Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Case for Replay in Baseball

As I watched Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox extend his dubious major league record for number of ejections to 133 last night, I suddenly started to wonder just how many of those ejections were really necessary. Thanks to the Atlanta Superstation (WTBS), I've seen many Braves games over the years, and have the "tomahawk chop" down so well that my sister sometimes will often say "I don't know you" when she catches me doing the motion... How many times has an incorrect call by an umpire been the reason for Bobby's tirades and subsequent ejections??? Given what I've witnessed in Braves games over the years and in other baseball games the past two nights, I'd have to say "several."

On Tuesday night, I was watching the Dodgers take on the Houston Astros on my local L.A. area TV station. If any of you happened to catch the first inning of that game, you witnessed a HORRIBLE error by the first base umpire... Rafael Furcal had reached first base earlier in the inning... A grounder was then hit by the Dodgers' James Loney to Astros firstbaseman Lance Berkman who fielded the ball and then stumbled over first base to record an out. He then whirled and threw to second base, but not in time to get Furcal. Somehow, the umps didn't see that Berkman had almost fallen over first base and Loney was called safe! Berkman and Astro manager Phil Garner vehemently argued, but to no avail!!! Of course, when you look at the instant replay of the game it was very clear that the umpire blew the call!! As a result of this error, you had a delay in the game of a good five minutes thanks to Garner and Berkman arguing with the umpires! Just think if we had instant replay - we could have had an umpire review the play from the booth as in football, and had the call corrected within a minute or two! Yes, having replay not only would have gotten the call right, it would have SAVED time!

Last night, we had another umpire error in the first inning of a Astros/Dodgers game. Juan Pierre hit a little dribbler to the right of the pitcher's mound. Astro pitcher Jason Jennings went to field it, bobbled it, and threw to first, too late to get the speedy Pierre. Unbelievably though, the first base umpire called Pierre out!!! Pierre threw his arms up in disbelief, and Dodger manager Grady Little raced out of the dugout to protest the incorrect call. After another three or four minute delay, the game got back under way. In looking at the replay, it was clear that Pierre's entire body (not to mention one foot) was already past first base by the time Lance Berkman had received Jennings' throw!!

Now, while neither of the above calls really influenced the outcome of the games, or caused a manager to get ejected, it makes you wonder just why baseball has not followed the lead of football, basketball and hockey and instituted some form of instant replay. In the above two instances, having replay would have actually SAVED time!!! Isn't the point of any competitive sport to get the call right as much of the time as possible??? I remember seeing a game that the Boston Red Sox were playing earlier this year where J.D. Drew hit a home run, yet the umps didn't call it as such, giving him a double! The umps conferenced and the players and managers spent a good ten minutes on this one. Replay would have not only gotten the call correct, it would have also saved about eight minutes of game time and saved Red Sox manager Terry Francona from getting tossed!!!

Unfortunately, even playoff and World Series games have turned on blatently incorrect umpire calls. One need only look at the 2005 ALCS between the Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago White Sox or the 1978 World Series between the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers to see the effect that a single incorrect call by an umpire can have!!! In those two cases, the blown calls completely changed the momentum of those respective series' - neither the Angels in 2005, nor the Dodgers in 1978 were ever the same psychologically after those botched calls.

Isn't the goal of any sporting event to have it be the most enjoyable experience for all involved - the players, the fans and the managers??? Heck, even the umps would benefit from having instant replay as they would have less stress to deal with due to a reduced number of arguments. Football games (both pro and college) are so much more enjoyable now thanks to replay. Fans and players are happier because there are far fewer incorrect calls made today. The actual game times of football games have not been affected by the institution of replay... Prior to replay, we routinely saw two or three blown calls every game in an the average NFL game. Players would trap the ball and it would get ruled a catch, players would only get one foot down in bounds and have it be called a catch. Now, it's very rare to see either of these plays incorrectly called in a football game. Isn't this a good thing???

It's an insult to human intelligence to see a player called "out" or "safe" in a baseball game when we know darned well that the call was incorrect!!! How do you explain this to a seven or eight-year old kid that we are trying to teach the difference between right and wrong??? Why can't baseball institute a similar system to the NFL whereby only certain things are challengeable??? No, I'm not for challenging balls and strikes... rather, why can't the obvious blown calls be challenged - the outs at first, the home runs incorrectly not called home runs, etc??? Have a system just like the NFL where the manager or the players throw out a red flag to challenge a call... limit the challenges to two a game just like in the NFL, only losing a challenge if you're incorrect... It's worked EXTREMELY well in football, and it's been instrumental in it's growth in popularity over the past two decades. It's about time that major league baseball got with the times and caught up with technology!!!


On another note, I just wanted to add that a certain Mr. Beckham tallied his first goal for the L.A. Galaxy yesterday in their 2-0 win against the D.C. United. It's hopefully the first of many many goals for him... Can Beckham do what others before him have failed to do: make soccer a popular sport here in America on a par with football, baseball, basketball and hockey? Only time will tell...


We be shakin'!!! Well, if you happened to be anywhere near the San Fernando Valley area of Southern California then you felt a nice little trembler around 12:30pm today. While it only registered a 3.5 on the richter scale, it did rattle a few nerves. The quake was an aftershock to last Thursday morning's 4.5 trembler (which I fortunately wasn't home for)... Earthquakes are never a fun thing, but we can all be thankful that these are nothing compared to the one which just happened in Peru. A 7.9 quake hit there Wednesday night, killing at least 500 people.


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