Opinion

Baseball set to review controversial ruling

Manager Ned Yost was adamant. In his mind, an official scorer’s judgment had cost his pitcher a chance at a no-hitter.

This was the case Sunday at Kauffman Stadium, but it also happened in 2008.

On Sunday, Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie was twirling a no-no when Paul Konerko’s grounder was ruled a hit instead of an error on shortstop Alcides Escobar. While managing the Brewers four years ago,

Yost saw CC Sabathia take a no-hitter into the fifth inning when the Pirates’ Adam LaRoche softly hit a ball toward the mound.

Sabathia tried to make a bare-handed pickup, but he bobbled the ball and LaRoche was safe. It was the only hit Sabathia allowed.

“He accomplished a no-hitter and wasn’t given what he deserved. That should have been a no-hitter,” Yost said at the time. “That’s a stinking no-hitter we all got cheated from. I feel horrible for CC.”

The Brewers appealed to Major League Baseball, but the hit was upheld.

In the past, baseball didn’t have to consider any appeal. But starting this season, every play that is appealed is now subject to a review.

“Beginning this year, the process is part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” baseball senior vice president Phyllis Merhige wrote in an email. “(Public-relations) people were much more involved in the past and have been deliberately bypassed in the new system.

“Also in the past, one of the EVPs (executive vice presidents) here first reviewed the play to determine whether the call was so clearly erroneous as to warrant a full review by committee. That step is eliminated, and every play is reviewed by Joe Torre now.”

Torre is baseball’s executive vice president for baseball operations. Merhige said Torre has the option of calling a committee of his choosing to look at any disputed plays, but he usually makes the decision on his own.

There are two ways to begin the appeals process.

Merhige said a player who wants a scoring change contacts the Players Association, which makes the request on his behalf. In the case of the Royals, it’s slightly different.

Any club personnel, including the general manager, manager or coaches, will contact Dean Taylor, the Royals’ assistant general manager for baseball operations. Taylor then makes the appeal to Merhige. And Yost said Sunday that the team will appeal.

The new procedures in the appeal process were made in part to eliminate pressure that could be put on official scorers (who make $150 a game, according to The New York Times) to change a decision.

But Sid Bordman, a former Star reporter who also worked for nearly a quarter of a century as an official scorer for Royals games until 2006, said he never was harassed.

“I changed one myself the next day after I thought it over,” Bordman said. “You had 24 hours to make a change.”

The call he switched came after the Yankees’ Rickey Henderson had hit a ball up the middle. Royals second baseman Frank White got to the ball but dropped it, Bordman recalled. He ruled it an error.

“I couldn’t sleep that night, because I was thinking about it,” Bordman said. “Rickey Henderson was a very fast runner. The next day, I saw Phil Rizzuto, who was a broadcaster and ex-player for the Yankees and a good friend, and we went for a walk.

“I asked, ‘Phil, did I screw up that play on Rickey Henderson?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I think it should have been a hit.’ ”

Bordman agreed, so he called the Elias Sports Bureau and changed his call.

In the pressbox that day, Bordman ran into White, who was in his uniform.

“He said, ‘You didn’t have to do that for me, Sid,’ ” Bordman recalled. “I said, ‘I didn’t do it for you, I did it for me.’ ”

As for Sunday’s game, Bordman said he felt for Del Black.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to be in his shoes,” Bordman said.

Had Guthrie finished with a one-hitter, his appeal would have been the second this year from a team looking to get a player a no-hitter.

The Mets’ R.A. Dickey pitched a one-hitter in Tampa on June 13. The lone hit came in the first inning when B.J. Upton hit a soft grounder to third base. David Wright bare-handed the ball but dropped it.

There is one case of a no-hitter being awarded after the fact.

According to the Society of American Baseball Research, Ernie Koob of the St. Louis Browns got one against the Chicago White Sox on May 5, 1917. Buck Weaver, he of the Black Sox scandal, had the lone hit in the first inning, but it was later ruled an error by Ernie Johnson.

If baseball rules in the Royals’ favor, little will change for Guthrie. Instead of allowing three hits, it will be two. That’s it.

“I don’t think that will be overturned,” Bordman said. “It wouldn’t have been a no-hitter.”

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