New York Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka was visibly frustrated when a reporter brought up the roughly 16-minute delay that occurred during Wednesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Higashioka had every right to be.
It wasn’t any sort of weather-related event that slowed down what had been a quick-moving night at Yankee Stadium. Instead, it was the umpires, who had to huddle for an extended period of time to figure out whether manager Aaron Boone could make the trip to make the pitching change.
“That was brutal,” Higashioka said. “I mean first of all I feel like that can’t happen. It can’t take 20-30 minutes, whatever to figure out what’s going on. There’s gotta be somebody that knows what to do.”
The issue at hand had been the lack of clarity surrounding a rule that Major League Baseball had put in place to try and speed up games. Safe to say the irony with this one is pretty rich.
Instead, the umpires’ confusion led to a moment that brought the game to a screeching halt. At the heart of it was rule 5.10(l)(1-4) which deals with pitching changes in a game.
The officiating crew was unsure whether or not Boone’s trip to the mound constituted a second visit after pitching coach Matt Blake had just been out there to calm down reliever Miguel Castro. The Rays had sent out Ji-Man Chui to pinch-hit which prompted Boone’s pitching change and the umps need to confer if that was alright.
So for 16 minutes they huddled and tried to contact MLB headquarters in Manhattan to get a hold of the situation. All the while, the 35,000 plus in attendance on Wednesday sat confused and the players tried to keep themselves ready to get back to the action.
“I definitely did not feel good on the field after that long delay. I’m glad we just got through it,” the Yankees catcher later added.
The lengthy delay was surely not what the league wanted in terms of its continued push to quicken the pace of games or the optics that one of its officiating crews needed nearly 20 minutes to decipher the rules designed to make games move faster.
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Both teams and managers seemed frustrated by what occurred Wednesday night and it didn’t make the fans in the ballpark or at home much happier either.
“You know what? I don’t know,” Tampa manager Kevin Cash said to MLB.com. “It’d be better off just asking the umpires what exactly took place. I don’t have any other comment on it.”
For a league that is constantly focused on trying to grow the sport and reengage fans over the years, keeping a preventable lengthy delay from occurring again would be the best thing for everyone. The situation on Wednesday night seemed to be one that could have been resolved much faster than the 16-minute window it took while the players stood around and Boone, at times, looked animated in his conversations with the umpires.
The oddball circumstances aren’t sure to happen again, but the MLB would be wise to give its officiating crews a refresher course on the rules of the game.