Still thinking about that Billy Butler homer in the Yankees-Royals game the other night. Joe Torre has admitted that the umpires misapplied the rules. And now Joe Girardi admits he should have protested it. He says he simply took the umps’ word for it that they were properly applying the rules:
“I assumed the rules were right and that’s my fault … Two umpires told me and I believed them. Maybe I don’t need to be so trustworthy anymore.”
To be fair, it’s not just dumb credulity that led Girardi to think the umpires had it right at the time. Umpires blow judgment calls all the time, but they rarely actually misapply the rules, which is what is required for a successful protest. There are only a handful of protested games in recent memory, and none have been successful since a rain-shortened game between St. Louis and Pittsburgh went down in 1986 (the umps didn’t wait long enough between delays to call the game). In fact, Retrosheet’s data shows only 14 successfully-protested and then-resumed games since 1913.
Protests usually fail either because they’re on judgment calls or because the misapplication of the rules ended up not making a difference in the outcome. This one, however, seems like it would have been a pretty cut-and-dried protest case. It was a misapplication of the rules and, given that it was on a homer in a game decided by one run, it’d be hard to argue that the call was irrelevant to the outcome.
So yeah, while I tend to look askance at protests, this is one that had to be made. Even if Girardi tended to believe the umps, you gotta throw that challenge flag, ya know? I mean, it’s not like he hasn’t done it before.