Advanced Replay & Umpire Accountability: It’s Time


After I got over my surprise at the fact that Andres Torres had hit a line drive and actually doubled to lead off the 9th inning on Monday with the Mets down a run, I heard Gary Cohen noting that the Cardinals looked like they were about to appeal.  When the appeal was made, first base umpire Dave Rackley not only ruled Torres out, but did so with so much gusto it appeared he was actually enjoying it.  After watching multiple replays, it appears Torres did not miss first base, but in fact had his heel come down flush with the corner of the bag as he rounded it.  Unless the base was a human being and was able to tell us for sure that he/she was stepped on, no one will ever know for sure whether or not Torres hit the bag.  Still, it certainly appeared that he did.  The only way Torres missed the bag, is if he somehow stayed on his feet while his right foot was as sideways as the car Arnold Schwarzenegger drove in “Twins.”

When the game ended, Rackley was interviewed and insisted that he had gotten the call right.  However, I simply can’t fathom after viewing the replay how Rackley could’ve possibly been 100 percent sure that Torres missed the bag.  He was standing behind where Torres hit the bag, and couldn’t have seen the view others saw on replay.   And unless he was 100 percent sure, there’s no way in hell he should’ve ruled him out.  I attempted to research how many successful appeal plays there are per year in Major League Baseball, and wasn’t able to find any concrete stats.  What I do know, is that yesterday’s successful appeal was the first one I’ve witnessed this season.  On its face, it looks like another umpire simply trying to make himself part of the game.  As has been reported, Carlos Beltran was watching the game in the clubhouse and told the Cardinals to appeal.  The only reason Beltran could’ve suspected Torres missed first, was because Rackley stared down at the base after Torres had rounded it as if his cat had just thrown up on a brand new rug.

After the game, both Terry Collins and Daniel Murphy went berserk.  Collins cursed out the umpires as they left the field, and Murphy told Rackley to get his eyes checked.  Now, no one expects umpires to be perfect.  In a game of inches, where so many plays are bang-bang, it’s impossible to expect perfection.  However, is it too much to ask for umpires to be accountable when they make egregiously bad calls?  Or for the league to penalize them for repeatedly making egregiously bad calls (I’m talking to you Angel Hernandez), or to suspend and/or fine them for being instigators when players are upset, and ream them out for having quick hooks when those quick hooks are unnecessary?

I don’t believe umpiring between the lines in Major League Baseball is getting worse.  I believe that the advancements in technology are making it much easier for fans to see clearly when a call is missed.  I think that the rise of Twitter is resulting in these missed calls taking on a life of their own, blowing them up to insane levels.  Due to those factors, and the technology we now have to see if a call is right or wrong, something needs to be done.

Some form of instant replay needs to be instituted for fair/foul calls, and for instances like yesterday, where a player is ruled out for missing a base (or for leaving too soon while tagging up).  I’m not a technological genius, so I won’t outline exact parameters.  I do have a few ideas:  The US Open (Tennis) has cameras that allow for television video review to determine whether or not a ball is in or out.  Something like that could be used for fair/foul calls in baseball.  As far as missing or leaving a base early?  Perhaps a sensor could be used.  I’m not sure how that would work in instances where both the first baseman and the player are attempting to touch the bag, so I’ll leave that one to experts who create and implement these types of technologies.

Perhaps this suggested advanced replay should only be used during the Postseason.  Maybe it could be used on a more limited basis during the regular season as well, with Managers receiving one or two challenges per game like in the National Football League.  Maybe it will be controlled from a central location as is the case in the National Hockey League.  What is certain, though, is that if the Torres call was made in Game 7 of the World Series and not during a Labor Day game between a contender and a team that’s six games under .500, it would’ve been an absolute travesty.  In order to avoid a future where an incorrect judgment call can change the outcome of a team’s season, Major League Baseball needs to act.  There needs to be accountability for umpires who consistently fail and/or antagonize players, and  there needs to be advanced replay for potential missed calls that could severely alter the outcome of the most important games of the season.  Commissioner Selig, please do something.