NEW YORK - A day after a blown home run call, the House that Ruth Built became the ballpark that A-Rod remodeled.
Yankee Stadium workers put up netting Thursday on a staircase just beyond the right-center field wall, the spot that confused the umpires, cost Alex Rodriguez a home run and intensified baseball’s debate about instant replay.
“It’ll make it a little easier out there,” umpire crew chief Tim Welke said.
Nothing was easy for Welke’s crew Wednesday night on a play that became the majors’ third missed homer call in four days.
Rodriguez thought he’d hit his second home run of the game for the New York Yankees, yet wound up with a double when his rocket shot ricocheted off the side of that cement staircase and quickly bounced back into play. The staircase, painted yellow, is situated about 2-3 feet behind the fence.
Welke, working at second base, and the other umps huddled and ruled the ball had stayed in play.
“We couldn’t see it,” Welke said. “We just didn’t know for sure.”
An inning or two later, Johnny Damon was jogging to his spot in left field and gave Welke the bad news: Replays clearly showed the ball flying over the wall.
“I felt terrible,” Welke said. “I mean, I think I know how hard it is to hit a home run in the major leagues. I had trouble sleeping after something like that.”
Coincidentally, as Welke spoke outside the umpires’ locker room before Thursday night’s game between the Yankees and Baltimore, Rodriguez walked past on his way to the indoor batting cage. Headphones on, Rodriguez did not glance at Welke.
The play had no real effect on the outcome. Rodriguez eventually scored and the Yankees beat the Orioles 8-0.
Yankee Stadium is 85 years old, and this is the final season for the ballpark. Never too late for a little bit of renovating, though.
“I think it will help. They told me what they were doing and it made sense,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “If it happens again, hopefully the ball slows down and doesn’t come flying back so fast.”
On Sunday night, Carlos Delgado of the New York Mets lost a home run at Yankee Stadium when umpires reversed the original call and said his drive was foul. The ball actually glanced off the top of the left-field wall, hit the foul pole and fell into the seats.
On Monday night, Geovany Soto of the Cubs hit a ball at Houston that should’ve been called an automatic home run. Instead, umpires ruled it was in play and Soto ended up with an inside-the-park homer.
The next day, baseball executive Bob Watson was present as workers at Minute Maid Park removed a piece of wood in center field that was painted yellow and caused confusion.
“There’s no need for that type of confusion at a big league ballpark,” Watson said.
On Thursday, baseball said one of its top officials will develop a proposal for instant replay that could be tested later this year in the Arizona Fall League.
Umpires would have to approve the use of replay in the majors
“Anything that makes our job easier, I’m in favor of,” Welke said. “That was embarrassing what happened last night, and I’m sorry. But sometimes you have to take one step backward to take two steps forward.”
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