(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Should Baseball Have Instant Replay?

I don't know how it would work and under what circumstances it could be used, but the Phillies (and, yes, I bleed for them) lost last night because the umpiring crew blew a call which they acknowledged that they blew.

In the second inning, with 2 men on base, Chase Utley hit a very long humpbacked line drive that made a beeline for the rightfield foul pole. Utley later said he lost the shot in the lights, but at the time the umpiring crew ruled the shot a foul ball, and no one from the Phillies' bench protested the call. All the while, the Phillies' broadcast crew watched an instant replay, and it was clear that the ball hit the foul pole (perhaps a few feet above the right field fence) and was a home run.

The Nationals beat the Phillies, 4-3.

Now I'm not going to argue that this blown call could cost the Phillies a season. Sure, it might have cost them last night's game, but the Phillies left a bunch of men on base, and Pat Burrell looked lost out there. As for the season, the Phils lost something like 25 of 31 in the heart of the summer, at a time when they had Ryan Madson and Gavin Floyd in the starting rotation, both of whom they stayed with too long. It wasn't until after the July 31 trading deadline that the team came to life, and it came to life once those who remained could relax because they weren't on the trading block any more. Presto, magico, and the Phillies, who have one of the two best records in September over the past two seasons, turned into a wild card contender.

All that said, the call last night was bad, and it does bear on the season. Isn't there anything Major League Baseball can do to correct obvious errors like this? Shouldn't the umpires' crew chief be able to check a TV monitor on long fouls that come close to the foul pole? Is there any harm in that?

No, I don't want NFL-like instant replay, and, of course, there is no way to penalize a baseball team with a timeout the way you can in the NFL if a team challenges a call. Still, in the past two weeks, the Phillies have lost two home runs (Ryan Howard's was the other) because the umpires weren't in position to make the call. That's not right, and something should change.

And, yes, I would say this if the Nationals or Padres or Dodgers were on the losing end of these decisions.

Apparently the umpiring crew from last night's game told a Comcast reporter that they felt terribly that they missed the call. It's good that they could admit the transgression, and I'm sure that the umpires will learn from the experience. Chast Utley was gracious after last night's game, saying that the umpires are human, and everyone makes mistakes (he booted a grounder last night that enabled the game-deciding run to score).

Lots of grace, lots of contrition.

But going into tonight's game, the Phillies are trailing the Dodgers by 1 in the Wild Card chase.

And they shouldn't be.


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