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Every time an umpire blows a significant call, there is the usual clamoring for instant replay. However, even that fail safe proved insufficient in the last night’s game between the Yankees and Royals.

Joe Girardi and Dana DeMuth discuss Billy Butler's disputed home run (Photo: Getty Images).

The controversy started in the bottom of the third inning when Royals’ DH Billy Butler lined a Bartolo Colon fastball off the top of the left field wall. However, the umpires signaled home run, which allowed Butler to circle the bases even as the ball was being thrown to third base. Almost immediately, Joe Girardi bolted from the dugout to ask for a replay review. The umpires, led by crew chief Dana DeMuth, obliged Girardi’s request, but, in spite of the clear visual evidence, still decided to uphold the original call (interestingly, on June 1, Butler was involved in a similar situation when he was incorrectly awarded with a walk-off home run despite replays clearly showing the ball did not go over the same left field wall).

After the game, Steve Palmero, the supervisor of umpires, was seen taking the game’s crew on a field trip to inspect the infamous fence, an action that immediately suggested DeMuth had misinterpreted the relevant ground rule. Although it should offer no consolation to the Yankees, Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of Baseball Operations, eventually confirmed that the umpires erred, telling the Daily News that “it was a missed call, but there was also a misunderstanding on the rule”.

As things turned out, Colon retired the next two batters in the inning, so, all else being equal, Butler would not have scored without the erroneous decision. The fact that the Yankees lost by one run only compounded the error, but even if the deficit had been a larger margin, the impact on the game would have been the same: the Royals were given a run they should not have had. Once the umpires decided to uphold their initial mistake, manager Joe Girardi could no longer contest the call, leaving him with only one option: lodge a formal protest.

The Yankees’ dugout was visibly upset after DeMuth refused to reverse the call. Even the stoic Mariano Rivera had to be restrained by Tony Pena. Despite this strong emotion, and the insistence of first base coach Mick Kelleher, who was present when the ground rules were reviewed, Girardi forfeited his only chance at vindication by deciding not to protest the game.

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