Monday, August 21, 2017

MiLB Ejection - Hanahan Rejects and Runs Ayrault

Sometimes, two-person crews rile up minor league managers just by following guidelines. When HP Umpire Tom Hanahan of the Class-A Advanced Carolina League called a batted ball foul as it cleared the outfield fence down the right field line, one such skipper couldn't take "no" for an answer.

Umpire Tom Hanahan ejects Manager Ayrault.
With two out and two on in the bottom of the 1st inning of the Keys-Mudcats game, Mudcats batter Weston Wilson hit a 1-2 fastball from Keys pitcher Reid Love on a fly to the corner in deep right field, where the ball exited the playing field in flight. With 1B Umpire Ronnie Whiting having shifted over to the middle infield's Deep C position to account for the runners on base, HP Umpire Hanahan tracked the fly ball to the right of the foul pole, and properly ruled the ball foul.

That didn't sit well with Mudcats Manager Joe Ayrault, who intercepted Hanahan to discuss the play, believing, from his angle in the 3B Coach's box, that the ball was fair and a home run. Ayrault's chief argument appeared to be an appeal for Hanahan to consult field umpire Whiting, which Hanahan opted not to do. Ayrault continued to argue, and Hanahan ejected the sour skipper.

Key Question: Should Hanahan have consulted with crewmate Whiting—is there an obligation to do so?

Umpiring Literature/Rules: Minor League Baseball's PBUC/MiLBUD Umpire Manual contains a section entitled "Crew Consultation and Getting the Play Right" (this section also appears in the MLB Umpire Manual). This section instructs umpires as to when to seek help:
An umpire is urged to seek help when that umpire's view is blocked or positioning prevents such umpire from seeing crucial elements of a play. An umpire is also encouraged to seek help in instances when that umpire has doubt and a partner has information that could lead to a proper ruling.
Ronnie Whiting helps "rodeo clown" skip away.
Furthermore, no umpire shall criticize or seek to reverse another umpire's decision unless asked to do so by the calling umpire. Still, PBUC/MiLBUD/MLBUM protocol would under certain circumstances authorize an off umpire to chime in: "When a 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."

Finally, one of the PBUC/MiLBUD Manual's guidelines, in bold text, states, "6. Managers are not entitled to a second opinion simply because they dispute a call."

Philosophy: What's wrong with getting together, as the broadcaster suggests, "just for show"? The reason is two-fold, in sum. First, PBUC/MiLBUD advises against it ("There should not be a lengthy argument with the manager that is followed by a crew conference about the call"): this suggests that the managers/coaches have the ability to manipulate the crew into performing an action on their behalf to benefit their team. Umpires by definition should be impartial, a 50-50 balance. Manager manipulation essentially tips this fine equilibrium to benefit one side over the other, and this eats at the umpire's mission and impression of impartiality, while manipulation furthermore suggests that the umpire(s) can be bullied or persuaded into meeting and, ultimately, potentially ruling one way over the other.

Hanahan calls "Tilt" on Ayrault's protest.
As is the case when a pinball player rocks the machine, an umpire at some point can't be afraid to call "TILT!"

Second, and the Manual makes this point above, getting together shall only occur when the umpire is 1) blocked, 2) out of position for the play, 3) doubtful of his call; or 4) his crewmate spots something he does not. Though crew-savers are important on critical plays, umpires aren't exactly at liberty of considering every close play critical lest "boy who cried wolf" syndrome eats away at the crew's credibility. A similar argument is made for the case of 1) blocked and 2) out of position plays ("why weren't you in position?"), and, most obviously, 3) doubt ("how can you be unsure?").

Just because MLB now has replay as a tool doesn't mean that MiLB umpires should change how they call their game (unless we're now going to require MLBU to enforce pitch clocks simply because the minors have 'em). MLB has its own rules for replay just as MiLB has its own for consultation in a game without video review. For instance, consultation at the MLB level might be absolutely vital before going to replay while the very lack of replay in the minors might just preclude the crew from consulting frivolously.
Related Post: Crew Consultation - The Importance of the Call on the Field (6/22/17).

"Just for show" opens up a can of worms that umpires cannot afford to visit during a game.

Wilson's potential home run falls foul.
Answer: Hanahan appeared to feel confident of his unobstructed view of the play and made his ruling without doubt or uncertainty. Because the game situation placed him in Deep C position, Whiting appeared not to have any critical information that would have led Hanahan to change his call. Oddly enough, it would be Whiting's positioning in his proper location in the middle infield—not Hanahan's—that essentially precluded Whiting from having any critical information for Hanahan about this play. Had the bases been empty and Whiting on the foul line, his angle would have been much more valuable for this play (although he would have also had primary responsibility for the fair/foul call).

Accordingly, Hanahan's call was not subject to a Crew Consultation pursuant to the Minor League Manual's guidelines, and Hanahan properly denied Ayrault's request for a second opinion pursuant to Guideline #6.

Quality of Correctness: For what it's worth, replays indicate the ball exited the playing field to the outside (right) and in front of the foul pole, Hanahan's call was correct.

Wrap: Frederick Keys vs. Carolina Mudcats (Class-A Advanced), 8/19/17 | Video as follows:
Alternate Link: HP Hanahan hands harangued hound-hater a heave-ho  (CAR)


Post a Comment