Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Brewers beat writer for the Journal-Sentinel, uses last night’s 5-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks as Exhibit A in the case that Major League Baseball should expand the use of televised instant replay beyond it’s current use for home run calls.  While I respect Haudricourt’s work and enjoy his coverage of the team, I firmly disagree. 

With 2 outs and 2 runners on base in the 8th inning, D-back pinch hitter Tony Clark sliced a ball down the left field line that appeared to be just foul but was ruled fair by third base umpire Brian Gorman.  The ensuing double allowed both runners to score, breaking a 2-2 tie and ultimately wasting a fine performance by Brewers starting pitcher Manny Parra.  Haudricourt points to the play and wonders why baseball doesn’t use replay to confirm such calls.  A better question to ask would be why relievers Carlos Villanueva and Todd Coffey failed to get the third out in the inning and preserve the Brewers slim lead.

To his credit, Coffey accepted blame for the defeat and manager Ken Macha went on to say that he wasn’t in favor of the use of replay in baseball.  And in fairness to Gorman, the missed call wasn’t that blatant to anyone other than Brewers myopians.  The replay I saw showed the ball’s mark just to the left of the foul line, meaning that it could have grazed the line however slightly or unlikely.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me now admit that in general I do not like the use of instant replay as an officiating tool.  An objective review of officials’ work in any sport would confirm that they almost always make the correct call.  In my estimation, instant replay unnecessarily disrupts the flow of a game and takes away from the spontaneous enjoyment of the moment.  As the cliche goes, baseball is a game of inches and there would be a number of plays in any given contest that would call for the use of a replay.  Too add those delays to major league baseball, where time and pace of play is already an issue to many people, would be a mistake.

Haudricourt cites the example of the National Football League as the model for baseball to follow.  It is a flawed comparison.  First of all, since the NFL plays only 16 regular season games, the loss of one has a much greater impact on a team’s success.  In baseball, the 162 game schedule is the great equalizer, reducing the effect of one game on a team’s season.  That’s why baseball managers regularly sacrifice an individual game to save their bullpens for another day.  And the use of replay is hardly a guarantee of getting the call right.  It’s not unheard of for NFL officials to look at the replay and still get it wrong.  Often the replays are simply inconclusive.  The relatively few calls that are blown tend to even out over the course of time.  For every reviewed Packers touchdown against the Bears, there is a missed Jerry Rice fumble.

While too many fans treat their sporting events as a life and death proposition, they aren’t open heart surgery.  No one’s going to die on the table if an official costs their team a game with a missed call.  It has often been observed that sports are just a reflection of society.  If that’s true, then no amount of ‘do-overs’ will ever make them perfect.

 

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  • Chris

    1. This situation could be easily solved by simply not letting the umps drink between innings.

    2. “Myopiasts?” I would have gone to “myopians” to win, but this might work out, too.

    3. Everyone knows sports aren’t “heart surgery”. No, of course not. They are Brain Surgery, far more important and of much greater delicacy and nuance.

    • http://mike Mike

      Fine, if you’re gonna be a stickler about it, I’ll change it.

  • Ryne

    I’m a Yankees/Cubs fan and I thought it was clearly foul. So this Brewers fan myopia theory seems a bit farfetched.

    • http://mike Mike

      Fair enough. For the record, I too thought it was foul. But I’ve seen worse calls. And if Villanueva does his job it wouldn’t have mattered. That’s why you need to take care of your own business.

      • Ryne

        I understand. The pitcher has to take care of his own business. But a blown call like that can be the difference between a win and a loss.

        To be honest, I didn’t have any interest in the game and only saw the call in highlights on sports shows. I just wanted to say something because I have a differing opinion regarding replay. I’d like to simply see the system extended to fair/foul balls. If its questionable in real-time, call it fair and play it out. Go to replay for a few minutes, and make the right call. If the initial call was wrong, it’s not hard to bring the players back and resume play.

        I’m not in favor of using replay beyond these rare occasions though.

        • http://mike Mike

          I fully expected when I took this position that I’d be in the minority, especially coming on the heels of of the game I cited.

          While I am personally against replay, I acknoledge that a case can be made for it’s use in football or even post-season baseball. But I believe that using it in the regular season would open a pandora’s box that would be difficult to limit and would be more trouble than it’s worth. The idea of challenge flags flying out from the dugout is unseemly to me.