Umpires' call has Dodgers protesting
Dispute arises over whether Sweeney stepped in box in eighth
ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers played Wednesday night's 9-6 loss to the Cardinals under protest because of a dispute about a substitution in the top of the eighth inning.
Casey Blake's one-out double had just cut the St. Louis lead to 9-6 with Mark Sweeney in the on-deck circle to bat for Pablo Ozuna. Sweeney moved toward home plate, and umpire Chris Guccione was about to motion Sweeney into the game when manager Joe Torre, now wanting Jeff Kent to bat instead against Cardinals right-hander Brad Thompson, asked if Sweeney was already in the game.
With his back to the plate as he shouted to Torre in the Dodgers dugout, Guccione told Torre that Sweeney was not officially in the game. But simultaneously, Sweeney was stepping into the batter's box, which, according to the rules, meant he was officially in the game. Torre, not knowing that Sweeney had entered the box, called back Sweeney (thinking he hadn't been used) and sent Kent up.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa verified with the umpires whether Sweeney had been used. Guccione said no, but was overruled by crew chief Tim Welke who, from his first-base vantage point, saw Sweeney enter the batter's box.
"Actions speak louder than words," said Torre.
After a delay approaching 10 minutes, which included multiple huddles of the umpires and managers, Torre sent up Kent, who took a called strike three for the second out. Angel Berroa popped out to end the inning.
"The rule is when you touch the batter's box, whether the umpire points or not," said La Russa. "You can protest a violation of a rule, but I don't think there was. I think we're good."
Torre didn't question the rule, but protested on the grounds that he was acting on what he had been told by Guccione, who confirmed Torre's version.
"I'm basing it on what the umpire tells me I can do," said Torre. "When an umpire tells me something, if I can't believe the umpire, how do I go about my business? It's judgment on their part."
The umpires will send a written report to MLB offices in New York, but chances of anything happening appear slim.
"It was the perfect storm," said Welke. "But we're right on this one."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.