Saturday, September 24, 2016

Atlantic Series Features Phone Call, Protest, Meltdown

From a manager and umpire talking on a cell phone during a game to coach tantrums, the Atlantic League playoff series between the York Revolution and Sugar Land Skeeters has to be seen to be believed.

We begin with Game 2 of the Best-of-Five series, with Sugar Land holding a one game lead in the set: With one out and baserunner Brandon Chaves on first in the top of the ninth inning of a 10-9 ballgame, York hoped to mount a comeback and was down to its final two outs of Game 2. Revolution batter Michael Rockett hit a ground ball to third base, for what could have the makings of a game-ending around-the-horn double play...except that Skeeters second baseman Delwyn Young's throw to first was wild.

Umpires turn to the phone to check a rule.
This brought Skeeters Manager Gary Gaetti out of the dugout to dispute legality of Chaves' slide at second base, initially ruled legal by 2B Umpire David Frame: a reversed call in this situation would have ended the game. After discussion amongst the umpiring crew of Michael Dorantes, Ryan Moorehead, Frame, and Rodney Galloway, the umpires brought both managers together to explain their ruling: "There's no doubt in our minds that your guy slid through the base...I'll be honest, the four of us here are not sure if that's illegal or not. We're not exactly sure what the rule says." 2B Umpire Frame saw the slide through the base, but admitted uncertainty as to the play's legality, relative to the bona fide slide rule. (Click here for a brief refresher and summary concerning bona fide slide Rule 6.01(j).)

When the crew asked if either manager had a rulebook, Gaetti jogged back to the dugout and instructed his staff, "Get Jeff on the phone," before the Skeeters management appeared in the front row with his laptop. After consultation via phone and computer, Frame's call was upheld and the game resumed with two outs, R1, ending via fly-out one batter later. (Video via "read more".)

Although the Atlantic League replaced the Dorantes-Moorehead-Frame-Galloway umpiring crew for Game 3 of the series, that didn't alleviate or eliminate the controversy.

High throw at first base during RLI play.
In Game 3, York Manager Mark Mason protested the game after a 5th inning play in which HP Umpire Nate Caldwell ruled that York batter-runner Isaias Tejada interfered with Skeeters first baseman Young's ability to field a throw from pitcher Brett Marshall, resulting in a runners lane interference call. Replays indicate Tejada did not run within the 45-foot lane and cast doubt as to the quality of Marshall's throw, or F3 Young's ability to retire the runner given such a throw.

When the umpires ordered York baserunner R1 Andres Perez, standing on second base, back to first base as the result of Tejada's interference, Mason protested the game, claiming that Perez should have remained at second base (by rule, Tejada's return to first base was proper).

HP Umpire Nate Caldwell ejects Frank Gailey.
The game also featured Caldwell's ejection of York pitcher Frank Gailey (2:04:10) and another "argument" concerning runner's lane interference, in which Caldwell no-called RLI during a routine sacrifice bunt play, resulting in Mason's ejection and meltdown (2:07:00).

Game 3 Video Link: RLI on Tejada & protest (1:29:30).
Game 3 Video Link: Gailey ejection (2:04:10).
Game 3 Video Link: Mason physical ejection (2:07:00).

The bunt play (R1 and R2, none out), in which the defense easily retired the batter-runner, drew Mason's ire, which might not have been about the play itself, but an accumulation of frustration regarding the entire series, and concluded with Mason's Revolution having been swept by Gaetti's Sugar Land Skeeters, three games to none.

Replays indicate Mason physically grabbed and shoved aside intervening 1B Umpire Tom Gandolfo during the ejection argument to conclude one of the oddest multi-day sequences in professional baseball.


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