MINNEAPOLIS -- MLB's verdict regarding Wednesday night's Yankees controversy?
Error, umpires. But give one to Joe Girardi, too.
The umpires, led by crew chief Dana DeMuth, erred Wednesday night when they awarded Kansas City's Billy Butler a home run against the Yankees, Joe Torre said Thursday at the owners' meetings in Cooperstown, N.Y.
DeMuth "misunderstood" the ground rules at Kauffman Stadium, Torre said, and therefore made the mistake despite utilizing instant replay.
But Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, also said, "Even though it's a misunderstanding it's something that shouldn't have happened."
But Girardi made a mistake, one he lamented after the game, in not immediately filing a protest, which he needed to do before the next pitch was thrown. "Of course you do," Girardi said Thursday, asked again if he regretted not protesting. "I figured that they had the rules right and that's my fault."
If Girardi had filed a protest, Torre said, "I can't tell you what the result would have been, but we certainly would have had to look at it."
Oddly, it took all of 10 pitches for there to be another home-run controversy last night. After Joe Mauer singled in the first, Justin Morneau ripped CC Sabathia's 1-and-0 pitch down the rightfield line. First base umpire Jim Wolf inexplicably ruled it a home run -- replays showed it not to have been -- bringing Girardi out of the dugout. After a review, the call was overturned. That brought out Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who was ejected.
Thursday Girardi softened his stance a bit from Wednesday when he had said, if the call was wrong, it "cost" his team a victory. The Yankees left 11 and were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position in the 5-4 loss. "I can't tell you if he gets the call right the game's going to change," he said. "You go back, we had runners on all night."
Before the series opener Monday, first base coach Mick Kelleher went over the ground rules with the crew at home plate and said he specifically asked about the wall in left-center, one that caused a similarly disputed homer earlier in the year in a game against the Angels.
Replays Thursday showed Butler's ball clearing the wall, then hitting the rail on a second wall, situated behind the first wall. During the replay review, Butler was seen with his helmet on, looking as if he expected to be sent to second base.
"They were pretty explicit and clear," Kelleher said. "There was one question I had and it was about the top rail in left-center field. It was padded and the ball had to leave the ballpark and we talked about that twice."
Torre spoke with DeMuth Thursday and said the umpire "feels very bad about it."
"Dana was sure that the rule he knew where it was a home run," Torre said. "I guess they've had some questions since the ballpark was renovated a few years ago. It won't be the problem anymore."
Girardi did not talk to Torre or anyone else about the play other than GM Brian Cashman. While not outright blaming the umpires for the loss, Girardi was still animated discussing it.
"The umpires are there basically to uphold the rules, that's the bottom line," he said. " . . . Maybe it brings something out where the ground rules are posted in every clubhouse, in every umpire's room so there is clarification."
Torre said DeMuth didn't speak with the media after the game because he was huddling with umpire supervisor Steve Palermo, who took the crew to the wall an hour after the game and seemed to be chewing them out.
Said Girardi, "Maybe they didn't talk because they weren't sure of the rule. Maybe they weren't sure they were 100 percent right when they walked in their clubhouse. I can't tell you . . . I don't know how you do it but I think accountability has to take place."