Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez is thrown out of Monday’s game by umpire Mike Everitt after arguing a call in the ninth inning. (Reuters)
NEW YORK — The first season of major league baseball’s new video replay system has drawn plenty of complaints and second-guessing, and Monday night was the Braves’ turn to step to the front and center of a replay controversy.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected in the ninth inning of a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Mets for arguing after umpires overturned an out call at second base, using a rule interpretation that was so strongly criticized by Gonzalez that it could result in a fine for the manager.
The replay rules say the traditional “neighborhood play” at second base — when a fielder takes a throw and doesn’t have his foot on the base but rather in the neighborhood of the base when he throws to first for a double play — can not be reviewed by replay. The purpose of not making that play reviewable: baseball officials know the neighborhood play can protect infielders by allowing them to get out of the way of a runner barreling into second base.
In Gonzalez’ view it was a clear-cut neighborhood play when third baseman Chris Johnson fielded a Juan Lagares bunt in the ninth inning and threw to shortstop Andrelton Simmons covering second. His foot came off the base before he threw to first, a throw that was a step too late to complete a double play.
But after second-base umpire Sean Barber called Eric Campbell out at second, Mets manager Terry Collins convinced the umpires that the play could be challenged. He argued that it wasn’t a neighborhood play because there was no real chance for a play at first to complete a double play (in fact, the play at first base was close).
After the umpires talked it over, they decided it could be reviewed and made the call to MLB headquarters in Manhattan, where umpires are standing by to review calls on replay. One minute and 57 seconds later, the call was overturned and Campbell was called safe at second.
“It’s one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen,” said Gonzalez, who argued at the time and said again after the game that it was a neighborhood play. “Luckily it didn’t cost us the game there. But whoever interpreted it in the headquarters for video replay … it may be one of the worst calls. They called that the (throw) pulled him off the bag. That couldn’t have been a better throw.
“You know what, they got away with it (because) we didn’t lose the game there. But it’s a bad interpretation.”
Johnson’s throw was directly on target to Simmons, who stepped towards it to catch it, then turned and threw to first base.
First-base umpire and crew chief Mike Everitt told a pool reporter: “We reviewed the call because, in our judgment, we felt the throw took the fielder off the bag. We judged that the throw took him off the bag.”
Said third-base umpire Tim Timmons: “He’s trying to complete the double play quicker. He’s trying to gain an advantage.”
Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons was charged with an error on the play, presumably because the official scorer had to justify the scoring somehow.
“I ain’t got nothing good to say about it, so I’d rather not say anything,” Simmons said of the umpire’s ruling.
Major League Baseball issued a statement after the game: “The replay regulations allow umpires to determine if they considered a play to be a neighborhood play or not, based on a variety of factors. Some of the factors they consider are the throw and if the player receiving the ball is making the turn. Umpires might consider whether it was an errant throw or if a player receiving a throw who is not at risk of contact made an effort to touch the bag.”
Gonzalez wasn’t buying that explanation.
“They got together and went to the headsets to (call) back to the headquarters here (in New York) and somebody there told them that he got pulled off,” Gonzalez said. “If he got pulled off, I want to know where. I’ve never seen a better throw, No. 1. And No. 2, they gave the error to Simmons. If the ball pulled him off, they would have given the error to Chris Johnson. So even the scorer got it right without any replays or anything like that.”