A manager on fire. There’s no other way to describe what went down Sunday during the third inning of the Yankees’ comfortable 10-1 rout of the Mariners.
Rather than walk away from an infuriating call that was made even more confusing by the replay verdict, Joe Girardi chose to channel his inner Billy Martin, spiking his cap to the turf, then flapping his arms at the umpires as he stormed off for his fifth ejection this season.
Girardi, in the walk year of his Yankees contract, isn’t going anywhere quietly. Not with five weeks left and his Bronx future potentially on the line, perhaps tied to a playoff berth that no one would have dared to predict in April.
The 2017 season began as a reboot for the 27-time world champions, but those expectations dramatically changed around the trade deadline, and now it’s up to Girardi to pilot these Yankees into October.
Making the playoffs shouldn’t be a problem. But with the Indians’ visit to the Stadium beginning Monday night, followed by the Red Sox over the weekend, things are tightening up in the Bronx. And Girardi isn’t about to let stuff slide, as we witnessed during Sunday’s on-field confrontation with crew chief Mike Everitt.
The Yankees already were up 6-1, thanks in part to the Mariners’ five errors in the first inning alone. But that didn’t stop Girardi from becoming incensed after a replay review of a third-inning sequence in which the Yankees failed to turn a double play.
Yankees first baseman Chase Headley fielded Robinson Cano’s grounder, and as he fired to second, the Mariners’ Jean Segura veered onto the infield grass before sliding a solid six feet wide of the bag toward Didi Gregorius. Gregorius, who caught the throw on the shortstop side of second, wasn’t hit by Segura, but his sidearm throw back to Headley bounced and couldn’t be handled.
How many times have we been through this? Whether you call it the Chase Utley Rule or prefer to name it after Ruben Tejada — the Met who had his leg broken — the official title is 6.01 (j) and the purpose is to prevent any more calamitous injuries.
What Segura did certainly appeared illegal. So out came Girardi asking for the video review, confident that Segura would be called for interference and the Yankees would be awarded the double play. But when Everitt took off the headphones and signaled safe, confirming the call, Girardi marched out to argue further, even though he knew that was likely to get him tossed.
“Well, clearly I don’t understand the rule,” Girardi said. “Because a runner’s not supposed to deviate his path to second base and he’s supposed to be able to touch the bag when he slides. I didn’t see either of those things.”
Managers are not allowed to argue replay reviews, but Girardi said he merely wanted an explanation. After Everitt warned him numerous times not to come out, even gesturing with his arms, the manager did anyway. And once the conversation got heated, Girardi flung down his cap, yelled some more, then stomped off toward the dugout as the crowd of 40,112 roared in approval.
“I’m going to protect my players — that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “For the life of me, I don’t understand it.”
We thought the evidence was irrefutable as well, so it made sense to check in with the umpiring crew to find out what they saw on the play. Everitt was happy to oblige, reading a statement from the central replay office that, to us, didn’t necessarily clear things up.
“He engaged in a non-bona fide slide in altering his pathway,” Everitt said. “However, he did not hinder or impede the fielder. Therefore, you cannot have slide interference.”
A “bona-fide slide,” in layman’s terms, basically means a legal one under Rule 6.01 (j). Without getting too technical, MLB just wants players to slide early enough and within reach — by arm or leg — of the bag so the fielders won’t be maliciously targeted. By definition, if a slide is illegal, or non-bona fide, shouldn’t that be a violation, regardless of the outcome?
Apparently not, and we can understand Girardi’s irritation. This was his second ejection in only four days after getting bounced during Thursday’s melee in Detroit, where he was critical of the umps’ handling of that Wild West atmosphere. It’s only going to get wilder from here to the finish, with Girardi riding shotgun.