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

Aug 18, 2011, 8:20 AM EDT

Kauffman fence.bmp

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.

  1. paperlions - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    I love human error, it give the games a sense of suspense… never know what might be called, even when you know what happened.

    • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:26 AM


      • paperlions - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:36 AM

        I was going to tag it, but decided to see how well the sarcasm came through (or how simple people are)

    • Colin - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:49 AM

      Totally, it’s just like WWE. One guy is about to win…but wait! Why is the ref counting so slowly!?! The other guy gets up and fights back!

      They should replay the game with a special guest mystery umpire.

      • addictedzone - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:11 AM

        Special guest mystery umpire.?
        Leslie Nielsen?
        Would be tough to get him there though.

  2. proudlycanadian - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    Gosh! A call went against the Yankees. Thems the breaks. The Yankees still have themselves to blame for the loss as they could only score 4 runs against the Royals even though Bruce Chen was pitching.

    • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:43 AM

      I love this logic. A team that does enough to win but gets screwed by the umpires deserves to lose because they didn’t win by enough. Somehow, I don’t think “umpires not understanding the rules” intended to be part of the competition. Who knows if the Yanks would have won or not, but the fact remains that the Royals got a big, undeserved boost. Butler’s homer increased win expectancy 10%.

      And yeah, every time an umpire gaffe helps the Yanks, I’m killing them for that too, from Phil Cuzzi screwing Joe Mauer onward.

      • ThatGuy - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:23 AM

        Actually if they only lost by one, they really only did enough to send it to extra innings…

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:32 AM

        True, but the Yanks had the bases loaded in the 9th, Soria was throwing his 38th pitch to start the AB against Posada, and got this gift of a strikezone.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:33 AM

        Hence the “who knows if the Yanks would have won or not” part. And for the record, my second sentence wasn’t referring specifically to this game, but just the general attitude that you have to win by enough to take officiating incompetency out of the equation. As a Dolfan, I was ready to start punching babies after all the times I heard it following the Steelers fiasco.

    • dirtyharry1971 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:36 AM

      how’s 4th place treating you proudly? another season, no playoffs for you! hahahhaha

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:43 AM

        How are your Depends holding up Harry? By the way, Depends has just been bought by a Canadian company. I guess that your dirtyness will look for another brand. Your Yankees are rather long in the tooth for a baseball team. This decade will not be kind to them.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:50 AM

        Speaking of Depends, did anybody see the Ridiculist on AC360 last night? Oh my god I was dying.

        PC, ignore the troll. We’ve all got them. When I think you’re wrong, I’ll say it without the pointless pot-shots that really have nothing to do with what’s being discussed.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:58 AM

        For the record, PC, the same thing was said about the Yanks last decade. They averaged 96.5 wins and won two WS, and that was without having much of a farm. This time, they’ve got prospects and resources. The AL Beast is going to be a four-team bloodbath for the ’10s, but the Yanks should hold their own in it.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:19 AM

        I agree with Kevin. Sure the Yankees are getting long in the tooth, but with teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, it doesn’t matter because they can spend right now and don’t have the same wait for their young talent that teams like the Rays have to depend on. So essentially, a team like the Yankees is never too old…when the starting staff got old, they signed CC and AJ. When the infield got old, they signed Tex. They still have young guys like Gardner and Cano. Plus the Grandy-man. Once Jeter goes, they will sign Hanley or someone in that ilk. Or play that Nunez kid.

        It’s the way it works.

      • bozosforall - Aug 18, 2011 at 12:54 PM

        Chris, perhaps you haven’t been paying attention but this year Cashman didn’t make many deals specifically because he wanted to protect his top prospects. So for all of those who think that the Yankees are getting “a little long in the tooth”, guess again. They have several top prospects that will be called up in September, some of whom will end up with the big league club as early as next season, with the rest in NYC by 2013 at the latest. Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi are but two prime examples of the type of young talent that they have on the horizon, with Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and others in the queue for the very near future. Slade Heathcott, Gary Sanchez, Andrew Brackman, Humberto Sanchez and Greg Golson aren’t far behind. Yes, the future looks quite bright for the Yankees in the ’10s.

  3. mattjg - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:31 AM

    Don’t worry, the umpires will be held accountable. The crew chief will get a sternly worded letter from Bud Selig, or maybe even a phone call.

    It’s really unfair to expect the umpires to know every ground rule when they are only part time employees. What’s that, I’m thinking of NFL referees? Umpires are highly compensated full-time employees? Hm, maybe they should know some of the more obvious ground rules then.

    • kopy - Aug 18, 2011 at 8:52 AM

      Even as a fan I know the ground rules for many parks. The rings at Tropicana, the basket and ivy at Wrigley, the overhang at Target, etc. Even if as a part-timer, knowing the ground rules is a simple thing they should be responsible for. Even if they didn’t know the ground rules, they could have asked somebody while they were looking at the tape.

