In the course of doing something else, I came across this passage in umpire Durwood Merrill's 1998 memoir, You're Out and You're Ugly, Too!
My opinion on instant replay will go against the grain of the so-called baseball purists, and it's going to fly up the noses of the Baseball Lords. But I really believe the doggone system would work in baseball if they could iron out some of the technical kinks. My ego just isn't big enough that I don't believe the umpires could use some help on the base paths and for some confusing calls in the outfield.
There are times when an umpire can't get a good angle on the swipe tag, one of the toughest calls in all of baseball. Other times, the ump is blocked from the action and has to guess. Then there is the situation we had last year in the play-offs at Yankee Stadium when a twelve-year-old boy, who was skipping school, leaned over the wall and caught a fly ball that was destined to land in the glove of Baltimore's Tony Tarasco. Tell me that umpire Richie Garcia couldn't have used some help with that call. He didn't see the kid in the stands catch the ball, and ruled it a home run. That call by Richie was the boo-boo heard round the world.
One of the toughest calls in all of baseball is the trapped ball in the outfield. Did the outfielder catch it, or did it one-hop into his glove? Sometimes only God knows for sure.
Even if the Baseball Lords are too stiff and stodgy to consider replay umpiring for the regular season, at least give it some thought for the postseason, where one wrong call can turn the whole thing around. But then again, I might be expecting too much progressive thinking from a bunch of guys asleep at their desks.
Surprised that this was published 15 years ago? I'm not. Most of what we think is new in baseball isn't.
Surprised that Merrill would speak so dismissively about his employers? I'm not. Merrill umpired for two seasons after his book came out, but that's the beautiful thing about membership in a strong and tough union; you have to do a lot worse than mock your boss to get busted.
Surprised that an old-school umpire would support the use of video review? I'm not. Umpires do want to get the calls right. Merrill writes, "I can't sleep well after a botched call. This might sound really shocking, but my appetite subsides and I tend to get very quiet after a bad call... I know that I won't feel any better until I get to the next game when I can make some good calls ..."