All I care about, really, is October. Will baseball’s new replay system prevent the most meaningful games from being tarnished by crap umpiring calls? Before the weekend, I kept the faith. Now, I’m doubtful.
The first snafus of the sport’s high-tech replay era are troubling. What we have is an unforgivable problem: Why do TV viewers at home have access to replays that reviewers inside commissioner Bud Selig’s Command Center in Manhattan do not? In the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium, as so often happens, Yankees shortstop Dean Anna slid into second base but allowed his foot to come off the bag while Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts continued to make the tag. Anna should have been called out, which is why Red Sox manager John Farrell challenged the decision.
But while viewers watching nationally on the Fox network clearly could see an angle confirming Anna as dead to rights, the reviewers located a few miles from the ballpark didn’t have the same feed. Said a Major League Baseball spokesman: “The conclusive angle was not immediately available.’’ The safe call was upheld, and while Anna didn’t score and thus had no impact on a 7-4 Yankees victory, it still raises the issue of whether such a discrepancy will haunt Major League Baseball officials as the season progresses.
“We had probably five angles that confirmed his foot was off the base, and when the safe call came back, it certainly raises questions on if they’re getting the same feeds we are, the consistency of the system,” Farrell said. “Yeah, it makes you scratch your head a little bit on why he was called safe.”
“We had him there,” Bogaerts said. “If you look at the replay, I’m on the guy for like a minute.’’
That was supposed to be the idea: Examine the replay, get the call right. It’s bizarre, if not mind-boggling, when an $8 billion industry can’t guarantee that a replay seen in a New Mexico bar is available to a replay official in an MLB compound.
The Washington Nationals are asking the same questions after manager Matt Williams saw a challenge wrongly rejected. Nate McLouth, bunting in the second inning against the Braves, beat out the throw to first base according to the replay shown on TV. He was called safe.
First big problem: It took four minutes to study the replay and make a ruling.
Second big problem: They still got it wrong.
“I’m extremely frustrated by the process at this point,” Williams told the media. “Because if they’re seeing the same feed that we’re seeing, I don’t know how he’s out. I don’t know how Nate is out if they have the same feed that we have, so that’s frustrating because I thought he was safe. We’ve looked at it 100 times since then, and we believe he was safe. And if that is a safe call, then we maintain our challenge.
“We have the same technology and the same video. I don’t know about that one. That frustrates me.’’
When a manager uses a challenge and is rejected, he loses an opportunity to use it later. Such as in the fourth inning, when umpires ruled Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche did not catch a liner when it appeared he had. And in the fifth, when it was ruled McLouth had dropped a flyball when it appeared in a replay that he’d made the catch.
How pathetic. Whether high-tech is involved or not, bad calls still are possible in baseball. As Bogaerts pointed out, the system generally had worked well before now. But it takes only two screw-ups to remind us of an ongoing baseball truth.
When Bud Selig is in charge of something, don’t trust it.