We want it NOW 10/30/2009Posted by sportretort in mlb, Sports, Uncategorized.
Tags: baseball, instant replay, mlb, world series
Instant Replay! Coming to a ballpark near you.
It has been a challenging post season for the men in blue. Almost every series, heck, almost every game has been marred by questionable calls by the umpiring crews.
You have obvious blown calls. (Two Yankees at third base, both tagged when they were off the base , yet one is called safe.) You have bang- bang plays. ( A line drive is caught at first base and the fielder fires to second, where the runner advancing from first is doubled off. Inning over. But replays show that the ball skipped off the dirt before it is caught by the first baseman. The inning should have continued.) Surely replay will solve the problems. But is that truly the case? In the cases described above, the errors would be easily corrected. They happened at the end of the play cycle, and no continuation is involved. Both of the Yankees are out in the first example. No problem. Neither player is out in the second example. When the runner was tagged at second, he was on the base. No force out at first. Aaah, but there is the problem. If the umpire had not signaled out when the ball was caught, would there have even been a throw at second, or would the first baseman assured an out by stepping on first base?
Unlike football, the game of baseball is fluid and decisions must be made on the spur of the moment. There is no statistic for fielders choice in football. In baseball, the choice a fielder makes is often dependent on the umpire’s call. Here is another example from the playoffs. The Phillies are in the field. A Rockies batter hits a line drive to left. The Phillies outfielder makes a running attempt to catch the fly, but he misses it and it lands. The umpire throws his hands up calling time and ending the play. Foul ball. Just a harmless strike. But replay shows that not only does the ball skim off the end of the fielder’s glove in fair territory, making it a fair ball, but the ball actually lands in fair territory then skips foul. Since the play stops when the umpire calls the ball foul, how is this situation resolved? How far would the runner have gotten? Should he be safe at first? Second? Did the ball get far enough away that he would have gotten to third? Who knows. Is there truly a fair way to resolve this example?
There are easy plays to review. Did the ball hit at the top of the wall, or did it hit out and come back? Was it a home run? Limited use of replay began during the playoffs
last season, and continued throughout the season this year, to resolve those types of decisions. But the call is intensifying to increase the use of replay. But that would be very difficult in baseball. Baseball is a game of split second decisions. How a play is called can impact how it is continued. I have already given you an example of that. Another problem is that the camera is two dimensional, while the game is three dimensional. On a bang-bang tag play at a base, it is often difficult to tell exactly when a tag is applied, as opposed to exactly when the runner touched the base. Sportscasters will tell you that they can tell, but try this. Watch a game on DirecTV and follow the aftermath of a controversal play on each team’s ‘home feed.’ You will be surprised how the exact same replays support the safe call on one network and the out call on the other network. Same replays, same umpire’s call. One says the call is right and the other says he is wrong.
Here is another problem. Baseball has always called the ‘neighborhood’ play, especially for the pivot of a double play. This is done for players safety. Often, the pivot man is not on the bag when he has the ball, but rather is close, or in the neighborhood. This is done to minimize collisions at second base between fielders and runners. Replay shows this. What will happen to the neighborhood play? If it goes away, will there be more injuries in the game? And then there is the strike zone. The rules state a single strike zone. But every umpire calls the zone the way he wants. There is no consistency from umpire to umpire. There often is no consistency from batter to batter by the same umpire in the same game. Most calls for the use of replay at this time say that it should not be used for calling balls and strikes. If it is not good enough to be used for this most basic part of the game, why should it be used for other parts of the game? The other question about use of replay is time and implementation. Is every play to be reviewed? Will there be a challenge process? MLB has made a concerted effort to speed up the game. Game times have been pushing past the 3 hour mark. Do we really need something to slow down the game? The bottom line is that replay in televised games show that the umpires get it right an incredible amount of the time.
Replay is progress. It is coming. In a limited way, it is here already. Replay will take all doubt out of the game. After all, when you watch an NFL game, you NEVER hear an announcer question the decision of the replay official, right?