Major League Baseball informed the New York Mets on Friday that Jeff McNeil should not have been charged with a strike during Thursday's Opening Day game against the Miami Marlins, manager Buck Showalter said Friday, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. McNeil was originally believed to have been penalized because teammate Pete Alonso was slow to return to first base after McNeil fouled off a pitch.
To make matters more confusing, umpire Larry Vanover was said to have told Alonso he was not to blame for the penalty. Showalter said that the league office wanted to clarify what, exactly, happened on Thursday.
"By the time Pete got around third base there was another version out there," Showalter said. "[League officials] wanted to make sure everybody was straight, so I appreciate that."
Here's a look at the play (or non-play) in question. You can see the umpire tap his wrist, as if he's wearing a watch, while pointing toward first base. Showalter even came out and asked for clarification at the time.
Jeff McNeil was given a strike by the plate umpire after Pete Alonso took too long getting back to first base pic.twitter.com/GbEb8ch6gD— SNY (@SNYtv) March 30, 2023
Showalter added that baserunners will be warned by umpires if they're moving too slowly. "As long as someone is not trying to circumvent the rules and not use it to their advantage they are going to be thoughtful about it," he said.
The Mets-Marlins contest on Thursday was, officially, the first meaningful game under MLB's new pace-of-play rules that this umpiring crew had worked. Pitchers and batters are both working against a timer on a pitch-to-pitch basis now. That's without mentioning how players have to be ready within a certain time between half-innings and the like.
It should be noted that McNeil recovered after having one pitch count for two strikes. He singled and plated a run later in the at-bat. The Mets would go on to win by a 5-3 final.