Those who were not watching Tuesday night’s game at Yankee Stadium missed one of the oddest blown calls of the year. With two outs and a runner at third in the bottom of the seventh inning, Jack Hannahan lofted a fly ball into the stands past third base. New York left fielder Dewayne Wise valiantly tumbled over the wall in pursuit of the ball, which caromed off his glove as he tumbled into the crowd.
If video does not load, you can watch it here.
While there may have been some ambiguity in the heat of the moment, it was clear from the replays and still frames that Wise flubbed the catch. Yet third-base umpire Mike DiMuro immediately called Hannahan—in retrospect, the tying run at the plate—out. DiMuro admitted his mistake after the game, but he ejected Hannahan for telling him to look at the replay in the eighth inning.
Glossing over the usual discussion about whether or not this incident is another example of the need for instant replay in baseball—though, for the record, it absolutely is—there were some real problems with how the situation was handled. Specifically, there are three people who acted questionably in the aftermath of Wise’s falsely successful sojourn into the stands. In no particular order:
1. Dewayne Wise. Wise didn’t do anything to influence DiMuro’s call. Hannahan was declared out before Wise even got back on his feet. “He said, ‘Out’ right away, so what was I supposed to do? Run back to left field?” Wise asked after the game. Well, maybe not exactly that, but he could have attempted to set the record straight.
No one expected Wise to admit that he had missed the catch or petition the umpire to change his mind—that’s just not how baseball works. But that doesn’t mean staying silent and playing along was the right thing to do. If you see a guy drop a $20 bill on the sidewalk, do you pocket it quietly or try to return it? It’s unlikely that DiMuro would have reversed the call if Wise had confessed the truth, but at least he’d have taken the high road and demonstrated sportsmanship instead of slipping into an ethical gray area.
2. Manny Acta. It was no surprise that someone went out to argue with DiMuro after he blew the call, but it was odd that Hannahan had to do it alone. A manager is supposed to be his players’ biggest advocates on and off the field, yet he made no effort to call DiMuro on his mistake. To make things even weirder, Acta argued another of DiMuro’s calls Tuesday night that by his own admission he wasn’t sure about. So why did he abandon Hannahan when the issue was actually black and white?
Also odd was Acta’s admission that he would have no problem with an Indians outfield pretending to have made a catch that he had actually missed. “If you can get an out, why not?” he asked after the game. Most managers would probably agree with that, but in an age when even completely unsubstantiated rumors of possible PED use are enough to keep deserving candidates out of the Hall of Fame, it’s odd to hear someone inside the game say he’d be happy to see one of his players credited with a catch he didn’t actually make.
3. Mike DiMuro. This is the big one. You can’t blame DiMuro for not seeing the play, but you absolutely can blame him for rushing to make the call before he knew what had happened. “In hindsight, I should have asked him to show me the ball since he fell into the stands and out of my line of vision,” he said after the game. But one wonders why a professional sports official entertained that thought only after the fact and not before he made the call.
Then there’s the part where he ejected Hannahan. “I didn’t swear at him—nothing…I saw the replay and I wanted to ask him about it and get his point of view,” Hannahan said, and the video backs up his claims of being civil. So why did DiMuro toss him? Did he think his obstructed view was more trustworthy than the replay camera’s? Or did he know he was wrong and throw him out anyway? Either way, his behavior is ill-befitting of an MLB official.
That such an unambiguously incorrect call was allowed to stand unchecked was just another example of why letting fallible humans officiate the game without the aid of instant replays does not work. But the situation was made worse by Wise’s silence, Acta’s absence, and DiMuro’s haste and stubbornness.