Sunday, October 16, 2005

After Further Review ...

Saturday night in the ALCS the home plate umpire missed another call that went to the detriment of the Los Angeles Angels. In the bottom of the second, Steve Finley's swing was obstructed by AJ Pierzynksi's (who else?) glove, which should have awarded Finley first base, leaving the Angels in a bases loaded, one out situation. Instead, Finley, who still hit the ball despite the interference, grounded into a double play, in part because he was arguing the catcher's interference as he ran down the basepath.

Both this call and the one Wednesday night have prompted calls for the use of instant replay in baseball to correct errant calls by the umpires. I'm not a supporter of instant replay, but neither am I strongly against it. (Why do my views matter, you might ask? After the Revolution, I will install myself as Minister of Speech, and aggrandize to that position regulation of all sports, so I'll be like Bud Selig, Paul Tagliabue and David Stern wrapped into one ... except with an army. So pay attention). The recent controversy has prompted me to start thinking about how you would implement instant replay into the game.

As a threshold matter, among all sports, instant replay seems most easily included in baseball, given the number of natural pauses in the game. We wait for pitching changes, visits to the mound, broken bats, rain, beach balls ... hell, we even waited for Mike Hargrove to fix his batting gloves ... every single pitch. We can wait for the umps to check the replay.

But how would it work? What types of calls could be reviewed? Here's my list of things that could NOT be reviewed: balls and strikes, balks. That's it. I think foul tips, hit batsmen, dropped third strikes :-) should all be fair game, as should everything else. I can't think of any other call that would be difficult or useless to review, so let 'em all in.

If you can let nearly all things be reviewed, then you need some control on when plays get reviewed. I think an umpire's discretion rule might work, meaning that it is solely the umpires' call whether to review a play. Managers could request a review, but unless the umpires' agreed, no review.

If you wanted to give the manager's some control, you might do like the NFL and give them a set number of challenges. I think 2 is the right number. They could be used at any time. If you get it right, you only lose the challenge. But what happens if you get the challenge wrong? What should be the penalty? How about this -- you must replace a player on the field or in your lineup if you are wrong. This would be the kind of penalty that does not directly affect the game -- like an automatic out or ball/strike, but it would be serious, especially late in the game. That would probably deter most frivolous challenges.

What do you think? I've put about 8 minutes of thought into this plan, so it must be foolproof. :) Clever or humourous suggestions will be rewarded with a sinecure in the future Ministry of Speech, Office of Sports Regulation.


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