(Disclaimer: I hate baseball, but let’s be honest. There isn’t very much to do this summer for a rabid Giants fan. The Knicks and Rangers are quite possibly the two biggest salary cap nightmares in professional sports. I loathe Bud Selig. I loathe the steroid era, and don’t get how anyone is over it yet. I hate being unable to enjoy the team I grew up with because it’s literally impossible for them to overachieve.)
(Disclaimer 2: I’ve also had a very rough 36 hours. This is probably going to come across strong.)
Unless you’ve been living under a sports rock, you’ve heard about the call that blew history, the kumbaya that happened afterward, and the packaging and marketing to the general public by the media that this is a lesson we should all learn (Thanks, media :D). Several things pissed me off about this:
1) Calls get blown. I get it. It’s a reality. However, everyone knew the connotation of this particular out as soon as there were 2 outs in the 9th. For all four of these umpires not to be on top of their game at any point in this inning is reprehensible. He blew that call by a full step. This doesn’t have the ramifications of a blown call at any random point during a postseason game, but it is a worse margin of error because everyone in that building knew the extenuating circumstances long before there was a judgment to be made.
2) Because the ramifications were concrete and evident before, during, and after the play, there was positively no reason the umpires couldn’t conference. I was at Shea in 2007 when David Wright hit a home run off the top of the centerfield wall that was ruled a triple. They conferenced. They got the call right. The Mets hit back-to-back-to-back home runs for the first time in 18 years and still lost at home in 10 innings (lawl). Not nearly as important or historical or anything, but they took the time out to get it right on a call blown by a smaller margin of error. Nothing needed to change about the way umpiring is currently done to have overturned that call and it was still blown. The whole crew really needs to apologize, not just Joyce. Again, everyone knew what was at stake before the first pitch of that at-bat was thrown, how did conferencing not cross anyone’s mind? If indeed Joyce had the pride in doing the job right he barked about in the post-game presser, I think it would have been effective.
3) Everyone’s in love with how everyone handled the situation. I have a problem with that: we’re choosing conviction over getting the call right. He’s allowed to make a mistake. They’re allowed to interpret the injustice of the situation however they wish. No one would have faulted Leyland for going out there, cursing his head off and getting ejected for the cause. This was handled in a classy fashion, but this is not a situation to fall in love with. No one goes to games to see umpires. It should be inconsequential that their feelings get hurt by a little assistance. NFL, NBA, and NHL officials deal with it just fine, and they don’t have nearly the sample size of games to play with to really get an efficient replay system working to their liking. It’s just inane to put pride ahead of a cleanly played game, particularly when the credibility of your sport is at an all-time low.
So here’s how I think it should work, if for no other reason than to offer a solution after 600 words of pointing out the problem:
Establish “Home Plate Domain” – No one fucks with balls and strikes. Ever. At least not until they invent a cool laser 3D projector thingy for the strike zone… Ok, never.
Managers don’t get to challenge – Every review comes from a replay ump a la 2-minute drill in the NFL. No exceptions. To disrupt the tradition of a manager coming out and getting his money’s worth would really be the biggest travesty of a replay system.
Three types of calls can be overturned: fair or foul, in or out of play (already reviewed), and force outs.
A ball that was called foul and deemed fair awards the hitter first base, and you don’t assume a double kinda like you don’t assume a double play scoring an error.
That would cover the vast majority of the bang-bang stuff umps miss simply because they’re human, streamline the process so it only adds seconds to the game when it’s needed, and preserves as much of the traditional elements of baseball that make controversial calls like this the fun that they are…
…only instead of handling it with class, we simply handle it right. It’s time for a change.