>Friday Lunch Special: Replay Needs to Happen for MLB

Posted: October 8, 2010 in mlb
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By Nick Gallaudet

 

Replay in Major League Baseball needs to happen right now. I am tired of hearing the argument that imperfect umpiring is part of the game. On Thursday, there were calls in each of the three division series games that ended up deciding games. A check swing by Texas Rangers third baseman Michael Young was incorrectly called by first base umpire Jerry Meals, and Young hit a 3-run homer later in the at bat to put the game out of reach. The Yankees/Twins game featured one of the worst strike zones I’ve seen in an MLB game. Home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt was giving pitchers the low and away strike to lefties, and wouldn’t call the inside corner. To be fair, the zone was consistent the entire game (which, as a baseball player, is all you can ask for) but the fact that clear strikes were not called is inexcusable. The zone ended up factoring majorly in the game’s outcome, as Yankee DH Lance Berkman took what should have been a called third strike, but was given a second life because of Wendelstedt’s poor zone. In the same at bat, Berkman doubled in the tiebreaking run in the top of the 7th. The worst call of the night, however, happened in the last game of the day. The Braves and Giants are both led by their pitching staffs, so everyone knew runs were going to be at a premium. The Giants won 1-0 behind a dominating performance by pitcher Tim Lincecum, but that is not the story. Giants catcher Buster Posey stole 2nd base in the 4th inning, and was clearly tagged out before he reached the bag, but he was called safe by 2nd base umpire Paul Emmet. Posey would have been the 3rd out of the inning and later scored on a single by Cody Ross.

 

The bottom line is that in all three games on Thursday, the umpires blew calls that essentially decided the game. The worst part, however, is that some people aren’t outraged. If you had the misfortune of watching the Yankees/Twins game on TBS, you were treated to former pitcher John Smoltz’s rant about replay. He argued that replay should only be used on plays where runs are scored, since runs are the only thing that matter in baseball. This is preposterous to me. Baseball is different than any other sport, runs can be scored on any pitch. None of the calls Thursday directly involved scoring a run, yet all of them led to runs being scored. Under Smoltz’s plan, none of those calls would have been reviewed, and we’d be in the exact same spot today.

 

There are some common arguments against the use of replay in baseball. One of them, and to me, the most nonsensical, is umpires mess up just like the players and managers, and the players and managers don’t get re-dos, so why should the umps? True, errors are part of the game, that’s why there is a stat category for them, but blown calls are not supposed to be. Umpires are there to get the calls right. People drop passes and fumble in the NFL, but referees are not expected to make mistakes as well. Officials are there to make sure rules are enforced and the correct calls are made, and replay should be used as a tool to ensure fair games.

 

Another criticism is that the games would be even longer than they already are, which, to be honest, is pretty long. This is ridiculous as well. People who stand by this argument are assuming every single close play would be reviewed, which is completely unreasonable. The simple solution is to do what the NFL did, and give managers a certain number of challenges, and then have a replay umpire review plays from the 7th inning on, just like with the 2 minute warning in football. This way, the integrity of the game would still be preserved, as the umpire error factor would not be completely removed from the game, and it would fall on the managers’ shoulders to use his challenges wisely… it works well enough in the NFL.

 

I do understand there are instances where replay cannot be utilized. Judgment calls, such as the strike zone, check swings, and interference cannot be subject to replay, as they are the umpires’ opinion. Two of the calls on Thursday would have fallen into this category, yes, but that is something that truly is part of the game. Safe/out, fair/foul, and homerun calls need to subject review, though. There is no excuse for letting blown calls impact playoff games, and a challenge system similar to the one in the NFL needs to be implemented. Reviews would not take that long, and replay has already worked so well in Major League Baseball. It is silly and irresponsible not to utilize the technology we have to ensure a fair and equal opportunity for both teams to win. The people that argue that replay would tarnish baseball’s historic legacy are full of hot air, and they clearly aren’t A’s, Tigers, or Cardinals fans.

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