Bizarre Red Sox-Rays Lineup Fiasco and Why It’s Bad for Baseball

Rob Bradford
July 24, 2019 - 4:51 pm

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Cora was like the rest of us after his team's chaotic loss at Tropicana Field.

"I’m rattled right now," the Red Sox manager said. "I kind of don’t know what’s going to happen."

Cora is leaving town with two wins in the three-game series, with the only loss -- a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Rays -- under protest by the Red Sox. We know those things to be true. The only other certainty: the game of baseball was embarrassed Wednesday afternoon.

Here's what happened ...

- In the eighth inning, Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash went to the mound and told lefty reliever Adam Kolarek to move to first base, replacing Ji-Man Choi and allowing righty Chaz Roe to face Mookie Betts. The move was made in order to use Kolarek for the next batter, Rafael Devers.

- After a fly out Cora came out to discuss the move with home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, complaining where Kolarek was being placed in the lineup. Their assertion was that according to the lineup card initially shown to them by Hernandez, Kolarek's name wasn't listed. After the umpires gathered, it appeared.

- Hernandez explained to a pool reporter after the game that Cash never identified where he wanted Kolarek to hit, leaving it up to Hernandez to pinpoint where that spot would be. But, once again, the Red Sox believe that part of the equation was never executed by the umpire, leaving Kolarek out of the lineup.

"They did the pitcher moving to another position and we felt that they made some illegal substitutions," Cora said. "It was a mess at one point. I wasn’t able to keep up with Angel. We protested the game. Let’s see where it goes."

- Cora's comments after the game back up the idea that Hernandez's handling of the situation was inconsistent from the outset.

"So, I wasn’t surprised," the manager said. "When he brought in the lefty and we saw what was going to happen, when he put him first I asked Angel about it and he gave me an answer. I’m like, ‘OK, this is about to get interesting.’ And it did."

- The likelihood of a protest being upheld is very, very, very slim, with the last such reversal taking place coming when a rain delay snafu between the Cubs and the Giants being altered due to a protest in 2014. Prior to that the most recent occasion was in 1986.

- A protest is only considered if it is determined that the incident in question would have impacted the outcome. To that Cora said, "We had to bring in a lefty for a lefty hitter that wasn’t there. I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. It’s the first time I’ve been through this. So we’ll see how it’s handled."

The explanation ...

The following was Hernandez’s exchange with the pool reporter:

Q: What was Cora's contention?

Hernandez: The dispute on the field was about what the batting order was following the pitcher going to a defensive position. So the rule: Pitcher moving to a defensive position, Rule 5:11, if a game's pitcher is switched from the mound to a defensive position this move shall terminate the designated hitter role for the remainder of the game. The pitcher just removed from the mound may bat in the designated hitter's spot in the batting order or, if more than one defensive change is made, the pitcher may bat in place of any of the substituted players. The manager shall designate the place in the batting order to the umpire.

Q: So what did Cora want you to do?

Hernandez: He wanted to know what was going on, so we told him it didn't alter the outcome of anything that had happened so far. What we did, which is Rule 5:10.b, in case the manager fails or refuses to make a decision, the plate umpire is authorized to decide the necessary batting order. The umpire's decision is final.

Q: So that doesn't leave much room to protest, does it?

Hernandez: Exactly, that's what we were trying to tell him. But he wanted to protest. We went to the headsets to verify. But it takes a long time to explain that, as you saw, and then to check with replay.

Here's the real problem ...

- The 21-minute delay included the umpires going back and forth from Cora and Cash multiple times, ultimately ending up on the headsets with New York for clarification/confirmation. But when you allow things to unravel to the degree Hernandez did in this case, neither side was going to get a logical answer, which ended up being the case.

- Rarely, if ever, will you see umpires huddling among themselves for so long. This wasn't one or two minutes. This wasn't with a manager in their ears. This was a group of people who clearly had no grasp of the situation.

- Baseball is right in the thick of a perception problem, and this only damaged its cause. When you have the people who are supposed to know the rules of the game more than anyone, while being charged with the responsibility to direct those rules, and they fail this miserably ... that isn't good for anybody.

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