In today’s game between the Guardians and Yankees, an umpire controversy resulted in an ejection when it appeared that Crew Chief Larry Vanover forgot the new MLB rules. With MLB focusing on speed of the game and player safety, it appears that do to Larry Vanover’s unfamiliarity with the rule book a very embarrassing situation arose for Major League Baseball.
The Call That Created the MLB Controversy
During the game, the Guardians had runners on first and second base with only one out, when Josh Naylor hit a bloop to center field. Originally, it appeared that Aaron Hicks made a diving catch and doubled off runner Jose Ramirez at second base. The call on the field was a double play and the Yankees made their way off the field.
The controversy started when the game returned from commercial break when a replay shown at the stadium showed that Hicks had actually trapped the ball. The umpire controversy centers around if Guardians manager Terry Franconoa initiated the challenge within the 15 second window following the call on the field.
According to both the Yankees and Guardians broadcasts, it did not appear that Francona had ever initiated the challenge, although, it is worth noting that Francona did briefly put his hand up after the play.
Opposing Broadcasts View on the Umpire Controversy
On the Yankees broadcast, the announcers led by Michael Kay were quick to claim that Francona failed to challenge in time. The broadcast showed the rule confirming that a 15-second window starts immediately after the play. They continued to show Francona in the dugout and it appears that he never signaled for a challenge to occur.
Meanwhile, on the Guardians broadcast, the announcing team led by Tom Hamilton also seemed to question if Francona had properly challenged. Likely believing the call would go against the Guardians, the broadcasters were quick to question if Vanover and his crew had even looked over at Francona to give him the opportunity to challenge.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were allowed to run off of the field while the Guardian baserunners left the bases and starting pitcher Peyton Battenfield started to make his way onto the field.
This isn’t the first umpire controversy to happen on Vanover’s watch this year. MLB officially apologized to the Mets following the Pete Alonso/Jeff McNeill base running call earlier this year.
Analyzing the Umpire Controversy
The biggest issue around this umpire controversy is a good ten minutes of time passed before the challenge process began and additional time immediately after as Aaron Boone argued the call and was ejected. For a sport that is looking into the speed of the game and limiting what it considers “down-time” the amount of time that was allowed to pass was egregious.
Furthermore, after the outcome was officially decided, due to the amount of time lost in the process, Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt was permitted to throw warm-up tosses, resulting in a further delay to the game. While Schmidt should have been given the opportunity to re-loosen his arm, the main issue arises with why a pitcher would need warm up pitches in the middle of an inning.
For Vanover and his crew, either they didn’t properly allow an MLB manager the ability to challenge or they allowed a challenge to occur way after the 15 second window. While no one should expect the umpires to be perfect, these types of delays and confusion around the rule book is a terrible look for Major League Baseball.
Ironing Out the Wrinkles
After the game, look for Major League Baseball to make a formal comment on the umpire controversy during today’s game. There is a legitimate situation where Cleveland did successfully challenge and both broadcasts simply did not have a camera angle.
However, due to the reactions of both teams, it feels that this outcome is unlikely. Instead, this appears to be an umpire controversy of Larry Vanover and his crew’s own making. For the game, the right call was eventually made and while it did allow Cleveland to score and extend their inning.