Royals awarded a gift home run when umps whiff on the ground rules

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The disputed Billy Butler home run in the Yankees-Royals game is going to be used by instant replay opponents to say that even a replay system isn’t perfect, but in this case replay wasn’t the problem. It was human error. As in, the umpires apparently didn’t know the ground rules of the ballpark in which they were calling the game.

Short version: Billy Butler’s third inning blast hit the top of the padding below the chain link portion of the fence in the pic to the right.  While the ground rules for Kauffman Stadium — the Universal Ground Rules, not some park-specific ground rules, as Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger notes — do not specify what constitutes a homer, it has always been the case that the top padding, above the chain link portion, was the home run boundary.

So, the blast doesn’t go that high, the umps review it and … still say it’s a homer.

Basically, the umps are either completely blind and couldn’t see what is abundantly clear in the replay, or else the umps simply did not know what the ground rules were for Kauffman Stadium. Except, as Carig reports, Yankees coach Mick Kelleher said that before the series, he was told by the umps that the top portion of the fence was the home run boundary, so the latter explanation doesn’t make sense.

A computer is only a good as its programming. A replay system is only as good as the people reviewing it.  In this case, the people screwed up, allowing a solo home run that shouldn’t have been in a game that was ultimately decided by one run.

The bummer part here: Girardi, for some reason, did not protest the game, as is a manager’s right when the rules are misapplied. If he had, baseball could theoretically replay the game a la the famous pine tar game, which also involved the Yankees and the Royals.  But even if that can’t happen now, someone — someone in blue — needs to be disciplined over this.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”