NFL teaches MLB something about replay


I hope baseball's esteemed replay czars -- John Schuerholz, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa -- were watching the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Why? Because there was a message in that incredible football game that shouldn't be lost on baseball:

No matter how many plays you feed into your replay machines and get right, people are never going to be happy about the plays you don't review and get wrong.

I know how easy it is for everyone in baseball to tune out the nationwide mumbling and grumbling about the regrettable NFL rule that wouldn't permit a replay of NaVorro Bowman's clear-cut recovery of Jermaine Kearse's fourth-quarter fumble. But that would be a mistake.

Instead of saying, "That's their problem," what everyone in baseball should be saying is: "That was a teachable moment."

On one hand, Schuerholz, Torre and La Russa have done a fantastic job of creating a replay system in their sport that should finally make it possible to fix most of the epic, game-changing mistakes that keep us media second-guessers in business 24/7. Woohoo.

But …

On the other hand, this system also makes it way too possible for other important plays to not get reviewed at all. And as Sunday's non-replay in Seattle reminded us, that's never going to turn into a popular development.

Consider some of the ways in which even an obvious missed call in baseball might not get reviewed under the new replay rules:

• Managers choose not to challenge the play because it's early in the game and they're saving their challenges.

• Managers don't challenge the play because they're out of challenges.

• A manager challenges one specific aspect of a call (for example, a late throw) only to have a different issue become apparent on the replay (e.g., a missed tag) -- and that other issue isn't reviewable because it wasn't part of the challenge.

• The play happens in the first six innings, a manager is out of challenges, and umpires aren't allowed to initiate a review until the seventh.

• The play happens in the seventh inning or later, a manager is out of challenges, and umpires turn down a "request" by the manager to review a play.

• Umpires accuse a team of stalling while it's trying to figure out whether to challenge and refuse to review a play because the challenge came too late.

• The play involved isn't reviewable under any circumstances: obstruction, interference, the fabled "neighborhood play," trap/catch calls in the infield, checked swings and, of course, balls and strikes. Among other things.

So what are the odds of situations just like these erupting on a baseball field near you? Uh, hold on. Let me call up my calculator app. OK, let's see now. I calculate those odds at, oh …

A hundred percent. Or, to be honest, more like 700 percent.

In other words, it's a lock. A cinch. Unavoidable. Inevitable. Heck, it's intrinsically built into the system.

And what's going to happen when a controversial, clearly correctable call doesn't get reviewed some night -- maybe because it happens at 8:49 p.m. with two outs in the sixth inning instead of at 8:56 p.m. with no outs in the seventh (when umpires can call for a review on their own)?

Ho-ho-ho. You know exactly what's going to happen.

We're going to have a major tweetfest just like the one that erupted Sunday. Especially if one of these moments goes down in a Dodgers-Giants game, a Yankees-Red Sox game or any ESPN "Sunday Night Baseball" game that elevates the flaws in this system to a larger stage.

Not to mention (gulp) Game 7 in October.

Hoo boy.

I did get a chance to suggest to La Russa last week that once people get a taste of replay it was going to make them hungry for more. And when it does, I asked him, what is going to happen when fans, players and front offices start asking for more replay, not less?

"Then we'll take a look at that," he said. "And if it makes sense, we can always expand it later."

Fortunately, that's exactly the same message we've heard from Torre, Schuerholz and Bud Selig on replay: This is just the beginning. We should expect lots of tweaks, adjustments and changes over the next three seasons.

Well, that's great. But in between, there are going to be moments like that moment in Seattle on Sunday (hopefully minus knee ligaments twisting in 86 directions). In short, there are going to be fixable calls that don't get fixed. Guaranteed.

So when the yelling and screaming wells up approximately 1.4 seconds later on the Twitterverse, one thing the powers-that-be in baseball won't be able to say is this:

I didn't warn them.

And that goes double for NaVorro Bowman.