  4. mjanik25 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    Allow me to play Devil’s advocate here… Do the Royals/MLB not have to shoulder some of the blame here?… How can there not be a yellow line (worse yet, the advertisement RIGHT below where that ball hit looks an awful lot like a yellow line at the top of it), or at least CLEARLY defined ground rules (Craig mentions in the story Kauffman Stadium actually has none of its own ground rules and the Universal Ground Rules don’t really deal with outfield fences).

    It seems an especially ambiguous situation to me when in so many parks that have railings on top of the fence like that (Citi Field, Citizens Bank Park and Progressive Field to name three), that ball probably would’ve been a home run (I think they also all have yellow/orange lines and/or plants, or some other distinguishing characteristic to help define a home run).

    It seems to me if three umpires who have spent their whole lives learning the rule book looked at a replay and concluded that was a home run (not like they misapplied a rule in a bang-bang stressful situation), then the rule’s probably not as clear as it should be.

    • The Baseball Idiot - Aug 18, 2011 at 3:37 PM

      To add to that, the home team sets the ground rules, not MLB. The umpires also have a meeting at homeplate before the game with both managers to go over the ground rules.

      There have been over 3000 games at Kaufmann and the ground rules didn’t magically change. The umpires have been calling games there for a long time, and I would have to imagine they know what the ground rules in KC are.

      If Girardi couldn’t be bothered to remember the gournd rules in a park where he’s participated in close to 100 games, that’s really his problems. Not the umpires.

      Once again, proof that the umpires got the call right without instant replay.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 4:37 PM

        Wait, what? The umpires fuck up, and it’s Girardi’s fault he wasn’t on top of them? Do you go out of your way to live up to your handle?

  5. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    East coast bias is what it is…wait a minute

    • Utley's Hair - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:07 AM

      Damn Midwest bias….

  6. The Common Man - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:17 AM

    So we can have robots AND the human element? How does this not make everyone perfectly happy?

    • kellyb9 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:27 AM

      I think its time for robots with the human element. They randomly make a bad call on a pitch.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:34 AM

        Kind of like how Madden randomly has the refs blow the call so they can work the challenge system into the game.

  7. kellyb9 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    How about come up with less ridiculous ground rules? Or maybe a less ridiculous stadium where the ground rules are a bit more obvious? I blame this on the trop, but there should be no doubt if something is a HR or not, and if the stadium calls that into question, you should have to modify that stadium within reason.

    • onix321 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:23 AM

      There is no doubt at the K. If it it goes in the crowd, it’s a HR. If it doesn’t, it isn’t.

      Not the stadiums fault the Umpires don’t know the rules.

      • kellyb9 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:25 AM

        I’m not excusing the umpires. Everyone knows the umpires are the enemy here, but I’m just saying remove all doubt such that an average/casual fan would know what a HR is and what it isn’t. Remove ridiculous ground rules (if you can.)

  8. Sportsdrenched - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    “theoretically replay the game a la the famous pine tar game, which also involved the Yankees and the Royals.”

    So the Royals got that HR back?

  9. dirtyharry1971 - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    protest the game? when is the last time anyone ever got something turned over by protesting? really now

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 18, 2011 at 9:57 AM

      In fact, I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I’m sorry. If we could just say that,
      if only to each other…

      just this one time…that we’re not gonna protest.

  10. randall351 - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    I love how the only reason this is even an issue is because it happened against the Yankees, if it would of been the Royals vs someone like the Pirates than no one would of ever heard about it. Or if it would have been the opposite way, again no love. There are crappy calls like this almost every day, it’s just that it doesn’t really matter unless it goes against a high market team like the Yankees, or one of the bloggers favorite teams such as the Braves.

    • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:10 AM

      Right, because nobody cared when the Pirates threw Dan Uggla out at the plate in the nineteenth inning, only for him to be called safe. Because nobody cared when Phil Cuzzi couldn’t see Mauer’s ball land two feet fair. Oh, wait, they did.

      • randall351 - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:17 AM

        Who was the other team in that game?
        All I’m saying is that when it comes to errors by Umpires they really only come to light when there’s a large market team in the game. I think it would be a great idea to keep a running post or something about all the errors the umpires maybe even just a ticker or something similar to the number of days without an arrest on, perhaps a days without an umpire’s call blowing a game for one of the teams?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:21 AM

        Which team was in the “large market” when the Pirates played the Braves?

      • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:39 AM

        And all I’m claiming is that you’re full of shit. Ump gaffes come to light when they happen, regardless of team involved.

      • Alex K - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:58 AM

        You’re right, no one noticed outside of Detroit and Cleveland when Jim Joyce missed the call that took away Gallaraga’s perfect game. I’m surprised it even made national news.


