Game 116: NYY vs. TOR — Drama in “The 6”

The Yankees had their winning streak snapped with tonight’s drama-filled game at Rogers Centre. To be fair, as is often the case with division rivals, it’s often tough to face off in the opposing team’s stadium, and even more so when the visitors are (now) 37 1/2 games ahead of the home team.

JA Happ got the start in the second of this 4-game weekend series in Toronto and had one of those nights that was frustrating in all the wrong places. He threw 99 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 6 runs, and struck out just 4 batters. A lead-off walk in the 1st scored on a 2-out 2-run home run to get the Jays on the board. And a lead-off solo home run in the 2nd added one more to their lead.

Then, with 2 outs in the 4th, a batter doubled. On a wild pitch, he made a dash for 3rd, which was initially called an out, but on replays and a review, the call was overturned as the runner just missed being tagged out at 3rd. After Happ gave up a walk, he let another pitch linger over the plate to become a 3-run home run, doubling the home team’s score.

Nestor Cortes Jr came on for 2 solid scoreless innings before handing the game over to Tommy Kahnle. A lead-off walk was eliminated in a great double play. But then he gave up a double that scored on a 2-run home run to cap off the Blue Jays’ scoring tonight.

The Yankees, meanwhile, had some trouble finding that offense from the previous 9 games. There was some “chirping” about the strike zone which came to a head in the 4th (more below). With 2 outs, Mike Tauchman got the Yankees on the board with a solo home run. And Mike Ford led-off the 7th with a solo home run.

This meant every run scored in tonight’s game was off home runs, from both teams.

Final score: 8-2 Blue Jays

Okay, let’s address a big issue here: baseball is a game about people, and a lot of it is about how often they fail at their job. A great batting average, for example, is getting a hit 30% of the time and getting out 70% of the time. Pitchers have to throw strikes, something batters have to hit to make home runs. A fraction of a section can mean the difference between an out and safe on a tag. And that human factor means things are going to get called wrong far too often than we’d like to believe in this replay and AI-infused world.

This, of course, is not an excuse for improvements in limiting human error. Nor is it an excuse to display, um, improper human behavior in response or in association of the system. It also means that sometimes people who aren’t behaving badly get caught up in the melee of those who do. Call it collateral damage, if you will.

Tonight, Brett Gardner became collateral damage. Look, the strike zone wasn’t great, as is too often the case with newer umpires. Yes, Gardner has been known to question the calls periodically, and his frustrations recently even resulted in a split lip as a result of a temper tantrum and helmet throw more on the reaction level of one of his own children.

However, tonight, video evidence showed that he wasn’t one of those “chirping” about the calls. (Maybe the split lip taught him a lesson on such exhibits.) Somehow, he was the only one ejected from the game. His manager, Aaron Boone initially asked if he (Boone) was the one being ejected as he was one of the ones making noise from the dugout steps. Nope, the umpire pointed to Gardner, who looked on the scene confused at first and then angry for being accused of doing something he clearly didn’t do.

Understandably, he went out to ask for clarity but was shrugged off by the umpire. Again, no excuses here, but Gardner soon found his manager holding him back from an actual confrontation. The umpire doesn’t need to justify his actions, as per MLB rules. He can toss who he wants when he wants. Fair or not, this is how the system is set up. Remember, human rules, human error, human behavior all in action, and it’s going to chafe somewhere.

However, the ejectees do have some recourse and the opportunity to appeal if they desire. A committee always reviews every ejection and brings a resulting discipline. Usually this results in a fine and a suspension from playing in a game for a comparative time, depending on the reason for the ejection. Should the committee find the ejection unwarranted, they can essentially dismiss the consequences. But they do factor in witness statements, video evidence, how events unfolded, who was involved and what each person did, and that aforementioned collateral damage. So, stay tuned for the resulting fall-out.

Go Yankees!

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