Rays Play Game Under Protest After Late Challenge Overturns Safe Call

The Tampa Bay Rays played today's 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays under protest after a replay challenge in the fourth inning ruled Wil Myers was picked off first base. Myers was initially ruled safe, but after pitcher Mark Buehrle had stepped on the rubber and Yunel Escobar was in the batter's box, the Blue Jays challenged the call. It was reviewed and overturned, prompting Joe Maddon to play the remainder of the game under protest because of the untimeliness of the challenge.

The new replay rules define a timely challenge as one that is verbally communicated before "the next play or pitch." Here is the applicable rule, bolded for emphasis:

Except as otherwise set forth in Sections II.D.2-4 below, to be timely, a Manager must exercise his challenge (by verbal communication to the appropriate Umpire), or the Crew Chief must initiate Replay Review (if applicable pursuant to Section II.C above) before the commencement of the next play or pitch. Such challenge or request will be considered timely only if the Umpire acknowledges that communication within the time period specified above. For purposes of these Regulations, the next "play" shall commence when the pitcher is on the rubber preparing to start his delivery and the batter has entered the batter's box (unless the defensive team initiates an appeal play in which case any call made during the play prior to the appeal still may be subject to Replay Review). A challenge to a play that ends the game must be invoked immediately upon the conclusion of the play, and both Clubs shall remain in their dugouts until the Replay Official issues his decision. No substitutions or pitching changes may take place while the Umpires are in the process of invoking Replay Review.

It would appear that Buehrle did exactly what was contemplated by the rule—maybe there is room to debate whether Buehrle was "preparing to start his delivery," which is just worst kind of language to use when drafting rules like this—and Toronto did not initiate an appeal play. Buehrle simply went back on the mound before the Jays were sure they wanted to challenge. Everyone involved on the play, Buehrle, Escobar, Navarro, and the homeplate umpire were ready to go until word came from the Toronto bench.


The rules give the crew chief ultimate control over determining whether a challenge is timely, so Maddon immediately told Bob Davidson it was too late to review the play. Davidson felt otherwise.

Close or not, if Escobar was in the box, and Buehrle was on the mound, that's definitionally untimely. Dioner Navarro actually calls time out from behind home plate. Unless Gibbons verbally challenged the ruling directly to Davidson from the dugout, which we don't see on the video, it doesn't seem close at all. If the challenge was untimely then umpires should not have reviewed the play and the original call ruling Wil Myers safe at first should have stood. It did not, so Maddon protested the game.


Just Wednesday, the Giants won the first protest in Major League Baseball in 28 years, and the Rays look to have a pretty good case to make it two in one week. MLB rules do allow for a situation where a protest could be upheld without the need for replaying the game, but that does not appear to be the case in this instance. Here, from rule 4.19 on protesting games:

Even if it is held that the protested decision violated the rules, no replay of the game will be ordered unless in the opinion of the League President the violation adversely affected the protesting team’s chances of winning the game.

The Rays lost by one run. Losing a runner on base and an out certainly adversely affected the Tampa Bay's chances of winning the game.