Unfortunately for McLaren, he wasn't around to see the finish for his team's 9-5 victory over the White Sox in 14 innings on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field, standing as one of the team's more exciting wins in recent memory. McLaren was managing his first game as Nationals interim skipper, after Jim Riggleman suddenly resigned on Thursday. Davey Johnson will be name the permanent manager shortly, a source told MLB.com.
McLaren was ejected by first-base umpire Mike Estabrook following an eighth-inning play befitting of the night's overall strange ups and downs.
With two outs and nobody on base in the bottom half of the inning and reliever Henry Rodriguez protecting a two-run lead, Paul Konerko shot a hard-hit but routine grounder to shortstop Ian Desmond. The ball was bobbled by Desmond in the hole at shortstop, but with Konerko running, he still had plenty of time to pick up the baseball and make the play.
Desmond's throw pulled first baseman Mike Morse off the bag, with Morse apparently swiping Konerko with the tag as he tried to high-step past Morse's move. Konerko, who rarely disputes any on-field call, immediately argued with Estabrook.
But for White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, the telling sign was when first-base coach Harold Baines also chimed in on what he perceived was a mistaken ruling.
"When Konerko and Harold Baines argue, I know he was safe -- especially Harold," Guillen said. "Harold never say much. He never says anything unless he's right. That's why as soon as Harold said he missed the tag, I know he missed the play."
Guillen didn't see the play, but he asked home-plate umpire and crew chief Jeff Nelson for assistance. By then, the Nationals had left the field. After a brief crew meeting between first and second, Estabrook made the safe call for Konerko, who already was standing on first.
In the following chaotic disruption, Nationals left fielder Jerry Hairston Jr. was ejected by Nelson and McLaren was tossed after making contact with Estabrook.
"My finger touched his brim, no doubt about it. I didn't do it on purpose," said McLaren, who understood he might face discipline for his actions. "I'll take full responsibility.
"Like I said, it is what it is. I respect the umpires. I'm usually the guy in the dugout trying to keep peace and keep everyone on an even keel. But I just let it go tonight. I released a little anger."
Hairston was joking with Konerko at first base when he was informed of his ejection. Needless to say, his reaction wasn't a calm one.
That Hairston ejection and the explanation of the play's reversal combined to get McLaren worked up. Adam Dunn grounded out in the ensuing at-bat, so this controversy resulted in nothing more than simply building on to the mystique of this wild contest.
"This has got to go down as a pretty good game. A great game," McLaren said. "It had everything in it. It was action-packed."
"It's kind of the thing tonight where it seemed like it probably should have happened in a game like this," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. "I think I was going to manage next. But no, we have plenty of guys down there, plenty of coaches, who know so much about the game. We're lucky to have that many guys here to help us."