Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Sports

Playing under protest? Good luck with that

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When New York Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances overthrew first baseman Mark Teixeira, allowing the Houston Astros to score a run Tuesday, manager Joe Girardi was incensed. The Astros' 6-foot-4 Carlos Correa had caused the errant throw by running on the field side of the first-base line, Girardi believed, and not in the running lane.

So Girardi followed the pattern trod by so many managers. First, he argued. And when that did not work, he announced that he was playing the game under protest.

Playing a game under protest because of some perceived injustice is not uncommon in baseball. In 2014, the Tampa Bay Rays objected to the timing of a replay challenge. In the 2012 National League wild-card game, the Atlanta Braves disputed an infield fly rule call. In 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies were angry about fan interference.

These grievances, like so many others, had two things in common: They led to the game being played under protest. And the protest was quickly dismissed.

Reversals after a game is over are exceedingly rare. Rule 7.04 sets a fairly high bar: Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the league president the violation adversely affected the protesting team's chances of winning the game.

The historical research group Project Retrosheet found 15 games that were resumed after a successful protest, but only one in the 21st century. The key element in that successful protest was, of all things, a tarp.

When rain came in a San Francisco Giants-Chicago Cubs game in August 2014, the host Cubs struggled to get the tarp on the field quickly. The game was eventually called on account of rain, and the Cubs were declared winners by the score at the time.

But, the league said: "The groundskeeping crew was unable to properly deploy the tarp after the rain worsened. In accordance with Rule 4.12(a)(3), the game should be considered a suspended game that must be completed at a future date."

Major League Baseball executive Joe Torre said the failure to store the tarp properly contributed to the problems.

Two days later, the game resumed. The Giants scored a run, but the Cubs hung on for a 2-1 victory.

By far the most famous resumed contest was the Pine Tar Game of 1983. George Brett's ninth-inning homer was declared void after his bat was found to have too much pine tar on it, and the Yankees went on to beat the Kansas City Royals. But the league decided the ruling was wrong, reinstated Brett's homer, and ordered the game to be resumed from that point. The Royals hung on for the win.

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