As Yogi Berra famously said about baseball, it ain't over 'til it's over. And even then, sometimes it still ain't over yet.
Did you know that ballplayers can be ejected from a game that already had ended? Umpire Tony Randazzo confirmed this quirk of the major league rulebook Tuesday night by "throwing out" Mike Aviles of the Cleveland Indians after he had flied out in the ninth inning to end a 4-3 victory for the New York Yankees.
Immediately after flying to right field for the last out, with fans filing out of Yankee Stadium and the home team forming a high-five victory line that included closer Mariano Rivera just a few feet away, Aviles said something argumentative to Randazzo as he jogged off the field. Randazzo quickly signaled that Aviles had been ejected from a game that was over. Randazzo emphasized the ejection by reaching into a pocket for a journal and writing utensil, presumably for his postgame report to the league.
After that report gets filed, both men might get into trouble — Aviles for making a scene by arguing and Randazzo for missing a call and not asking the other umpires for assistance.
The argument stemmed to the beginning of Aviles' at-bat against Rivera — a high pitch that glanced off the catcher's mitt and went back to the screen that Randazzo said Aviles had fouled off. A few seconds passed before Aviles realized the count was 0-1 and he started to argue. Manager Terry Francona came out and continued the argument, and video replays confirmed that Aviles had checked his swing and missed the ball completely. Cleveland's broadcast team was incredulous that Randazzo didn't ask the other umpires for help on the call — something Francona seemed to be requesting. No, Randazzo said he was sure. And surely incorrect. From the Associated Press:
... Francona said, ''You've got the best closer in the history of the game and he doesn't need any help.''
Said Aviles: ''It was pretty clear that the ball didn't hit the bat. I'm up there battling in a difficult spot and it was clear the ball never touched my bat. After the game, I said a few things and he was upset.''
It might not seem like a big deal, but a 1-0 count against Rivera is a much better way to start a plate appearance than 0-1. The at-bat, and game, ended on a 1-1 pitch. Maybe if the count had been 2-0 instead, Rivera grooves the pitch a little more and Aviles takes him over the fence. Who knows? That's not the point, or at least the entire point. It's not even that a call was missed, which happens and will again. It's that Randazzo didn't seek a second opinion during a questionable moment that could have altered the outcome of the game. Out of respect to one of the teams, he should have asked the other other umpires what they thought.
And there might be one less postgame ejection in major league history.
(P.S.: A robot umpire would ask for robot help, Randazzo. No — he'd get it right immediately.)