. Either way, he lunged toward Murton after the collision.
The two shoved each other violently a couple of times before Murton started backing up with his hands up in the air. Ryota Arai (Hanshin) got in between the two before things could escalate. Yuichi Matsumoto (Yakult) also noticed something amiss and quickly moved in to keep the two players apart. Both benches immediately spilled out on to the field.
When the dust settled, the home plate umpire announced that he was ejecting both players for violent conduct. Murton was surprised since he was trying to walk away from the scuffle. The home plate umpire's explanation: "The ejection was not for the slide, it was for fighting back."
Junji Ogawa (Yakult manager) felt the hard slide was over-the-top and dangerous. Murton felt his only option was to slide hard since Aikawa was standing right in front of home plate. Aikawa later admitted it was a normal play and that he got caught up in the moment. NPB Umpire Chief Osamu Ino did not think there was anything wrong with the play.
Both players were issued stern warnings and 150,000 yen fines by the commissioner's office today. Murton was also given a one-game suspension since it was his second ejection of the season.
Note: Murton is the first Hanshin player to be ejected twice in one season since the start of the two-league format. ... The Tigers have apparently apologized to the Swallows. ... Aikawa was examined at a hospital. There were no broken bones.
UPDATE @ 8:17pm -
Murton spoke to reporters after pre-game workouts at Jingu today. His comments:
I was not sure about getting tossed from the game, but the way I understand it, I was suspended because it was my second ejection.
This is a distraction for my team because I cannot play in a game that we need to win. That makes this tough.
I did not do what I did because I do not like Aikawa. I will not play half-heartedly so long as I am under contract with the Tigers. I will play with everything I have, for the team and for the fans.
I would like everyone to understand that I do not try to hit everything hard. If there was nothing blocking home, nothing would happen. But if anyone, even my brother, is [covering home plate] then I will go in hard. If you are on home plate, I will go in hard. Aikawa did not let go of the ball either, so good on him.
Source: Daily Sports 9/15/2013