Change We Can Believe In

Turn back your clocks a little over a year to the 2009 American League Divisional Series between the Yankees and the Twins. The Yankees had home field advantage, and were heavily favored. They swept the series three games to none, but largely thanks to a disturbing phenomenon down the left field line at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees won Game 1, 7-2. But, for any team starting a playoff series away from home, the Twins had one objective: just win one. Going into Game 2, just a day removed from a trip to Minneapolis, that seemed very possible. And when the Twins were leading, 3-1, in the bottom of the eighth, things looked pretty good.

The Yankees scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth, tying the game at three. The game went to the 11th-inning still tied at three. In the top of the inning, the course of baseball history quietly changed.

Joe Mauer led off the inning with a line drive down the left-field line. Mauer would have easily made it to second, but Phil Cuzzi, whose only job was to makethat exact call, missed it. The Twins followed with two straight singles, one of which would have surely scored Mauer. However, no runs scored, and the Yankees won the game in the bottom of the 11th inning.

The series was now 2-0 going to Minnesota. The Twins were deflated, the Yankees were on a roll. Who knows what would have happened if that call was changed.

Simply put: instant replay would have prevented that incorrect call. But a failure on the behalf Major League Baseball has prevented that idea from every becoming a reality. Why doesn’t Major League Baseball have a desire to get the calls right? That is the one question that has never been answered.

I was very happy today to see a tweet from ESPN’s Jayson Stark noting that Commissioner Bud Selig left a meeting with his on-field committee feeling “more open [to expanding instant replay] than he’s ever been.”

Hopefully this will end something long overdue; something not worth avoiding in any logical sense.

Bud Selig has been quoted numerous times saying that he concerned about “the pace of the game.” That concern is ridiculous.

First consider how things usually unfold now. The umpire gets the call wrong, while television broadcasts show that it was clearly a mistake. The manager storms onto the field, and we watch for two or three minuets as the two opposing sides bark at each other. The call, however, is never changed.

Or, the umps will have one of their very effective meetings. For another one of two minutes, the umps come together in the middle of the field and talk about who knows what. Regardless, the umps usually still get it wrong.

Now consider what it would be like if Major League Baseball had instant replay. Here is a script of what would happen:

Ump: [Makes incorrect call. Questioning himself, he signals to the crew chief to make a call to another official sitting in a booth, watching the TV broadcast.]

Crew chief: [Picks up phone.] “Safe or out?”

Official in booth: “Out.”

Crew chief: [Signals out.]

That’s it. 45 seconds at most. No argument from the manager, no disputes. Just a quicker, cleaner game.

I never criticize umpires for getting calls wrong. Their job is hard; very hard, and they need all the help they can get. We have the technology available––right at our fingertips––to get these calls right, so why not use it?

Watching a game on TV, the typical fan knows the correct call within 15 seconds. Why should the fan be able to see evidence that the umps cannot? Not to mention that the manager and umpire are usually arguing as the fan watches the replay.

Another argument Mr. Selig has made is the following: our officials are still investigating the issue; we need more time. What’s to investigate? How many people really want to know the right call?

I commend Major League Baseball for implementing replay on home run calls. That’s a big step. But there is nothing more ignorant to say about baseball than “home runs solely affect the outcome of the game.” We need to get everythingright, not just home runs.

Enough procrastinating. Why are we so afraid to change? Instant replay would make games faster, reduce the amount of arguments, and, most importantly, make the calls more accurate.

What are we waiting for? Lack of instant replay has already taken a huge toll on the game, and it will continue to. Just think: with replay, the Yankees might only have 26 championships.

Listen to Jess on What’s on Second: The Seamheads.com Radio Hour Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter @jesskcoleman or send him an e-mail at [email protected].

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One Response to Change We Can Believe In

  1. Lucas Weick says:

    Great piece, but I think you meant the American League Divisional Series between the Yankees and Twins in 2009, not the Championship series.