In the top of the second inning of Wednesday night’s Astros-Rangers game, home plate umpire Ron Kulpa called a low strike on a pitch from Rangers starter Mike Minor. It was not Kulpa’s first controversial strike zone call of the evening, and it greatly displeased the Astros bench. Kulpa, a sensitive wiener engorged with power, turned the scene into an embarrassing spectacle:
Virtually everyone in the Astros dugout charged up to the railing in frustration after the low strike. Kulpa yanked off his mask and gestured to the dugout, and Astros manager A.J. Hinch walked out to the plate to calm things down. Kulpa was evidently still pissed: for one thing, he replaced his mask with enough force to permanently lower his hairline; for another, he couldn’t take his eyes off that Astros dugout for even a second, even while Minor toed the rubber for the 0–1 pitch.
Hinch, noticing that Kulpa was waiting for an opportunity to run someone, urged Kulpa to watch the actual baseball game, which was enough of a challenge that Kulpa went ahead and tossed Astros hitting coach Alex Cintron, who’d been the most demonstrative about Kulpa’s strike zone. Hinch once again came out to calm things down, but now Kulpa was fully engaged in a sneering performance of authority. He all but laughed in Hinch’s face while pointing out Cintron in the dugout.
My absolute favorite part of this comes after Hinch has returned to the dugout the second time and Minor has finally thrown his next pitch. The camera cuts to Hinch at the top step in the dugout, averting his eyes in disgust, because he knows that he can’t even look toward the plate without making eye contact with Kulpa, who is still bird-dogging for another victim. When Hinch finally gives in, you can hear him shout at Kulpa, “You can’t keep doing this! You can’t keep doing it!” And, of course, Kulpa tosses him. And to finally make the point he’s been wanting to make all along, in the ensuing confrontation, Kulpa can be seen shouting “I can do anything I want!” in Hinch’s face.
Kulpa wasn’t done. At the end of the third inning he chirped at Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole and instigated a confrontation, and then before the bottom of the fourth inning he jumped in the middle of Cole’s warmups and started shit again:
Hinch was as reserved as anyone could reasonably expect when asked about his ejection after the game, which the Astros lost by the score of 4–0:
Ron Kulpa is a big-time asshole.