Baltimore Orioles: Should Brandon Hyde have played under protest?

The Baltimore Orioles can’t seem to make it over the hump no matter what happens. Starter Jorge Lopez couldn’t pitch out of the fifth, making him only the most recent Orioles’ starter unable to go deep into a game. Lopez’s line: 4.1 P, 7 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K.

Cleveland has largely picked up right where they left off the previous game each day in this series. Ramirez smacked a two-run homer in the first, followed by a Bradley solo shot. Before the crowd had even settled in, Cleveland led 3-0.

However while pointless, the O’s weren’t going quietly into the night. Or quietly into the Cleveland afternoon, in this case – you get the point. Austin Hays‘ solo homer in the second cut the Cleveland lead to 3-1. The teams would trade solo homers in the third and fourth, with Maikel Franco doing the honors for the Birds. Trey Mancini would add an RBI-double later in that fourth inning, bringing the O’s to within one run at 4-3.

However they wouldn’t get any closer than that. Pinpoint placement of base hits and home runs would work to Cleveland’s advantage, along with insurance runs in the later innings. Cleveland went onto win the finale 10-3. This was the second consecutive series in which the O’s were swept, sending them to an 0-7 road trip.

While the final Cleveland run was scored on an error, there wasn’t any glaring mistake or faux pas in this game that came to Cleveland’s aide (unlike in the other three games). Nothing on the field, at least. But was there an oversight in the dugout that might have helped Cleveland and hurt the Birds?

The O’s were trailing 4-3 when Chang grounded into an apparent double-play to end the fourth inning. Trailing by one, the Birds were very much in the game at that point, and to be honest they had the wind at their backs in terms of momentum. Or so we thought.

Cleveland manager Francona took his sweet time, but eventually challenged the double-play. And in fact, they came back and ruled that Change was safe at first base. The next hitter was Clement, who’s RBI-double sent Cleveland off to the races towards their ten runs.

The rule is that a manager has ten seconds to hold up play if he’s trying to decide if he wants to challenge. Francona took ten seconds and then some. Now granted, nobody’s sitting there on the field with a stopwatch timing his ten seconds. But at a certain point you kind of know your time’s up. I’ve seen umpires tell a manager that his timing was too late to challenge a call.

For the record, how long the other manager took to challenge a call isn’t something Brandon Hyde could have turned around and challenged himself. BUT…he could have protested the decision by the umpire to allow the challenge to go forward. Meaning he could have played the game under protest.

A manager can only formally protest something in a game (play under protest) when a rule has potentially been misinterpreted or misapplied. A bad (judgement) call, for instance, can’t be protested. But given the fact that Francona appeared to wait for at least a minute or two to challenge the call, one could argue that the umpires misapplied the rule.

If Brandon Hyde had formally told the umpire he wanted to protest the call, the umpire would have signaled to the press box that the game was formally under protest. And at that point the game would have continued as normal. The protesting team would then have until noon the next day to send formal paperwork into the league office if they wanted to move forward with the protest. If the league decides that the rule in question was misinterpreted or misapplied to the point that it affected the outcome, the game would be ordered replayed from that point onward.

Given that Cleveland immediately started putting more runs on the board after that point, thus putting the game out of reach, there’s a legitimate argument that could have been made for playing the rest of the game under protest. It’s an old school tactic and it’s not something we see often anymore in Major League Baseball. But it is a tool that Brandon Hyde at least should have considered today. Because in my view he had a very legitimate case.

The O’s now head home to Camden Yards to open up a three-game set with the Toronto Blue Jays tomorrow night. Bruce Zimmerman gets the call for the O’s, and Toronto is yet to announce a starter. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

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