Frankly, I don't know how anyone understood a word that was spoken on the field during tonight's wild game, what with the high-decibel air horns blaring constantly throughout. No wonder a few of the players and a couple of the umps wore earplugs. And, after the events of the evening, I wonder if the Marlins will think twice about repeating the promotion in the future.
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez was adament following the 9-8 loss to the Rays that home plate umpire Lance Barksdale was at fault in the lineup-card mess in the ninth inning. The 15,000 air horns given to fans might have played a role, too.
"He screwed up," Gonzalez said of Barksdale. "And I'll go anywhere you want me to go with it. I told him where the guys were hitting, and he gave (Rays manager Joe Maddon) the wrong place they're hitting. It's one of those things that is he said/she said, my word against him, and he's the official lineup card, so that's the one that counts. It's embarrassing. But I'm here to tell you he got it wrong."
The confusion stemmed from the insertion of Brian Barden into the game at shortstop after Hanley Ramirez came out with a tight right hamstring after the 8th (Ramirez is 50-50 to play Sunday, by the way). With the score tied 5-5, Barden -- batting in the ninth position in the order -- stepped in to lead off the 9th. After he drew a walk, Maddon immediately went to Barksdale, showed him his lineup card, and complained that Barden batted out of order, that he should have been batting in Ramirez's third spot.
Barksdale agreed, signaled the out, and removed Barden from first. That brought Gonzalez out of the dugout to argue.
"I told him three times who I wanted to hit," Gonzalez said. "I thought we had it straightened out. He said that he had it the other way, and that's it. That didn't win the game or lose the game."
Here's how crew chief Tom Hallion described it afterward:
"What we had was three changes in the lineup. Fredi had come out and given Lance the position of the players and Lance confirmed it with Fredi and wrote it down on his lineup card. That’s what we went by when Maddon came out and said ‘we’ve got batting out of order here.’ Lance confirmed it with Fredi before he left to go back into the dugout and that’s all we had to go by then.”
Asked if the vuvuzela-like air horns might have created some of the confusion, Hallion replied:
“It could have. It was the most uncomfortable baseball game I’ve been a part of in a long time because of that. Whether that had anything to do with it, I don’t know but it could have. When’s the last time you heard something like that at a baseball game? Never. You don’t see this kind of stuff at baseball games.”
Nobody knows what might have happened, but instead of having the potential winning run on first with no outs in the ninth, the Marlins were left with none on and one out. They failed to score and ended up losing 9-8 in 11 innings, no thanks to a bullpen which coughed up 11 walks -- yes, 11 walks -- over the final five innings.
One thing is for certain: the air horn idea was widely panned.
"I really believe the horns should be banned from Major League Baseball," Maddon told reporters.
Said Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, one of those who wore earplugs: "That was the worst handout or giveaway I've ever been a part of in baseball. This isn't soccer. I know the World Cup is going on, but this is baseball."
"It was awful, awful. I can't tell you how awful it was," chimed in outfielder Cody Ross.