Yankees vs Guardians Time Play
The April 12th, 2023 Yankees-Guardians game was marked by controversy that led to the ejection of Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone and a 10-minute delay. Here is what happened.
In the bottom of the first, the Indians had Steven Kwan on third and Jose Ramirez on second and one out when Josh Naylor hit a flare to shallow center field. It appeared that Aaron Hicks made a diving catch. Second base umpire Larry Vanover and first base ump David Rackley both ruled a catch by Hicks.
Hicks then threw to second to double off Ramirez in what appeared to be an inning-ending double play. This was a “Time Play” because the inning did not end in a force out. The question was, did Kwan cross the plate before the third out was recorded? Based on the replay I saw on the YES network, plate umpire Chris Guccione made no call. If he did, it wasn’t picked-up.
The Yankees left the field and the fans watching the replay on the center field screen saw that Hicks did not make the catch. At this point the umpires huddled. It was learned that they were discussing whether or not the run should score. There was some speculation that the umpires were influenced by the crowd reaction to the video that was shown. This the umpires and MLB deny.
New York Post writer Greg Joyce wrote, “Initially they (the umpires) had ruled that the runner (Kwan) had tagged-up and scored before the double play was completed, which would have meant a 1-0 Guardians lead at the end of the inning. Then after convening, which negated the 15-second clock for the Guardians to challenge any part of the play, the umps determined that the run had not scored in time, a decision they brought to Francona, who promptly challenged it.”
See below from AP writer Tom Withers quoting Guccione:
“We determined when we got together as a crew that the run did not score,” said Guccione. “So, once we got all that figured out, we went over to Tito (Francona) to tell him what had transpired.
We told him, ‘Guys, we have a catch, out at second, no run scores.’ And he promptly told us, ‘OK, I’d like to challenge the catch in the outfield.’”
“He promptly did it. He was already ready. He didn’t have to check or anything. He promptly did it. So, we did all the rest, radioed up to New York and they came back with a decision that it was no catch, guys at first and third and they scored a run, obviously, because it was no catch. That was the huddle part of it.”
Boone did admit that the umpires ultimately got the call right. But he wasn’t happy how the situation was handled. “They conferred and then after they conferred, they go to them (Francona) for the challenge,” Boone said of what he felt was a blown call, wrote Kevin Manahan of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. “I just think it completely bailed them out. I disagree still. We’ve been told all winter and all spring that we have to be ready. … (The replay) gets thrown up on the scoreboard. I’m not saying they looked at the scoreboard, but obviously, you can feel the emotion in the building, and then it’s them getting together to get it right and then going to Cleveland (Francona). I think, in the end, bailing them out. I took exception to it.”
When play resumed, Guardians first baseman Josh Bell hit an RBI single to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead. The game was eventually won by the Yankees, 4-3.
You can view the play below. However, you will not see the sequence of the runner crossing the plate vs. the third out putout at second base.
- If the Joyce report is accurate, there was no reason for Francona to originally challenge the play because Kwan’s run was allowed to score. Unless of course, Francona wanted to challenge the catch which he did according to Guccione. But that’s where it gets messy.
- In looking at the replay, I did not see Guccione make any signal as to whether or not the run scored. The plate ump is the one that makes that determination, and he does the moment the play occurs. If he did signal that the run counted, I did not see it. It’s seldom, if ever, that the umpires meet on “Time Plays” because the plate umpire has the best view and perspective because he can see the runner crossing the plate and the tag.
- It’s possible that “Time Play” decision caught Guccione by surprise based on what I witnessed on the YES Network video replay. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
- The umpires were within their rights to huddle even if a manager doesn’t challenge or make a timely challenge. Rule 8.02(c) allows umpires to meet and reverse a call, if necessary. They can also place the runners at the base they would have made had the correct call been initially made.
- It’s possible that the umpires convened once the play was put up on the screen and they heard the crowd rumblings. If that’s true, that would go against accepted umpiring practices. There was a time when controversial calls were not allowed to be shown at the ballpark.
- The way the media presented the situation is that the umpires asked Francona if he wanted to challenge. Based on the evidence, we now know that wasn’t true.
- Boone said after the fact that the American League assured him the umpires “did it the right way” and weren’t at all impacted by the Progressive Field crowd who reacted upon seeing the replay of Hicks’ non-catch on the venue’s big screen.
Boone said, “I’ve had a couple of conversations with the league already about it. … I understand there are plays when circle up…But if you were boots on the ground, everyone knows what happened. I wanted them to ask the league get a rule clarification. I thought it was not handled right at all.”
- From this corner, Hicks and Kwan did not handle the play well. Hicks made a relatively soft toss to second base to double-up Ramirez instead of a hard, snap throw that would get there sooner to beat Kwan crossing the plate. This is an important coaching point.
- Kwan’s approach to the plate was equally questionable. He slowed up the last few steps allowing the “apparent” third out to beat him. This is another coaching point that should be addressed.
Rules consultant/analyst: Angels, D’backs, Dodgers, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, Bally Sports, YES, and NBC Sports Chicago.