What's Up With That? Volume Five

Steve SmithSenior Writer IOctober 11, 2009

CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 11: Home plate umpire Jerry Crawford sets for play as the  Philadelphia Phillies host the Detroit Tigers March 11, 2010 at the Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Angels were forced to watch helplessly as the Philadelphia Phillies rushed onto the field at the end of Game Seven to celebrate their second consecutive World Series championship, knowing the Phillies weren’t really the champions; they were.


They knew they were actually the champions, because the only reason the Phillies were popping champagne bottles and donning championship t-shirts and hats was because the umpire crew in Game Seven had seriously blown it in the bottom of the ninth inning, calling Torii Hunter out on a play at first base where he was clearly safe, that would have allowed Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu to score and win the game, and series for the Angels.


It’s just a shame those running baseball hadn’t instituted instant replay for more than just homerun calls prior to this season.

The above scenario isn’t a reality. It’s a dark and dreary nightmare that those running baseball should be dreading might ever become a reality. The simple fact, though? It will become a reality someday. Simple logic dictates it’s bound to happen. In fact, I’d bet it probably (or something just like it) has sometime in the distant past, and we’ve simply forgotten it.

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What has absolutely become a reality, though, is that the officiating crew in the series between the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees have already blown a call that quite possibly cost the Twins the chance to tie the series up (with the next two games in Minnesota) against the vaunted Bronx Bombers.

This in itself could potentially be what decides the entire series.

On Friday night in the 11th inning of Game Two, Joe Mauer smashed a ball down the left-field line that clearly bounced off of Melky Cabrera’s glove in the field of play, and even then bounced inside the line, and then into the stands. It should have obviously been called a ground-rule double.

However, umpire Phil Cuzzi, who was less than 15 feet away, called it a foul ball.

Yankees' fans will argue this didn’t cost the Twins the game. And it wasn’t as direct a scenario as the one hypothesized above, but even though Mauer singled, and Minnesota loaded the bases later in the inning (with no one out no less), they never scored, and that might not have been the case had Mauer been awarded second base as he should have.

This allowed the Yankees to win the game, 4-3, when Mark Teixeira crushed a ball into the stands in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Many baseball purists don’t even approve of the use of instant replay for homerun calls, which was instituted last year after numerous blown calls were made, and a national outcry ensued. They’ll use the same arguments they used last year to try and oppose any plan to institute instant replay on normal play throughout the game.

To them, everything is fine because umpires are only human, and we should accept that they’ll make mistakes. Tell that to the Angels team in the scenario above. I can guarantee you that not a single player, or fan in that situation wouldn’t want to knock someone out who spouted that garbage after such a calamity.

Simply put, the only time human fallibility should be allowed in anything in life is if there’s no other option. If you have the chance to make something error free, even if that means overturning a call made by a human, then why wouldn’t you do it? Those who oppose this view, in my opinion, are simply moronic.

One such moron is Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder Jason Michaels, who in a piece last year about the possible use of replay for homerun calls stated, “Here’s the thing: I guess I’m old school, but I think human error is part of the game. It’s always been that way.”

Yes, Jason, it’s always been that way. Doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. I’m guessing you never got to the page with the word “progress” in your dictionary, my friend.

The entire reason you have umpires and officials is to ensure fairness in the game. If they make incorrect calls that end up making the outcome of the game eminently unfair, then it defeats their entire purpose.

Now, if there’s no alternative to them making the occasional mistake, then you do exactly what Jason Michaels proposes, you live with it. However, using current available technology to make their decisions more fair and judicious is not only right, it’s common sense. Anything that makes the outcome of the game decided by the play on the field, not the decisions of the refs, is a good thing.

And understand, the ref making a good call on the field, even if it’s detrimental in a huge way, even late in the game, to one side or the other, is not the ref deciding the outcome of the game. In fact, the exact opposite is true. If he fails to make that call, then he’s deciding the outcome of the game.

A lot of the opposition to any changes such as using instant replay for basic calls, like whether a runner is safe, or whether a ball was fair is simply the old-boy network throughout the league.

This network doesn’t want the umpires “embarrassed.” I say, to hell with whether they’re embarrassed or not. Their job is to make sure the rules are fairly observed, and that the right call is made so the right team wins, whoever that might be.

If their “embarrassment” is getting in the way of this, then I say get rid of all of them and hire some new ones who actually have some integrity. Because that’s the gist of it, people, the integrity of the game is on the line here.

There’s been tons of talk about steroids and performance-enhancing drugs over the past few years, and how the alleged use of these things might have ruined the integrity of the game, and some of the results of the players.

How could a team losing a series they clearly should have won because of the blown call of some “embarrassed” umpire be any less a blow to the integrity of the game?

Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lieber is seemingly in full agreement with me, as he’s quoted as saying, “The game needs it and I think it does need it soon. With technology the way it is today, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a part of the game.”

I couldn’t agree more, Jon. So, I have just two questions for Bud Selig, and the rest of the people running MLB in regard to why they haven’t already instituted instant replay in all aspects of the game to ensure the integrity of the outcome.

While it’s too late to do anything about making instant replay a reality for all marginal calls on the field other than balls and strikes this year, isn’t it possible to finally get it done for next year to avoid the nightmare scenario hypothesized above?

Well, Mr. Selig, What’s Up With That?

Quotes taken from the Associated Press article “Baseball Wants to Start Using Replay by Aug. 1” that was published on nbcsports.com


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