NEW YORK – Even when John Gibbons is right these days, he’s still wrong.
Emblematic of his star-crossed team’s trying start to the season, the Toronto Blue Jays manager was correct in his assertion that under Rule 9.02(c) the umpiring crew should not have reviewed and overturned a call at first base Wednesday night because the New York Yankees did not appeal it.
The rule states: “If a decision is appealed, the umpire making the decision may ask another umpire for information before making a final decision. No umpire shall criticize, seek to reverse or interfere with another umpire’s decision unless asked to do so by the umpire making it.”
In this instance, Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not dispute the call when first baseman Edwin Encarnacion appeared to scoop a throw from third baseman Brett Lawrie on Ben Francisco’s weak dribbler, and first base umpire Chad Fairchild called out but did not appear to ask for help.
Crew chief Jeff Kellogg seemed to summon the crew for a conference, and that is what Gibbons disputed when he came out to argue, leading to a second consecutive ejection.
But Kellogg had some leeway to act the way he did under other rules, which ultimately held sway.
Under rule 9.05, Major League Baseball lists a series of "General Instructions for Umpires" which includes the following: "The first requisite is to get decisions correctly. If in doubt don’t hesitate to consult your associate."
Additionally, the umpire’s manual states: "When the partner is certain that the umpire making the call could benefit from such additional information, the partner should alert the other umpire that there is additional, important information that should be shared."
Further, Major League Baseball tells umpires that it’s better for them to err on the side of a crew consultation than to make the wrong call, so that message offers them further leeway.
Speaking to a pool reporter after Wednesday night’s game, Kellogg, who was at second base, said as he watched the play, "my sense was the ball was resting on the ground and his glove was around the top of the ball."
That led to the consultation, during which "we get together as a crew, we talked about it as a crew and made sure everyone else saw the same thing."
Gibbons said he didn’t see a bobble, but added, "my big concern was there was no appeal by the other side, and I thought the rules say on an appeal by the other side, the umpire making the call can check. That’s my interpretation of the rule."
He’s correct, but so is Kellogg when he countered with, "our thought process is we’re going to try to get the plays right. That was it."
In so many ways at the moment, the Blue Jays simply can’t win.