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Baseball weighs in on umpires' ruling but does little to clear up confusion

Major League Baseball says the umpires made a mistake when they removed Jonathan Broxton from the Dodgers' loss to the Giants on Tuesday.

July 21, 2010|By Dylan Hernandez

A day later, there was still widespread confusion. If anything, there was more confusion.

What exactly happened in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' loss to the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night? More to the point, what should have happened?

In case you missed it, here's a quick summary of what was visible to the eye: Jonathan Broxton entered the game with the Dodgers holding on to a 5-4 lead. The All-Star closer, who threw 44 pitches Sunday, loaded the bases. That prompted a visit from hitting coach Don Mattingly, who was serving as the manager in place of Joe Torre, who had been ejected. Mattingly talked to Broxton and stepped off the mound, but he turned around when he was called to by James Loney. Mattingly stepped back onto the mound.

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy came out to speak to the umpires, pointing out that by returning to the mound after stepping onto the grass, Mattingly had paid Broxton a second visit. The umpires agreed, removed Broxton from the game and essentially forced Mattingly to call on George Sherrill, who promptly served up a two-run double to Andres Torres.

The Giants went on to win, 7-5.

For all practical purposes, the case was closed.

But the bizarre sequence produced some equally bizarre explanations Wednesday. An institution that prides itself on following the letter of the law was suddenly making up rules on the spot to fill in the gaps in its legislative code, appearing as flexible in its statute-making process as boxing.

Major League Baseball said the umpires made a mistake, pointing to Rule 8.06, which states that if a manager visits the same pitcher twice in the same inning with the same hitter at the plate after being warned that he can't do so, the manager should be removed from the game. The rule goes on to say that the pitcher is required to pitch to that hitter until that hitter is retired or reaches base, but he will immediately be removed from the game afterward.

So Mattingly should have been ejected and Broxton should have been allowed to face Torres, right?

No.

Because Mattingly could not have been warned about making another visit to the mound between the time that he stepped onto the grass and when Loney called to ask him where he should position himself, the part of the rule about the manager being removed from the game should not have applied, a league official said. But Broxton should have been allowed to remain in game to face Torres.

Umpire crew chief Tim McClelland said he would abide by baseball's ruling but stood by his crew's decision to remove Broxton and not Mattingly.

"It's a difference of opinion over a situation that happened that's not covered in the rule book," he said. "It's a different situation than what's covered in the rule book. The rule book says it's a defiant manager."

The rule book might imply that the rule applies to a defiant manager — the rule describes a manager who visits his pitcher a second time "after being warned by the umpire that he cannot return to the mound" — but never says so explicitly.

Because the Dodgers didn't file a timely protest — bench coach and resident rules expert Bob Schaefer was thrown out of the game in the sixth inning — the umpires' decision stood.

That wasn't the Dodgers' only issue, as Torre complained about how Sherrill was allowed to throw only eight warmup pitches. McClelland had told Mattingly that Sherrill could throw as many as he wanted.

McClelland said that because he was explaining his ruling to Mattingly near third base, he didn't know how many warmup tosses Sherrill had made. McClelland said that as he returned to his station at first base, he asked Sherrill if he was ready to pitch.

Sherrill replied, "Yeah, I guess."

Sherrill said McClelland's story was accurate.

One problem: Sherrill thought McClelland was being sarcastic.

"I couldn't let one go," Sherrill said. "I'm 33 years old. It's going to take a little bit to loosen the joints. I guess I could've windmilled my arm coming in."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

twitter.com/dylanohernandez

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