So about that ninth inning double …
Jim Leyland never takes the lineup card out to home plate, but he did on Tuesday. It was his chance to congratulate umpire Tim McClelland on his 4000th major league game.
By the ninth inning, Leyland was back out talking with McClelland, but he wasn’t exactly congratulating him. And McClelland was wondering how one play went from a home run to an out to a double with one errant raise of his arm.
“You would think a guy with 4000 games would have enough experience not to do that,” McClelland said with a smile.
But even guys with 4000 games have calls they don’t know how to react to. Jeff Franceour’s drive to left-center field off Phil Coke was one of them. McClelland, umpiring at second base, knew it was going to be close.
McClelland said he was focused on trying to make sure he could see whether it went over the fence. When it bounced off the top of the fence and Austin Jackson brought it back, it caught him off-guard.
“I was so concerned about home run or not a home run,” McClelland said, “and when I saw the ball pop up and the catch, instead of calling it wasn’t a home run, I put my hand up.”
He was trying to put up his arm to show that the ball stayed in the park. Instead, it was taken as a sign that Jackson had made the out.
“I was just confused because I was rounding second pretty hard and I saw McClelland putting up ‘out,’ and that’s when I stopped because, ‘How am I out when the ball hit the wall?’” Francoeur said.
Jackson couldn’t quite figure it out, either.
“At that point, I think I just thought I caught it for some reason. I don’t know,” Jackson said. “But once I saw [McClelland] call him out I kind of thought that I just robbed a home run. But that’s kind of a weird way to rob a home run, I guess.”
Yes, it is. And McClelland realized immediately that it’s a weird way to signal that it’s not a home run when it’s obviously a hit. As soon as Francoeur protested, McClelland admitted his bad signal. By then, though, Francoeur was between second and third base, and Ramon Santiago was coming over from second base with the ball to apply the tag.
That’s where a directive from Major League Baseball comes into play, according to McClelland: If a player stops off base because of an incorrect call, “we should do whatever we need to do to correct it.”
In other words, it’s much like an inadvertent whistle in football. So McClelland sent Francoeur back to second base and called it a ground-rule double.
Jim Leyland protested the call with a surprising fervor for somebody whose team had 9-3 lead, but to no avail.
“It was his 4,000th game today and it’d have been something to have to run somebody on your 4,000th game,” Francoeur said, “but everything turned out all right on that, though.”