Another Call for More Instant Replay

The Giants lost yesterday’s game to the Mets after home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi mistakenly called Travis Ishikawa out at the plate in the ninth inning following Freddy Sanchez’ bouncing ball and Mets 3Bman David Wright’s high throw to the plate.  Not only did the replays all show Ishikawa was safe, but Mets’ catcher Henry Blanco even admitted Ish was safe on the play (“‘He was safe all the way,’ Blanco said.”)

Of course, the cries for more instant replays are always loudest when it’s your team getting burned by the blown call.  Still, after the fiasco with Armando Galarraga’s almost perfect game, and all the blown calls in last year’s post-season, it’s long since been time for MLB to take some action to make more calls appealable by instant replay.

None of the reasons given for keeping the current system in place hold any water.  First, we now have replay on homerun calls, and the world of major league baseball hasn’t come crashing down.

Also, the whole argument for “human error” being part of the game is just a stupid appeal to a “tradition” that doesn’t make any sense.  It’s a little like making today’s players use the mitts they used back in 1910 or making them play bare-handed they way they did in the 1870’s.

Even now, the umpires do, in fact, sometimes reverse their calls.  On Friday night’s game between the Royals and A’s, Coco Crisp led off the game with a hot smash down the right field line which umpire Larry Vanover, jumping out of the way, initially called foul.

However, after the call had been made, Vanover saw that the foul line chalk past first base had been marked by the ball, so he convened the other umpires and after a lengthy discussion reversed the original call and awarded Crisp second base.  Crew chief Jeff Kellogg was quoted as saying after the game, “What we (the umpires) want to do is get the call right.”

I agree that umpires do, indeed, want to get the call right.  However, they are also extremely unwilling to change their calls unless they see some hard evidence they got it wrong, because listening to a team’s complaints and changing the call just invites more disputes between players, managers and umpires, both on that play and in the future.

Since the umpires can already reverse their own calls in order to “get the call right”, there is simply no reason not to give each team a certain number of challenges to fair-foul and safe-out calls by instant replay each season.  The current regime give umpires sole discretion when to reconsider a call, and for the reasons stated above, they are not disposed to do so unless they see hard evidence they got it wrong.  Instant replay takes ego and other considerations entirely out of the equation.

All blown calls do is give fans a reason to be put off by the game.  If obviously blown calls can be made right, there is simply no good reason for not doing so.

The regime I have suggested previously is to give each team at the start of the season 40 or 50 opportunities to challenge disputed calls by replay.  A team would not be allowed to use more than 10 challenges a month, 3 to 5 challenges a week or more than two per game.  If the call is reversed, the challenge is not counted against the team’s remaining challenges.

Such a regime would prevent constant, time-consuming challenges, but would allow teams ample opportunity to correct the most egregious blown calls against them.

In a final note, baseball has a huge advantage in officiating over basketball or football, where the nature of the action is such that fouls are largely in the mind of the individual official.  What I mean by this is that we’ve all seen phantom holding calls in the NFL, or obvious holds not called, while in the NBA, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordon regularly are (or were) awarded trips to the free throw line for “fouls” that many other players would not get.

The NFL has had great success introducing the instant replay and creating a regime that punishes injudicious use of the instant replay privilege.  There’s no good reason MLB can’t do the same.

Explore posts in the same categories: Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, Oakland A's, San Francisco Giants

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