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.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.