If you’ve been watching the World Series even a little bit (I gather that many of you have not), then you know that the umpiring has been atrocious. In every game there have been blown calls in big spots that have cost one team or the other either runs or momentum. Some of the calls I speak of: A missed (and obvious) balk in the sixth inning of Game 1 that cost the Rays a leadoff base-runner in a one-run game; a bizarre “call strike three and then a second later wave him off to first with a walk” against Brett Myers in Game 2 that cost the Phils a much-needed strikeout with a runner on first; most egregiously, there was umpire Tom Hallion’s blown call at first in the seventh inning of Game 3, calling Carl Crawford safe at first when he was clearly out after Phils’ pitcher Jamie Moyer made what Ryan Howard could only call a “ninjaesque” leaping play to scoop up Crawford’s drag bunt and nail him at first.
Hallion’s bungle led directly to two runs scoring, and nearly affected the outcome of the game, as the Rays came back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game at 4-4. In the end, the Phils eked out the win on Carlos Ruiz’s squib single in the bottom of the ninth, and the only damage done was to Jamie Moyer, whose record was deprived of a World Series win that he most certainly deserved.
As a Philly guy who is suffering with every pitch in this series, that hour or so late Saturday night when I thought there was a possibility that an umpire’s blown call might go on to cost my team a World Series game was seventh-circle-of-hell material. The misery was swept away, of course, when the Phils prevailed, but I was immediately reminded of it again last night when there was yet another umpiring blunder right in the first inning of Game 4, this one going against the Rays, one that Mottram described in his Game 4 Cluster Bomb. It cost Tampa an early run and, more importantly, early momentum in a must-win situation. At that point it hit me like a mack truck – “when the HELL is baseball going to start really using instant replay?”
Talks have been in the air on this topic for years now, and the first move was made this past August when long-time replay opponent, Commissioner Bud Selig, finally approved the use of replay for disputed home-run calls. Doing so, however, Selig reiterated his position as a staunch traditionalist, saying, “My opposition to unlimited replay is still very much in play. I really think the game has prospered for well over a century now doing things the way we did it.”
I wonder if, watching this World Series, he still feels that way. His argument against replay always has boiled down to those same old flogged dead horses, the danger of slowing down the game and the weight of tradition.
The weight of tradition, however, is a red herring. Tradition didn’t seem to faze him much when it came to the Wild Card, or that bane of die-hard traditionalists everywhere, inter-league play.
As for slowing down the game, it’s an argument that might have held some validity in the 80’s, but the available technology is now so fast and advanced that we the fans watching on television often know that an ump has blown a call about two seconds after the play has happened. If replay was in place this past Saturday night, the Phils would have challenged Hallion’s safe call at first base, the home plate umpire would have called up to the ump up in the replay booth, where most likely that ump already would know that the call was wrong and the runner was out. So the home plate ump would reverse the call after about a 30-second transaction. Bada bing. The whole thing would take infinitely less time than a good old-fashioned ump-manager chest-bumping session.
Obviously, balls and strikes would have to be exempt from the system, as would some other judgment calls, balks probably being one of them along with fan interference. But for calls that can be proven with replay to be definitively right or wrong, there’s just no reason to ignore the existence of that technology anymore and risk the integrity of the game, not to mention precious World Series contests. In principle, I agree with you, Bud, that the game has been just fine this past century or so without instant replay. That’s inarguable. Then again, we used to play every game during the daytime and baseball was just fine in those days, too. Until along came this contraption called the electric light bulb ...
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