It's way past time for replay review in baseball; Thursday's bad call in San Francisco could have cost the Braves Game One of their division series with the Giants.
"I'm glad there's no instant replay," Posey said.
Well, sure, Gerald (Buster's real given name). You're glad now. But will you still be happy when -- and it's a matter of when, not if -- a call goes against your team and possibly costs you a playoff game?
Posey was ruled safe at second base and later scored the game's only run on a single; the call might have cost the Atlanta Braves a playoff game, although the way Tim Lincecum was pitching, the Braves might not have scored even by now, Friday afternoon.
What Posey might not have recalled when he made that statement was that a bad umpiring call cost the Giants a game back in July; I wrote about it here at the time, an out call by plate umpire Phil Cuzzi as Travis Ishikawa slid into home with what should have been the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Not only was Ishikawa safe, Cuzzi was cavalier in his attitude when questioned after the game:
Cuzzi said that he had not yet seen the replay. "I'll look at it, but I figured I'd eat first,” he said, laughing. “He made a decent attempt to put the tag on him. That’s what it looked to me, and that’s why I called him out.”
A decent attempt? That's all we need now? At the time I wondered whether that game -- eventually lost by the Giants in 10 innings -- might cost them a playoff spot. It came dangerously close to doing so. We've had quite a number of bad calls already this postseason, although several of them were ball-and-strike calls, things I think should not be subject to replay review. What I think should be replayed are: home run boundary calls (which are now done), fair/foul, safe/out (last night's play) and trapped/caught.
In my post last summer I proposed this system:
Add one member to each umpiring crew; the "fifth umpire" sits in the press box with replay monitors (and also serves as official scorer, taking that job away from retired sportswriters, who never should have had it in the first place). This umpire would be part of the regular umpire rotation, giving each umpire a "break" from base or ball and strike duty.
On plays like this, replays could be asked for by managers or the other umpires. Like the NFL, evidence would have to be conclusive on video to overturn a ruling on the field.
This simple system would get calls right; would eliminate ridiculous arguments which delay games far longer than any replay review; and would mean the end of manager ejections, since they'd know calls would be made right. It would likely mean a huge reduction in player ejections, fines and suspensions, too.
The NFL has a similar system; here's a list (from a couple of years ago) of some calls that were reviewed in their playoffs; the NHL reviews goals in its New York offices -- even the Blackhawks' winning goal in the Stanley Cup Finals last June was reviewed:
Patrick Kane scored the winning goal past Michael Leighton 4:10 into overtime as the Blackhawks became the first team to win on the road this series.
No one but the Blackhawks appeared to know what was going on for a few frozen moments. Kane and his linemates seemed the only players on the ice who knew the puck found the side of the net. The goal light never went on, but that didn’t stop most of the Blackhawks from storming the ice and mobbing each other in celebration.
The review was a short one and Kane will go down as scoring one of the biggest winners in team history.
They got the call right. Isn't that what everyone involved in a baseball game should want? Just ask Jim Joyce, whose tearful apology was great -- but his bad call still cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Wouldn't it have been great if that play could have been reviewed and Galarraga given the perfect game he earned? The argument about "human element" doesn't wash any more. The players perform and do things on the field. We should, with available technology, make sure those things on the field are recorded and judged accurately.
The bottom line on this is summed up here:
A few years ago, four umpires gathered in the middle of the diamond to sort out a home-run-or-not call that none of them clearly saw. As arguments raged around them and a crazed crowd looked at TV monitors and howled, one of the umps simply said to his crewmates: "It's a shame that there are 50,000 people here tonight and we're the only people who don't know what happened."
The day is coming -- we've already come close -- where those "only people who don't know what happened" make a call that costs a team a game in the postseason, or worse, costs them an entire postseason series. Why not fix this problem before it happens?
Why not, Bud? Why not?