No, seriously, I’m sure an exit poll of those who attended the Angels’ 6-5 victory over the Yankees Wednesday would confirm the overwhelming majority of the paying customers turned up in order to witness home plate umpire Laz Diaz (above) preside over the affair.  As such, it’s only fitting that Diaz should be treated with great deference by the lowly players on both sides, particularly New York’s argumentative catcher Russel Martin, who claims Diaz refused to let him throw new balls back to his own pitcher.  From the Newark Star-Ledger’s Marc Carig :

“He told me I had to earn the privilege,” said Martin, a seven-year veteran, three-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner. “Even at the end of the game after I get hit in the neck. I’m like, can I throw the ball back now? He’s still like no. I’m like you’re such a (expletive). Like for real. Unbelievable. I even told him like when there’s guys on base, I like to keep my arm loose. No. I’m not letting you throw a ball back. That’s pretty strange to me.”

When informed that his choice of words wasn’t printable, Martin said “I wish it was.Then, he helped come up with suitable alternatives before leaving the clubhouse.

Diaz was not available for comment.

“That was strange,” Martin said. “I was kind of mystified. I really didn’t get that. He was punishing me.”

Typically, Martin said umpires grant his request to throw the ball back to his pitcher, which he likes to do just to keep his arm loose during games. Even after arguments, he said no umpire had ever denied him the request until last night, when Diaz told him he hadn’t earned the right.