MLB umpire Angel Hernandez is under fire after failing to overturn a double that was clearly a home run in Wednesday night's game between the Cleveland Indians and Oakland Athletics. While Hernandez has shouldered all of the blame, the league's replay system is the true culprit.
A's shortstop Adam Rosales hit the ball in question off Indians closer Chris Perez in the top of the ninth inning at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Oakland was trailing 4-3 at the time and a solo home run would have tied the game and forced extra innings at the very worst for the Athletics.
Rosales drove the ball to deep left-center field and it appeared to hit a railing, which resided over the wall. The umpires believed that it hit the wall itself and then confirmed the call after reviewing the instant replay.
Oakland manager Bob Melvin was ejected as he argued the call furiously and the Athletics went on to lose the game as they couldn't scratch the tying run across the plate. Hernandez certainly hasn't endeared himself to the media since blowing the call either.
According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, Hernandez refused to have his postgame interview recorded.
Such actions reek of someone who knows that he made a mistake, but is unwilling to admit it. This prompted respected baseball writers such as Keith Law of ESPN and Peter Gammons of MLB Network to pile on Hernandez with witty quips following the game.
This isn't the first time that Hernandez has made a bad call, and it probably won't be the last unless he is fired for his mistake. With that said, umpires are responsible for a lot of minute details over the course of a baseball game and instant replay shouldn't be added to their plate.
That isn't to say that instant replay is a bad idea as it is obviously ideal to get every call on the field correct. At the same time, the umpires should be given some help. According to Jack Curry of the New York Times, the procedure for reviewing a play is as follows:
Every game will be monitored at the offices of Major League Baseball Advanced Media in Manhattan. If an umpire crew chief determines that a play needs to be reviewed, the umpires will leave the field to look at the video. After a technician from Advanced Media delivers the video, the crew chief will make the decision about upholding or reversing a call.
While that may seem like the obvious way to do it, the door is open for mistakes to be made. The MLB's replay system is a lot like in the NFL's in that the officials have the final say. That leaves them out on an island to be ridiculed and blamed should something go wrong.
The one league that seems to do it correctly is the NHL. Rather than having the referees view the replays themselves, there is a "war room" in Toronto where each and every game in the league is being monitored. The video specialists make a call when something needs to be reviewed and they ultimately make the decision to uphold or overturn a call.
NHL officials are still blamed if the fans don't like the result of the review, but they tend to get it right almost every time. Accuracy is the most important thing when it comes to replay, and it seems likely that the right call would have been made had the MLB been using the NHL's system.
Hernandez was put in a tough situation as he had to leave the field of play and watch the replay. Not only did he have the pressure of making the right call, but he had to do it in a timely manner so as not to disrupt the flow of the game. In addition to that, there is no telling if he is seeing the same replays that everyone at home is.
Giving replay responsibility to those in a "war room" is a much better way to go about it. Those monitoring the game will have already seen the play multiple times before the review begins, so they'll already have a good idea of what decision they're going to make. Also, they'll have every replay at their fingertips and the best technology that money can buy.
Hernandez should be criticized for his defiance and incompetence, but it isn't his fault that the league has yet to perfect its replay system. It seems like the big story to come out of this situation is the MLB's inconsistent umpiring; however, the focus should shift toward the shortcomings of instant replay instead.
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