I’d like to be nice, but it’s too late to be nice.
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Baseball, due to its refusal to expand instant replay, is headed for more controversy this postseason. And the sport’s powers-that-be, led by commissioner Bud Selig, have no one but themselves to blame.
This is the 21st century. The technology is available to correct calls, and correct them quickly. Yet baseball prefers to risk the outcomes of games, subject its umpires to embarrassment and allow critics to attack its credibility.
* MLB on FOX analyst Tim McCarver wants no part of expanded replay. Check out his take in the video on the right.
Once the blown calls come – and they are as inevitable as the autumn chill – the sport will merit no sympathy. And trust me, if even one postseason game is wrecked, we are not going to have another touchy-feely Jim Joyce-Armando Galarraga moment.
Get it right. Is that so much to ask?
Get it right – or at least try to get it right – and no one can question the sport is doing its absolute best.
Frankly, the only question now is which umpire will be this year’s Phil Cuzzi, blowing a call when the stakes are highest.
Umpires make mistakes; we all know that. The shame is not in the blown call. The shame is baseball has the power to fix some mistakes and refuses.
You remember Cuzzi. Called a fair ball by the Twins’ Joe Mauer foul leading off the 11th inning of Game 2 of last year’s Division Series, costing Mauer an automatic double.
Mauer hit a single two pitches later, and the Twins loaded the bases. But the Yankees escaped – and later won, 4-3, to take a two-games-to-none lead in the series.
“Afterward, like any close play, we went in and looked at it and it’s a clear indication that an incorrect decision was rendered,” crew chief Tim Tschida said.
No one can say the Twins would have scored if Mauer had started the inning on second instead of first. But it sure would have been nice to find out.
Less than two months later, Selig formed his “special committee on on-field matters” to explore, among other things, expanding replay beyond boundary calls on home runs.
But has baseball expanded replay? No.
Does it plan to expand replay? Selig hems and haws, says he is open-minded. But the answer is still no.
Selig says the committee does not advocate more replay. Well, maybe he needs to form another committee.
The commissioner is 76. The average age of the 14 committee members is 63. I don’t want to be disrespectful. But that committee is seriously old-school.
Here’s what kills me: Baseball is at the cutting edge of technology in so many other areas.
You can listen to games on satellite radio or watch them on your laptop or iPhone. I’ve got my MLB.TV subscription linked to my PS3. Using my controller, I can scroll easily from one out-of-market game to another, watching in HD quality (when available) on my big-screen TV.
Yet, when it comes to expanded replay – and bringing the actual on-field product up to date – baseball is still in dial-up mode.
We can debate how far to go. We can debate whether to award challenges to managers, place a fifth umpire in a replay booth and whatever else might work. Pace of game is a legitimate concern. So is placement of runners after calls are reversed. But no obstacle is insurmountable.
Fair/foul calls that create uncertainty – replay. Calls on the bases that challenge the naked eye – replay. All of the other details, baseball can figure out. Should have figured out long ago.
The NFL replay system often is cumbersome, but at least the NFL is on the right side of the argument. Baseball cannot make that claim.
So, once again, baseball is about to walk straight through a glass door.
I will not feel sorry for the sport when some blown call occurs in Game 3 of the World Series and the play is shown to death — not just on all-sports networks but also all-news channels — turning off even casual fans.
I do not want to see the pained expressions on the faces of Selig and other baseball officials.
I do not to want to hear the uncomfortable explanations from humiliated umpires.
I do not want to talk or write about another postseason game blemished by baseball’s stubborn resistance to change.
It’s all coming. It’s all so unnecessary.
I shudder to think: What will it take for baseball to finally wake up?