Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Men in Black

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One star has taken over the headlines and drawn all the attention on themselves this post-season. It’s not Alex Rodriguez, not Ryan Howard … I’m talking about the umpires.

The officials have taken centre stage during the playoffs this year and have caused more controversy than ever thanks to some botched calls and just plain flat-out mistakes. This was evident as ever as I was liveblogging last night’s Game 4 of the ALCS.

The umpires and crew chief didn’t screw up one call, not two calls, but three. Luckily none of them really translated into a game-changing play because the Yankees won handily by nine runs, but what if it were a tied game? It’s safe to say there would have been riots in Los Angeles to the magnitude of when the Rodney King verdict came down.

I realize that these officials do a thankless job and work their asses off game after game, but calls like these are unforgivable. Especially since some of them could determine whether or not a team is going to the World Series, that means these decisions are as important as ever. I can't understand why the officials seem to be treating them as routine plays.

Crew chief Tim McLellan obviously had his eyes elsewhere and even fully admits that he screwed up. He claims that he was doing his best ... well frankly, McLellan's best is simply not good enough.

This wasn't just one isolated incident with Tim McLellan, either. You might recall that he was the home plate umpire that called Matt Holiday safe during the 2007 NL Wild Card tiebreaker game between the Rockies and the Padres.

It’s examples like those that really show the flaws within the officiating in Major League Baseball. In a game of inches such as this, I think the managers should be given the opportunity to challenge or dispute a call, much like how it’s done in the NFL and NHL.

Some might argue that this would slow down the game considerably, but I would rather the umpires take a couple of minutes to review the call and get it right rather than make a snap decision and have to stick with it. Hell, the game was already over three and a half hours anyway, what's another five minutes?

Bud Selig was on the right track by instating the home run video review system, but I’m afraid that’s just not good enough – especially in the playoffs. Yes, a home run call can make or break a game, however those smaller calls can easily lead to game-changers as we’ve seen already.

Unfortunately, those hoping for some salvation in seeing more instant replay in baseball will have to continue to hold their breath. Selig seems to be firm on his stance that video review will only remain on home run calls:
“…do I think we need more replay? No. Baseball is not the kind of game that can have interminable delays."
If the coaches do in fact have the game on tape just inside the clubhouse as was alluded to on the broadcast last night, why not actually put it to use?

Otherwise it might as well just be hooked up to a Super Nintendo and Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball so at least somebody can get some use out if it.

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