After Boone, Yankees’ Juan Soto falls victim to umpire’s mistakes

Yankees' Juan Soto makes a defense against the A's at Yankee Stadium on April 23, 2024.
Inna Zeyger
Thursday April 25, 2024

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The umpire’s mistake resulted in Aaron Boone’s ejection on Monday. On Tuesday, it returned to haunt the Yankees again and slugger Juan Soto fell victim to poor umpiring.

In the fifth inning of that game that ended with the Yankees’ narrow 4-3 victory over the Oakland Athletics, umpire John Tumpane called a strikeout on Yankees’ star outfielder Juan Soto, renowned for his exceptional plate discipline. Astonishingly, none of the six pitches thrown by A’s pitcher Paul Blackburn landed in the strike zone.

Despite all six pitches clearly missing the mark, Tumpane inexplicably ruled half of them as strikes. This egregious display of umpiring left Juan Soto visibly frustrated. After watching the fifth pitch sail outside the zone, he rightfully expected a walk, only to be called out on a borderline pitch at best, prompting him to toss his bat in disgust.  

Yankees announcer Ryan Ruocco aptly captured the absurdity of the call, stating, “So Juan Soto didn’t see a strike that at-bat, and yet struck out looking.”

This incident adds fuel to the ongoing debate for the implementation of automated strike zones. Tumpane’s missed calls not only impacted the flow of the game but also robbed Juan Soto of a potential scoring opportunity.

This wasn’t the only questionable umpiring decision of the series. Just a day prior, Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected in the first inning by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, who mistakenly attributed a fan’s taunt directed at the umpire to Boone. MLB is likely to act against him.

Juan Soto is robbed by bad umpiring

Returning to the controversial Juan Soto at-bat, the Yankees held a 4-2 lead when he stepped up to the plate with two outs. Blackburn’s first two offerings missed the strike zone by a wide margin. However, the umpiring drama began when Tumpane inexplicably called an 81-mph slider a strike, despite it clearly being outside the zone.  

The questionable calls continued. Blackburn’s next pitch, a 92-mph fastball, missed low and away by a considerable distance. Juan Soto even began walking towards first base, anticipating a walk, but Tumpane again defied logic and called it a strike.

This call, while arguably closer than the previous one, was still debatable. MLB.com and Baseball Savant’s strike zone visualizations showed the very tip of the ball might have grazed the zone, while the Yes Network broadcast displayed it clearly outside.

This egregious call left Juan Soto bewildered. He casually tossed his bat in the air and removed his gloves, seemingly questioning how he could be denied a potential 20th walk in just 24 games. The slugger’s exceptional on-base percentage, currently leading the American League at .432, demonstrates his elite ability to recognize the strike zone. However, Tumpane’s performance on Tuesday proved that sometimes, even the best hitters can be victims of baffling umpiring decisions.

juan-soto-new-york-yankees
AP

Sportscasters poke fun at umpire over Boone’s ejection

The controversy stemmed from Boone’s ejection by home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, who appeared to mistake comments from fans for chatter coming from the Yankees dugout. The incident garnered significant media attention.

On Tuesday, YES Network microphones picked up home plate umpire John Tumpane engaging in a heated exchange with Oakland’s Esteury Ruiz, who disagreed with a called strike. “Hey, I’m not going to talk about balls and strikes. I’m right there,” Tumpane could be heard saying.

This prompted an amusing exchange between broadcasters Ryan Ruocco and John Flaherty. Ruocco remarked, “John Tumpane — was that a Hunter Wendelstedt impression? There’s Hunter,” as the camera focused on Tumpane. He pointed out Tumpane’s apparent reluctance to acknowledge the previous day’s controversial decision, finding his postgame comments intriguing.

The banter continued as the cameras panned to fans behind the A’s dugout. “Was it any of them or was it someone actually in the A’s dugout?” Ruocco quipped playfully.

Following the game, Wendelstedt, seemingly doubling down on his decision to eject Boone, spoke with reporters despite video evidence suggesting Boone’s innocence. According to Wendelstedt, Boone mentioned a fan located near the dugout, and he emphasized his career-long policy of not ejecting players or managers solely due to fan comments. While acknowledging Boone’s perspective, Wendelstedt maintained that the disturbance originated from a different area of the dugout, not where Boone was standing. Regardless, as the Yankees manager, Boone bore the brunt of the punishment.

Aaron Boone protests his wrongful ejection by umpire Wendelstedt at Yankee Stadium on April 22, 2024.
NY POST

Giants announcer Duane Kuiper also took a light-hearted jab at the situation during their game against the Mets on Tuesday night. When home plate umpire Lance Barrett issued a warning to the Mets dugout for comments made during Starling Marte’s at-bat, Kuiper remarked with a touch of humor, “Lance Barrett not happy with someone in the Mets dugout. Let’s just hope it’s not a fan that’s doing the yelling.”

Mets play-by-play announcer Gary Cohen, on SNY, joined in the playful commentary, asking, “Was it [manager] Carlos [Mendoza], or was it a fan sitting behind him?”

While Yankees manager Aaron Boone expressed a desire to move on from Monday’s ejection incident, these broadcasters couldn’t resist taking a few light-hearted jabs at umpires.

What do you think? leave your comment below.

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