Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Protest Upheld for 1st Time in 28 Yrs in SF-CHC Rainout

MLB upheld a protest for the first time in 28 years following Tuesday's Giants-Cubs rain-shortened victory for the home team, 2-0, in five innings.

Immediately following the top half of the contest's fifth inning, umpire-in- and crew chief Hunter Wendelstedt called for a weather delay, ordering both teams off the field and the Cubs grounds crew to unravel the tarpaulin and cover the playing field. The stadium crew had difficulty in unfurling and dragging the tarp across the infield, including the positioning of the tarp at an incorrect angle, failing to cover key portions of the infield occupied by the shortstop and, in an attempt to correct the error, dumping standing water onto the uncovered dirt when wind kicked up the tarp, further submerging the infield with water collected from a brief yet very intense rainstorm.

Wendelstedt's crew of 1B Umpire Toby Basner, 2B Umpire Mike DiMuro and 3B Mike Estabrook then observed the Chicago grounds crew attempt to restore the field to playing condition, but after a rain delay in excess of four hours and 30 minutes, Wendelstedt called the game, declaring the 2-0 result final and deeming the field unplayable. Wendelstedt told a pool reporter, "I think the problem that all the parties faced was, by the baseball rulebook, there was nothing to put our hat on to suspend the game."

San Francisco disagreed.

The Giants, in the midst of a pennant chase with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, elected to file a protest, alleging that the Cubs' grounds crew - and by extension, the team itself - experienced a malfunction of a mechanical device under the control of the home team, such as a tarp. The protest was filed over the interpretation of Rule 4.12(a), which states, in part, that a game shall be rendered suspended (and not declared final) if, "Light failure or malfunction of a mechanical field device under control of the home club. (Mechanical field device shall include automatic tarpaulin or water removal equipment)."

Major League Baseball upper management, including Commissioner Bud Selig, Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred and Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations Joe Torre, agreed with the Giants, ordering the 2-0 contest suspended, rather than declared final, at the point of interruption. The Cubs will step to the plate with a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 5th inning Thursday as part of a modified doubleheader.

Hunter's Wendelstedt Umpire School established the website prior to the 2014 season, posting a "Regulation and Suspended Game Outline (OBR 4.12)" infographic logic tree. When Wendelstedt declared the SF-CHC contest final on Tuesday night (or, early Wednesday morning), he invoked Rule 4.12(b)(4)(i) and justifying the decision by calling the regulation game early due to weather. When SF protested and MLB affirmed the protest, the league office invoked Rule 4.12(c), agreeing with the Giants that the reason Wendelstedt called the regulation game was because of mechanical failure on the part of the home team, not because of weather. Pursuant to rule, if this was the last contest of the season scheduled between the two teams, the score would be final (2-0 Cubs F/5). Because the Giants and Cubs were scheduled to play again following the game in question, the game was declared suspended and ordered to resume at a later date.

In a twist of fate, MLB's last upheld protest occurred on June 16, 1986 and also concerned a rule misinterpretation regarding rain delays and calling a regulation game. The protest of '86 was upheld when the Pittsburgh Pirates alleged that umpires failed to wait the required 30 consecutive minutes before calling their game against St. Louis due to rain. NL President Charles "Chub" Feeney agreed and ordered the game resumed at the point of interruption, with two outs in the 6th inning and the Cardinals leading, 4-1. St. Louis ultimately won the contest, 4-2.

Wrap: San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs, 8/19/14
Video: Multiple broadcasts cover the stormy Chicago chaos, and its aftermath (Must C)


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