What does replay solve?
Upon further review, forget about it.
Replay in baseball?
So far, Major League Baseball has avoided the knee-jerk reaction that is spawned by the fans of a team that gets the short end of a controversial fan, like the Pirates Nation, which is up in arms today about the way Pittsburgh’s 4-3, 19-inning loss to Atlanta ended on Tuesday night.
Did catcher Mike McKenry apply the tag on Julio Lugo at the plate or did the swipe tag miss him? Home plate umpire Jerry Meals was in position and called Lugo safe, much to the chagrin of the Pirates and their fan base. The fan base and franchise have suddenly been revived after 18 consecutive losing seasons and the Pirates are now a legit contender in the NL Central.
Check out the replays. The throw certainly beat Lugo. McKenry certainly made the swipe. And it seems he must have tagged him given the circumstances, but Meals didn’t see it that way.
Here’s the rub on replay. In its truest sense, replay would not have led to the call being overturned. The key part of replay is the need for it to provide "conclusive" evidence that the decision should be changed. Conclusive means definitive, irrefutable and inarguable.
That means it has to leave no doubt. And the replay does not erase all doubt.
Consider the statement issued by Major League Baseball Operations Executive Vice President Joe Torre.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the call was missed, as Jerry Meals acknowledged after the game,’’ Torre’s statement read.
That underscores the nebulous nature that a replay creates.
And appears is the proper way to describe the play in question. It’s not conclusive because while the swipe tag gives the appearance of touching the runner, never, even in slow motion, do you see any ripple of the uniform or change in direction of the glove that would seemingly be created by contact being made.
If a replay has to be "conclusive" then "appears" isn’t good enough. Even with all the cameras now in big league parks because of the influx of television, there wasn’t one "conclusive" angle that showed the actual tag being applied to Lugo.
Fortunately, having someone with Torre’s experience in uniform, and now his role in Major League Baseball, there will be no knee-jerk reaction to suddenly institute a replay system.
"Having been the beneficiary of calls like this and having been on the other end in my experience as a player and as a manager, I have felt that this has always been a part of our game," Torre said in the statement released by MLB. "As a member of the Commissioner’s Special Committee for On-Field Matters, I have heard many discussions on umpiring and technology over the past two years, including both the pros and the cons of expanding replay.
"However, most in the game recognize that the human element always will be part of baseball and instant replay can never replace all judgment calls by umpires. Obviously, a play like this is going to spark a lot of conversation, and we will continue to consider all viewpoints in our ongoing discussions regarding officiating in baseball."
Where Meals distinguished himself was the calmness he exuded in handling the emotional response of the Pirates. As a veteran umpire he did not make a bad situation worse by overreacting to the emotions of the Pirates. He allowed the Pirates to express themselves.
Meals’ actions should be must-see for young umpires, who have a tendency to inflame an emotional situation with emotional reactions of their own.
Instituting replay creates a more mechanical game without any assurance of accuracy.
Ask the folks at San Diego State University, which was the victim of two blown decisions by replay officials that cost it a victory at Brigham Young University last fall. Check out NFL games, where replay has not provided conclusive decisions that it has improved the game, but rather has become a crutch for officials so they don’t have to deal with critical decisions.
And the idea of adding replay in baseball, when there is a constant push to speed up the game, does not compute.
The supporters will contend that the interruptions can be limited, like football does.
That, however, would seem to defeat the purpose of the replay.
Hey, if the replay had been in place on Tuesday night, who is to say that by the 19th inning, the Pirates would not have used their allotment. Then, when the critical time comes, they’d be out of challenges.
Is it disappointing for a team to feel it got the short end of a call at the plate?
But it happens.
Nobody knows that better than Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
He was the skipper of the Colorado Rockies back in 2007 when en route to an NL pennant they won 13 of their final 14 regular-season games, including a 9-8, 13-inning play-in game victory against San Diego the day after the scheduled end to the regular season.
Matt Holliday was credited with scoring the winning run on a shallow fly ball to right field hit by Jamey Carroll. To this day, the debate continues over whether Holliday actually touched home plate.
Rockies fans are convinced his did.
Padres’ fans swear he didn’t.
And replays? They don’t prove a thing.