Columnists, Sports

TUESDAY’S TAKE: MLB, take a second look

Is it time to institute more widespread instant replay in the MLB?
Yankees fans would say so.

And I agree.

The blown call during Game 2 of the ALCS highlights the reason that instant replay is a necessity in most, if not all, situations in Major League Baseball.

The idea that one wrong call in an under-pressure moment by an umpire can cost a team a run, a game, a series or potentially their season, is mind-blowing.

After sitting on the couch watching football all day Sunday and seeing countless amounts of “Under Review” chyrons on the TV, I flipped by to see highlights of the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers ALCS games. I’d read on Twitter that an umpire had made a terrible call.

After seeing the replay, terrible is an understatement. Anybody with two eyes could clearly see that Yankees second basemen Robinson Cano tagged the Tigers’ Omar Infante out as he dove back to the bag after overrunning it. If you haven’t seen the video, go check it out online. It’s brutal.

The Yankees were trailing 1–0 at that point, and following the blown call, with two-outs, the Tigers managed to put two additional runs on the board. Infante, who was “safe,” scored. The Yankees went down 3–0 and it would remain that way.

Following the game, second base umpire Jeff Nelson acknowledged the error.

“I had the tag late and the hand going into the bag before the tag on the chest,” Nelson said. “The hand did not get in before the tag. The call was incorrect.”

Ya think?

Did Joe Girardi storming you at second base and the visceral reaction of the fans not convince you enough that perhaps you were wrong then? But, in Nelson’s defense, there is no recourse for an umpire after making an out call like that. They can’t use instant replay to review it. They can’t take the advice of another umpire who was in a different position on the field. They can’t say, “my bad” and do it over.

Girardi, after the game, said he didn’t blame Nelson for being a terrible person.

“It’s frustrating. I don’t have a problem with Jeff’s effort,” Girardi said following the loss. “I don’t, because he hustled to get to the point. But in this day and age, when we have instant replay available to us, it’s got to change.”

I’ve got to agree with the Yankees skipper here.

Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees starter, was charged with three earned runs and was lifted from the game after the blown call. That out would have finished a valiant effort by Kuroda of eight innings pitched with just one earned run. Would the Yankees have rallied with confidence knowing they only had to score one run?

We’ll never know.

The Yankees chances were lessened because MLB is resistant to modern technology. There must be at least 20 cameras within Yankee Stadium. They must be able to capture just about every possible angle where a play could occur within the park. Why doesn’t MLB follow the lead of the NFL and realize that their umpires are prone to mistake?

This is the second notable instance this postseason of umpires brutally blowing calls. A fly ball to left field was ruled an infield fly during the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves Wild Card game. If a play like that was reviewable, umpires would have watched the replay and realized that an infielder could not have played that ball with “routine effort,” as the MLB rulebook stipulates and was therefore not an infield fly. Many believe this call cost the Braves the game.

So what’s holding you back MLB?

Opponents of instant replay in baseball note that it would slow down the game more.

The manager running out to the field and arguing for five minutes about a call, which the ump won’t change, slows the game down just as long as it would take an umpire to run into the dugout, review the play and make the correct call.

Why don’t we just get it right? These guys play from April through October nearly every day. Why blow it for them by not instituting an instant replay to ensure accuracy? It’s worked already for home run review.

Just do it.

Wait, did I just support the Yankees?


Mike Neff is a weekly columnist for the sports section. He can be reached via email at [email protected] or via Twitter at @mneff2.

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