Ozzie ejected after fan interference ruling
Umpires allow second runner to score after ball touched
CHICAGO -- Ozzie Guillen was not around to see the White Sox rally for three runs in the ninth inning on Saturday to claim a 5-4 victory over Seattle at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox manager was ejected for the first time this season and the 20th time in his career because of a disagreement he had with third-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth in the top of the ninth.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Casey Kotchman laced a double off White Sox closer Bobby Jenks just inside the first-base line, easily scoring Jose Lopez with the go-ahead run. A fan seated down the right-field line reached over the fence and grabbed the rolling baseball, leading to an interference call and a ground-rule double for Kotchman.
But according to Culbreth, pinch-runner Jack Wilson would have scored without the interference and he was allowed to come home with an insurance run.
"I had my positioning to where I could see the runner and the guy who eventually interfered with the ball," Culbreth told a pool reporter from The Associated Press. "In my judgment and what they have in the rule is that if interference occurs, it's up to the umpires to place runners where they think they would have been had interference not occurred.
"The ball was down deep into the corner. I could see that the right fielder had yet to get to the ball as well. With the positioning of the runner, I felt that he would have scored had interference not occurred. I told Jack to go touch home plate. I said, 'Score Jack'."
Guillen politely disagreed. Well, maybe not so politely, as Culbreth cited "language" as the reason for Guillen's ejection. Guillen's main issue with the call centered on Culbreth being able to watch the runner at third and the baseball rolling toward the right-field corner at the same time.
"He made the call and the confusion I had, he might have got it right, he might not, but the confusion I had was it was like he had Superman's eyes," Guillen said. "The ball was in the corner and all of the sudden he was watching the runner and the ball, that's pretty good.
"Wrong or right, that was my argument. How do you watch a ball that's all the way in the corner and watch the guy that's running? I tip my hat to him because that's pretty good."
White Sox team captain and first baseman Paul Konerko said this sort of umpire's decision is not exactly rare and usually plays out at about 50-50 in terms of the baserunner scoring on an interference call.
"Truth be told, you don't see a lot of balls thrown to the cutoff man and the cutoff man makes a perfect throw home and gets the guy. Most times that guy scores," Konerko said. "But on a play like that, where does [Culbreth's] judgment end? I don't think the guy touched third yet.
"To me the right fielder would have thrown it in and he hadn't touched third yet, so it seems like you would get that call at home. But a lot of times that relay gets juggled. I'm not sure how they are supposed to judge that. It's a tough call."
Alex Rios' two-run blast made the controversy in the top of the ninth a moot point. But in order to avoid future issues, Konerko offered up a suggestion to fans.
"It would be a lot better if people didn't touch the ball," Konerko said. "I really didn't see what happened. After the ball got by me at first down the line, I was hurling expletives into the stands and I missed a lot of it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.