    • denverdude7 - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:52 AM

      I agree.

      I don’t recall the Braves complaining too much when nearly every pitch they threw against the Indians in the World Series was six inches off the plate and called a strike anyway just because they were consistently six inches off the plate.

      Now that’s what I call a screwing.

  11. motherscratcher23 - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    The biggest shame in all of this is that it happened to the Yankees. Why does all of the bad stuff happen to them?

  12. professor59 - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Every time an ump’s call screws the Yankees, an angel gets its wings.

    • denverdude7 - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:58 AM

      We need a lot more angels.

  13. denverdude7 - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:41 AM

    Awwwww. The Yankess got screwed.

    Congressional hearings all around.

  14. skids003 - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:45 AM

    Wow, Craig, pretty tough comments for the umpires. How would you like to have someone show up at your office and tell you how incompetant you are? They are correct about 99% of the time, which is more than most people at their job.

    • Kevin S. - Aug 18, 2011 at 10:51 AM

      People tell Craig how incompetent he is here all the time. A Philly sports blog spent an entire post whining about it. Further, it’s one thing to miss a call. It’s another to not know the rules.

      • skids003 - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:01 AM

        I agree Kevin, not knowing the rules is no excuse. My comments were mainly the trashing and language used.

      • FC - Aug 18, 2011 at 6:03 PM

        A Philly sports blog spent an entire post whining about it.

        Yeah… that was embarrassing.

    • mogogo1 - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:03 AM

      To use the job analogy, this would be like your boss walking in and asking a clearly VERY important question, giving you time to look up the answer and make 100% sure you were giving him the proper information, only to have you tell him the completely wrong answer. In the real world, you get reprimanded or fired for stuff like that.

      This wasn’t having a bad angle or missing a close play. The umps looked at the video, had time to research it, but flat-out didn’t know what the rules were. Maybe one of them “misremembered” or got the rules confused with some other park…but there’s no excuse for them not having a book or something detailing stuff like this. It’s the equivalent of the IRS auditor not having a copy of the tax code. Epic fail all the way around.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:30 AM

        You could extrapolate that scenario even further:

        At most jobs there’s some form of QA to ensure what the employees are doing, they are doing correctly. Sports, MLB in particular, seem to actively eliminate any form of QA and encourage getting things wrong to protect the human element(TM)

        [cf everything Joe Torre has said the past 6 months]

    • ditto65 - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:40 AM

      Are you not held accountable at your job performance?

    • Bryz - Aug 18, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      It’s one thing if the umpires were getting bang-bang plays wrong. But instead, it’s plays like these where it’s clear even watching it the first time that the ball never went over the fence. Same with Cuzzi’s “foul” ball on Mauer in the playoffs, or Joyce calling Jason Donald safe at first to break up Galarraga’s perfect game.

      The problem is that when an umpire screws up, he’s rarely held accountable for his mistake. Really the only notable exception we have is Joyce, who realized he screwed up big time and you could tell he definitely was disappointed in himself for getting the call wrong.

      No, it’s more like you forgot about the new TPS cover sheets, and instead of ripping you for forgetting it (or telling you he’ll send you a new memo in the blandest, most annoying manner possible), your boss makes up an excuse for you. That’s basically what happens every time a blown call happens in MLB.

    • kellyb9 - Aug 18, 2011 at 1:33 PM

      It is sad that umpires are known specifically for the bad calls that they don’t make rather than the good ones that they do. I wouldn’t want that job at all. I, honeslty, agree with the comment above.. the vast majority of umpires are pretty good at what they do.

  15. nofunleague - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    Let this be a lesson boys and girls. Never, never, never gamble on sports. All is takes is one incompetent umpire or ref who could care less, oh -did-you-throw-a-perfect-game. Then argue, get tossed, and pay a fine for their mistake. Time to clean house of all of these buffoons.

  16. nofunleague - Aug 18, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    There is absolutely not one thing that a player can do during a game that will ever cost an umpire money, and yet they can screw a player every game with some bonehead mistake. Next contract signing with the league, the umpires must face the press after any game requested to explain their boneheadedness. Human element my butt. the person who says that is the same person that thinks typing in all caps is yelling. Grow up.

  17. kellyb9 - Aug 18, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    New HR rules – the ball should clear the fence and stay there. If a fan throws it back, it’s a live ball. This should stop players from “showing up” pitchers.

  18. Walk - Aug 18, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    “the top portion of the fence was the home run boundary” As i read that i would conclude that it has to go over the wire mesh. As the umps enforced it they seem to consider it the same as the basket at wrigley field. Someone should ask those umps if the wire part is part of the fence and pin them down. Imo i agree with prevailing sentiment, not a homer.

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