Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Unintended Consequences

It's a game that has no bearing on the final outcome of the season (the Dodgers have clinched the division; the Giants are locked into fourth place). But it may prove to be a ground-breaker and result in a change to Major League Baseball's newest rule: the Home Run Instant Replay Rule.

In the bottom of the sixth, Dodgers leading 2-0, with one runner on, Giants catcher Bengie Molina hit a long fly ball that was initially ruled to have rebounded off the bricks in the Arcade. Bengie, one of the slowest runners in the MLB, was on first base, with Pablo Sandoval going to third. The Giants sent Emmanuel Burriss in as a pinch runner. But Giants manager Bruce Bochy came out and asserted that the ball that Bengie hit had actually caught the lower edge of the green tin roof over the arcade, which by the ground rules at AT&T Park Emperor Norton Field would make it a home run.

The umpires invoked the new Home Run Replay rule and three of them retired under the stands to consult the replay. When they came out, they overturned the initial ruling on the field and ruled that the ball had hit that roof and was a home run.

But wait a minute: the person who hit the home run was no longer in the game, pinch runner Burris having taken his place at first. A somewhat bemused Burris completed the other three bases of the game-tying home run. Now apparently there have been cases of someone having to run the home run someone else hit, in case of injury, but this was completely unprecedented.

The Giants manager, in effect, asked if they could "take back" Burriss' substitution because (a) no play had happened during the long delay and (b) it was in the middle of a uncompleted home run, and you can't substitute in the middle of a home run. After further consultation, the umpires ruled that while the home run counted, so did Burriss' substitution, to the annoyance of the Giants, who thus lost the services of their catcher unnecessarily. Indeed, this was so annoying that the Giants lodged an official protest, which could conceivably lead to the game needing to be replayed from this point if the league office allows the protest. I don't think they'd actually do the replay, however, as the game has no meaning on the final result of the season -- like an un-made-up rainout, the game would simply go into the "not completed" column. I think the stats up to the point of the protest would still count, however, so Bengie would get credit for his home run.

I feel for the umpires here. The crew chief went over and apparently asked the official scorer whether Burriss had been officially entered into the game, and made his ruling based on the fact that yes, Burriss' name had been entered into the official scorer's record. (Update: See below.) I think that if I had been the umpire on this case, I would have decided that there was no actual rule covering the situation and ruled that the fair thing to do would have been to say the Burriss' substitution never happened (it was pending the result of the replay), had Bengie come back out and complete his home run and stay in the game. Of course, the Dodgers would probably have protested the game instead of the Giants at that point, on the grounds that if a player leaves the field in this situation, he is out and the run shouldn't score.

I believe that this weird combination of events will lead to the HR Replay Rule being getting an addendum prohibiting personnel moves in the middle of a replay adjudication. I wouldn't be surprised if the League Office issues an emergency rule addition in time to affect post-season play. Thus tonight's game will make baseball history, albeit in a strange way.

Update, 23:12: The protest is moot because the Giants won the game. I still think the league office will have to put in a special rule or interpretation to cover this oddball situation.

Update, 27 Sep 10:00: Here's the MLB.com news story about the game, which does clarify a few details, such as the fact that the call to the official scorer was not to check to see if Burriss had been officially entered, but to advise the scorer that the game was being played under protest. That's because the official scorer is responsible for preserving the state of the game at the point of the protest in case the game has to be replayed from that point.
Tags: baseball
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