The bowels of Sun Life Stadium sounded like a real scary place to be yesterday. More scary than usual. According the beat writers, Joe West literally had to be chased down for comment. Further, Charlie Manuel and Jack McKeon were no doubt hounded for their takes on the controversial call.
Without knowing it, McKeon actually agreed with the basis for the protest:
"Isn't what we want from the umpires, to get it right?" McKeon said. "Did they get it right? Yes. Did they make a mistake in how they went about getting it right? Yes."
"Even if the umpires were wrong in their decision to go in and review it, they did what was right. They got the play right. They were wrong if they misinterpreted the rule, but they got the play right, so I don't see how it could be overturned [after the protest]."
Much like declaring a mistrial in a court of law (putting my edumacation to work), a protest in baseball is meant to dispute an application of the rules (laws), not a judgement call (verdict). Ladies and gentlemen, rule 4.19:
Each league shall adopt rules governing procedure for protesting a game, when a manager claims that an umpires decision is in violation of these rules.
Whenever a manager protests a game because of alleged misapplication of the rules the protest will not be recognized unless the umpires are notified at the time the play under protest occurs and before the next pitch, play or attempted play.
McKeon is right, the correct call was made. But that’s not the issue. The issue is whether the play could be reviewed at all. Unfortunately for the Phillies, there were no rules for West to misapply. MLB doesn’t have replay rules in the rule book, just guidelines (detailed here) that say replay should only be used to determine whether a ball went over the line, was fair or foul, or interfered with by a fan (under the guise that it would be a home run). Joe West said Charlie wanted it reviewed to see if it was a home run and McKeon wanted it reviewed for fan interference: [Marlins.com]
"I had two managers on the field," West said. "One of them was arguing that they wanted an out, and the other was arguing that he wanted a home run. Because they wanted me to go look because they wanted a home run, I got to judge whether it went over the fence or not.
[Home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild] already thought it was spectator interference. So now we go look at the replay, and we have to take all the evidence that we get from the replay and that's why we came up with the rule, which is the correct ruling."
Charlie says he never asked for the home run review. Rather, it was McKeon who wanted the review for fan interference… even though that’s not reviewable (confused yet?). But none of that will matter- West can review on his own. And since there is nothing in the rules about home run reviews, the league can hide behind its fuzzy guideline, which apparently says that umpires can make other, non-home run related judgements while reviewing for a home run. Therefore, West can say he reviewed the play as a home run (even though that may not have been his intention), saw the interference, and made a judgement call that Pence was out. End of story. Crisis averted. Phillies screwed.
How is this not in the rule book, again?