Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tarp Gate

Tarp Gate

Who's to blame when Mother Nature was the story in #Yankees rain-shortened win over Texas

By Rich Mancuso

BRONX, NEW YORK, JULY 24- Brett Gardner was ready to take his turn at bat in the New York Yankees fifth inning. And then Mother Nature went to work. But the umpires were fooled as the deluge and winds had a field day with the tarp and Yankees grounds crew in the Bronx. From there it was a bizarre hour and 49 minutes of good theatre at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night.

The umpires could not play with Mother Nature, and in the end there is no telling as to who made the bad call about not getting a tarp on the field in time. There was the ugly forecast of heavy storms approaching. The umpires and grounds crew have sophisticated radar in place, as good as the pitching coaches have radars on opposing hitters.

And for 13 minutes, the grounds crew could not keep up with the winds and torrential rains that resulted in an infield that resembled “Noah’s Arch.” No way, the game could be resumed with the Yankees leading the Texas Rangers 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The Yankee Stadium infield was not a “Field of Dreams.” The warning track areas, as good as the drainage system is, not playable. So, what do you do?

This is where it got interesting, and in the end, who is to blame for a rain shortened Yankees win? Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Rangers’ manager Ron Washington had more concern about the infield track and how unplayable it was. The worst case scenario was seeing one of their players go down with a hamstring injury because the infield was still not playable.

After all, this is not sandlot baseball that is played daily across the street at Legends Field. This is Major League Baseball, and with advanced technology to prepare on time for an upcoming storm, the tarp should have been on the field and the issue here would be about the game and not who was to blame.

And the Yankees grounds crew, they get the accolades for battling a stubborn tarp. They deserve the applause trying to get the infield back to playing shape, earning their money and spending over 45-minutes using every ounce of that sophisticated drying agent to make the field playable.

However, all the manicuring and water absorbing was not good enough. The managers huddled around home plate, up the first base line, and so did the umpires.

"Ron Washington said he thought a hamstring would be blown and I said ‘I question if this is safe for our players. Is there anything you could do to firm it up?'," Girardi said. "There were spots in the infield that you could see this much dirt would come up very easily."

They waited, and most of the 37,585 had more common sense and left the ballpark. There may have been that proverbial “Window”they talk about in baseball, the rain letting up and the game will resume. But the radar showed more rain was on the way as they played the waiting game with hopes the drying agent would sink in and dry the field.

The umpires called headquarters in New York for a decision. The Yankees have more to play for as the Rangers are looking at next year, but every game as Major League Baseball mandates, should try to be completed. The areas where turns are made were unplayable and the tarp was on the field again as light rain resumed.

With the tarp covering an infield needing attention, it became that more difficult to be a playable field that turned into mud.

Dale Scott the umpire crew chief had this to say:"Both managers had concerns about injuries, hamstrings, that kind of stuff. It would be really bad if we started playing and somebody blew out a knee or a hamstring or whatever because of that."

“Been through a lot of crazy things over the years,” Washington said. He did not put the blame on the umpire’s possible late call for the tarp. And certainly the grounds crew could not be faulted because too much water on the tarp made it impossible to move..

Alex Rios, who got one of five Rangers’ hits off Yankees starter and winner David Phelps said it was one of the most unusual rain delays he has encountered in his career, but the decision to no longer play was the right move. When the tarp was first removed, and as the grounds crew did their best, Rios and most of his teammates huddled by the dugout as starting pitcher Yu Darvish took some warm up tosses and hoped for the best.

The outfielder commented, “When I went through the infield it was very wet, guess the outfield was just as wet. You don’t want to get the players injured.”

In the end though, Mother Nature helped the Yankees this time. The last game before the all-star break at Baltimore, the Yankees waited two hours as the game was called in the fifth inning because of rain and they got a loss.

“Always if it’s a win," Girardi said about the rain helloing his team this time. But, as always he was logical about a bizarre evening in the Bronx. "Neither one of us can really afford anyone else to go on the DL because of conditions that players shouldn’t be on.”

THE GAME: Gardner hit a fastball off Darvich into the right-field seats in the third inning, his 10th of the season that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead… Chase Headley acquired Tuesday from San Diego got one of four Yankees hits with a two-out double to the right-center gap in the second inning, his second hit in five at bats as a Yankee…

Phelps (5-4) recorded his first complete game of the year and Yankees starters have allowed four or fewer runs in each of their last nine games…. The Rangers have lost 15 of their last 18 road games…. Yankees trail first place Orioles by three games in the Al east with the finale of the four-game series Thursday afternoon and looking to take the series.

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