In the bottom of the 11th, after Raul Ibañez doubled and Shane Victorino was intentionally walked, Greg Dobbs stepped up to the plate with the chance to give the Phils their third consecutive win in extra innings.
And he almost did.
He launched one of Justin Masterson's pitches deep down the right-field line. As I saw the ball from my seats on the third base side, it looked clearly foul off the bat. But the ball began to hook back towards the right-field foul pole before it disappeared into the outfield seats.
Then I saw first-base umpire Jim Joyce rule the ball foul.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel did come out of the dugout to talk to Joyce, but the conversation seemed to last only a few seconds. And as I saw Charlie walk back to the dugout, I turned to my mother who accompanied me to the game and said, "I can't believe how ridiculous this is! How can this crew not review that play?"
Soon after saying that, a few fellow fans in the row in front of us asked me why there wasn't a review. Another fan wasn't even aware that MLB had instant replay. And as I found myself explaining the league's instant replay rule to them, I realized that it would have been more shocking had Dobbs' foul ball been reviewed.
I explained that Major League Baseball limits use of instant replay only to home run calls to determine if a potential home run was fair or foul, whether the ball left the playing field or not, or whether or not the ball was subject to spectator interference.
But the use of replay is solely determined by the umpire crew chief. So if the crew chief does not feel that the play needs to be reviewed, it won't be. And Jim Joyce, though not the crew chief, fully believed that Dobbs' hit was foul. Therefore, the play was not reviewed.
"So let me get this straight," said one of the fans. "The umps decide if plays need to be reviewed?"
"Yep," I respond.
"So, why would they ever review a call they made? They'd have to admit they were wrong."
"That's the stupidest thing I ever heard! What (expletive) thought that was a good idea?!"
"The same (expletive) who thought that Game Five of the World Series should've been played partially underwater."
Yes Bud, we were talking about you.
Only Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, the man who brought baseball fans ties in the All-Star game and presided over the steroid era, could think of such a nonsensical instant replay system.
Seriously, how much sense does it make to have the officials being the sole factor in determining if a play warrants instant replay? The manager can't request it, there's no independent party that can call the crew chief for a review, and there's no mandate which states that replay must be used in certain situations.
I have seen many replays and photos of Dobbs' foul ball. Many freeze frames show the ball directly over the foul pole, but it's difficult to determine if the ball was fair or foul when it crossed the plane of the home run fence. The ball most certainly was directly over the foul pole before falling into the seats, but it's difficult to tell if it hooked into fair territory before clearing the fence.
With that being said, do I think the play should have been overturned? No. Do I think the Phillies were robbed in their eventual loss to the Red Sox? No. But I absolutely think that the play should've been reviewed.
In that scenario, there's no excuse for not taking a good, hard look at Dobbs' hit giving the technology available.
Personally, I am not one of the biggest proponents for instant replay in baseball. I hardly see the pressing need to adopt replay when umpires are generally less than 10 feet away from most calls they make. Are they going to miss some calls? Of course they are. But for the most part, they are able to make the correct calls on close plays.
However, I do agree that home run calls should be considered for review. Why? Because home run calls can occur up to 300 feet away from the nearest umpire. And it is difficult for any trained human eye to see exactly where a ball no larger than the palm of your hand landed a football field away from where you are standing.
As a baseball fan, it is frustrating that the league did not take the time to develop a well-thought out instant replay system, that is fair to both the umpires and teams, while keeping the integrity of the game.
It would be fair to entitle the managers to request a review of a questionable home run ball, or have a MLB official in the press booth who can page the crew chief if they feel a play should be reviewed.
But Selig's flawed, quick-fix system is hardly the fair solution. All Selig did was develop an instant replay rule that gives all the power to officials who make all the calls in the first place.
After all the bad press the league received last year over its lack of a replay system, Bud's solution was to concoct a system which would quiet his critics, while simultaneously not ruffling any feathers in the umpires' union.
But then again, when I think about the whole situation, I guess I'm really not that surprised. I mean, it is Bud Selig's instant replay...
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