7:19 PM CDT, October 16, 2012
Bad calls didn't put the Yankees in 2-0 hole; the pitching of all Tigers not named Jose Valverde did. Nor did that bad infield fly rule call send the Braves home after one game; three infield errors did.
Yet you won't be able to tell the story of the 2012 playoffs comprehensively without Joe Girardi's postgame call for expanded instant replay and even the suggestion that baseball add a line on the grass beyond the infield, like basketball's three-point line, to determine what's too deep for an infield fly.
Who knows what happens next?
Major League Baseball is playing with fire in ignoring how easily replay could be used to overturn obvious mistakes by umpires, especially in the postseason.
Girardi may have been whining when he suggested that the Yankees' loss in Game 2 could have been avoided if Jeff Nelson made the right call on Omar Infante getting caught past second base, which would have kept the Tigers' lead at 1-0, not 3-0, going to the bottom of the eighth. But the essence of his plea was on the money.
The part I liked the most was that Girardi said what I've been saying for at least two or three years — that MLB could put a review system in place for the playoffs without using it in the regular season.
"I mean, this is not a game in April,'' Girardi said. "I mean there are going to be things that happen in April, and a lot of times there's time (for calls to even out). But I mean, it is the best of seven and that's a hard thing to do. … Too much is at stake. We play 235 days to get to this point, and two calls go against us.''
Within baseball, there really hasn't been the cry for a broad use of replay that you hear in the media and the public, usually from fans who have just had a big call go against them. The baseball men who have the most influence on Commissioner Bud Selig — the guys like Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia — haven't pushed the commissioner to pick up the pace.
But when you create a round of playoffs in which the loser of one game goes home, as the Braves and two-time defending American League champion Rangers did after losing the wild-card game, it seems negligent to only review home run calls. You're putting umpires under the gun more than ever, and they've always been under the gun. Ask Don Denkinger.
Girardi made a lot of sense when he said:
"I just think it's available to us and I think it could be done fairly quickly.
"In this day and age when we have instant replay available to us, it has to change. These (umpires) are under tremendous amounts of pressure. It is a tough call for him because the tag is underneath and it's hard for him to see. And it takes more time to argue and get upset than (to) get the call right.''
"There is too much at stake, and the technology is available. That's what our country has done. We have evolved technology to make things better.''
More and more people, White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf among them, are becoming advocates of replay. Reinsdorf believes that change is best incrementally, and points out that MLB probably will add to the volume of replay with outfield fair and foul calls and possibly trapped catches becoming reviewable in 2013.
He agrees that you could have a broader level of replay in use for the playoffs than the regular season, pointing out that the use of six-man umpire crews sets a precedent for running games differently in the playoffs than the regular season.
The World Series starts in a week, and that's plenty of time to institute the replay system I suggested a few years back.
You keep the six-man crew but rotate two off the field and into a replay booth for every game. You put an umpire's supervisor with them to determine when a call shouild be examined. If he calls for a review, the two umpires quickly look at TV replays and vote — right call, wrong call. If they're unanimous on it being wrong, it is overturned.
All calls are subject to review, except those involving the home-plate umpire's strike zone. Checked swings that result in walks or strikeouts are reviewable, if the umpire supervisor — not the managers — asks for a review.
Girardi is right when he says expanded replay is "available'' and could be put in play quickly. It's time to make that happen, before the next time a missed call does decide a postseason game.
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