MLB must get replay right
Replay isn't perfect. It'll never be perfect. We get that.
But holy schmoly. If there isn't a better way to apply it than what we got Wednesday night from the umpires in Cleveland, then what's the point?
I don't know what happened in that replay room, when Angel Hernandez and his crew were trying to decide if Adam Rosales had just hit a game-tying home run. I just know I've gotten crushed on Twitter for even trying to offer possible explanations for a call that -- let's be honest -- was completely screwed up.
Once on the field. Once in the replay process.
So let's fix this, OK? ASAP?
MLB has been slowly, deliberately, methodically -- have I mentioned slowwwwwwwwly? -- working toward a better, 21st-century replay system that should arrive next year. You can read all about it in this piece I wrote earlier this year.
It'll be great when it gets here. I just hope the A's don't miss out on a trip to the postseason by a game, or that name, Angel Hernandez, is likely to come up a few times. Or a few thousand.
Let's just hope something positive comes from this debacle. Such as
Accountability: When a call like this is made -- especially a call of this magnitude, which clearly changed a game and was obviously controversial -- there's no excuse for an umpire who won't thoroughly explain it. Stand before the cameras. Speak into the microphones. Answer the questions, so fans and both teams understand why and how you ruled what you ruled.
Hernandez's "accountability" consisted of a quick conversation with one pool reporter, no recorders allowed, no real detail offered. That can't happen. If players and managers have to explain themselves when things go wrong, umpires should never be exempt from that responsibility. Ever.
Getting the call right: In Hernandez's brief remarks, he seemed to imply that those of us at home got to see replay angles the umpires didn't get to see. I've heard this talk before. Umpires have complained for years that they don't see what we see. But in his statement Wednesday, Joe Torre made it clear there's no reason for that to ever be the case when he said, "Home and away broadcast feeds are available for all uses of instant replay, and they were available to the crew last night."
We'd like to assume that Hernandez and his crew took the time to watch them all. Who knows if they did? If you watch this real-time feed from the Oakland broadcast of this game, you'll see that it takes 1 minute, 57 seconds for the A's broadcasters to see a replay that convinces them that this was definitely a home run. But once they had a chance to see the digitally enhanced replays that clearly show the ball clanging off the metal railing above the yellow line, there was no longer any doubt.
In the future, umpires need to be reminded what they're doing in front of that replay monitor in the first place: getting the call right. There's no reason to rush, to miss any relevant angle, to jump to any quick conclusion. Get the call right. ESPN's umpiring consultant, longtime ump Jim McKean, told me that in cases where they're not sure, umpires are allowed to ask the technicians in New York to give them a replay in which the ball is circled digitally. Was that done in this case? I'd love to know.
The moral: There's nothing worse than a critical missed call with two outs in the ninth. But it's a billion times worse if the umpires review it and still get it wrong.
Better technology: One of the biggest reasons replay is still an imperfect system is the technology itself. When ESPN televises a "Sunday Night Baseball" game, it seems as if there's a camera everywhere in the park except the pitcher's glove. But on a Wednesday night A's-Indians game, there might be half as many cameras, which means -- follow along with us now -- half as many replay angles.
If replay is going to vastly expand next year, that has to change. Maybe every park can't have 12 or 14 or 20 cameras every day of the week. But certain camera angles and camera locations have to be covered or you're just asking for trouble.
I know MLB has been waiting to address this issue until it figures out all the changes it's going to make in the replay system. But the longer this sport waits -- not just to address this problem but to implement the sort of real, far-ranging replay system it needs and deserves -- umpiring debacles like this one are a nightmare just waiting to happen.
Except the next one might not merely screw up what should have been a beautiful May evening in Cleveland. It might just screw up Game 7 of the World Series. And isn't that Bud Selig's worst replay nightmare?
Obviously, nobody wants that. So let me ask one more time:
What the heck are you people waiting for? It's the 21st century. Replay fever is spreading. Catch it. Please.