The game of baseball has been around since 1839, and in those 175 years, it has become common knowledge that nine times out of ten, if a throw beats the runner, the runner will be called “out.” Does that mean that it is always the right call? No, however, it is the way the game has been played since its inception, and that is the way umpires have made the call. They make the call, either safe or out, and then they move the game forward; that is the name of the game. Cue MLB and the “advancements” in instant replay technology. Last night during the San Diego Padres (30-42) versus the Seattle Mariners (37-35) game at Petco Park, a close call at second base led to umpires phoning New York’s Replay Command Center, resulting in a long, drawn out review which did nothing but reaffirm the call made on the field; further proving the holes which still exist in the advancement of the game.
In the top of the first inning, in game number 71 of a 162 game season, Mariners centerfielder, Endy Chavez made a break for second base on a 2-0 count on what may have been a botched hit and run play. Padres’ catcher, Rene Rivera came up firing on a high and outside fastball, zipping the ball down to second base and beating the runner by a miracle mile. After a slight hesitation, the umpire called the runner out, and immediately the play was challenged. Before even slowing the play down into super slow-motion, credit must go to Chavez for making a stellar slide to the outside of the base, and avoiding the initial tag. The throw clearly beat the runner on what was far from being a bang-bang play. For 175 years, an umpire would make the call, and the game would have either moved forward, or given fans their money’s worth, by treating them to a spit-flying, brim-to-brim, nose-to-nose argument between Mariners manager, Lloyd McClendon and the second base umpire. Instead, fans were treated to more than four minutes of ho-hum, drag-out-the-game nonsense that consisted of headphone wearing umpires who gathered in a circle behind home plate while they waited on someone at the MLB offices more than 2,700 miles away to make the call.
Finally, after the four minute delay, the umpire pumped his fist and reaffirmed the out call. Call stands, and the senseless challenge resulted in nothing more than of waste of everyone’s time and stripped fans of the possibility of some real fireworks. Yes, the goal is to try and get the call right as often as possible, but for the most part, instant replay is helping to destroy the game. If looking back on the history of MLB baseball, there are probably hundreds of plays that were incorrectly called, and could have gone one way or another. World Series’ may have had different outcomes, teams that fell half a game short of the playoffs may have gotten in, and the history books would be rewritten. It is part of the game, and part of what accompanies the game when humans, instead of computer technology invades a game. Umpires are not always perfect, which may be the understatement of the century, but sometimes when leagues attempt to move the game forward, they end up stripping fans of part of the game that made it so enjoyable. Fans want to see the spit flying, manager’s occasionally kicking dirt onto home plate, and third base be removed and hurled into left field. The occasional meltdown tosses a little bit of fuel onto a game that can sometimes drag on at a snail’s pace. For now, MLB should rethink their instant replay rules, and think about adjusting it so that the only plays which can be reviewed are home runs, or questionable calls during the playoffs and World Series.
Commentary by Johnny Caito