Joe Girardi is a trusting soul.
That probably serves him very well in his dealings with his wife, kids and most of the other people that he interacts with on a daily basis. There are times when that quality can come back to hurt you, something the Yankees learned on Wednesday night.
After watching Billy Butler hit a ball off the top of the wall in the fourth inning get called a home run by the umpires, Joe Girardi argued that balls have to actually leave the stadium to qualify for such treatment. The umpires watched replays that confirmed the ball hit the fence, but called it a home run anyway and Girardi didn't file an official protest because the umpire told him he knows the rules and that a ball doesn't need to clear the fence to be a home run.
The home run that wasn't wound up providing the final margin of defeat in a 5-4 loss that cost the Yankees a chance to increase their lead over the Red Sox. Girardi can't be blamed for the blown call, obviously, but the idea that he wouldn't protest it just to be sure the Yankees got the outcome they deserved is hard to understand under the circumstances.
There was no comment from the umpires after the game, a fairly gutless move by a group that should be a lot more embarrassed about the way they do their job than they are. They were seen on the field with an official from MLB after the game gesturing to and looking at the wall, a hint that Bud Selig's office will be issuing some empty proclamation about the missed call and how sorry they are about it.
That's why Girardi's willingness to just believe what the umpire was telling him is so damaging. This call was so egregiously wrong that the league would have no choice but to publicly acknowledge it, but now it is like O.J. Simpson admitting that he killed two people and getting away with it because there's no recourse available under the law of the land.
Privately, Selig is probably cheering what happened on Wednesday. What better argument against using replay to make sure calls are correct, something Selig does not want, than an obvious call blown by four umpires who watched several replays before issuing the wrong decision?
The combo of not knowing the ground rules of the stadium and refusing to be accountable for that mistake are so galling that it makes the more mundane umpire errors -- a bizarre strike zone, for starters -- seem almost cute. This is the first time the Yankees have been seriously damaged by awful umpiring this season, but it has been going on all year and seems to be getting worse under the auspices of a league that has zero interest in getting better officiating for its games.
How do you trust that people like that both know the rules and apply them correctly? Heaven help Girardi if he ever comes across a guy in the city who just needs five bucks to get a bus home to his ailing grandmother.
The Yankees weren't without blame for the loss. Bartolo Colon gave up five runs in five innings to make it a trifecta of disappointing starts for Yankee pitchers in Kansas City and the offense put 16 runners on base en route so plating just four of them.
What's more, the Yankees might not have won the game even if the correct call was made on Butler's hit. Perhaps the Royals wind up scoring that run anyway and the game plays out exactly the same way, but not knowing isn't right when there are so many tools available to make sure that mistakes like this don't happen.
One of those tools is the protest and Girardi failed to use it on Wednesday. Should the Red Sox wind up winning the AL East by one game, you can bet that a lot of people will exercise their own right to protest Girardi's decision to trust umpires.