You either saw the fair ball hit by the Twins' Joe Mauer that was called foul by LF umpire Phil Cuzzi last night, or you've heard about it. The reason MLB has outfield umpires in the postseason -- something they don't do all year -- is to get calls like this right. Cuzzi blew it, and it might have cost the Twins the game, since Mauer would have been on second base (the ball bounced into the stands and would have been an automatic double) and the next two hitters singled. True, the Twins also blew a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation by not scoring, but they shouldn't have been in that position in the first place.
Yahoo's Jeff Passan writes about this today and makes what I think is exactly the right suggestion:
Take the cue from football. Use a red replay flag. Each team gets two per game. If the manager throws them too early, or misuses them, and can’t overturn a poor call later, it’s his mess. MLB likes to render decisions on home-run calls now in two or three minutes. One game’s replays, if all played, would consume 10 to 12 minutes – and might save time, too, presuming umpire-manager confrontations over blown calls would dip dramatically.
Back in July, a major league manager said this: "I’ve said all along that I want a red flag."
It was Ron Gardenhire. He manages the Twins. They had lost a brutal game, and he was tired of the lack of accountability. He wouldn’t bite on the replay question Friday. So instead, Gardenhire and the rest of the Twins unloaded on Cuzzi. His lone job as the left-field umpire – a position, along with right-field umpire, used only in the postseason – was to judge fair-foul calls down the line. Nothing more.
I couldn't agree more. For one thing, this would introduce more strategic decisions into the game, something that would enhance, not take away. Let's say a play like this happens in the second inning of a scoreless game. Does the manager throw one of his red flags then? Or save it for later? Good managers would learn how to manage their two challenges. It would virtually end the screaming matches we see when controversial calls are made, and eliminate the ejections and possible suspensions of players. Don't extend this to ball-and-strike calls, but anything else is fair game. Try it in spring training next year to see what happens. The existing replay system -- letting umpires look at disputed home runs -- has worked well. It could be decided later whether this would come under the "red flag" system or be separate.
But replay works well in the NFL and NHL and doesn't drag games out too long. Especially when the stakes are as high as they are in a postseason series, it's way past time to do it. (And especially when there were several blown calls in the Red Sox/Angels series, too.)
Complete info on today's games after the jump.
Tonight: A slight chance of snow and freezing drizzle before midnight. Patchy fog. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 20. East northeast wind between 6 and 9 mph becoming calm. Chance of precipitation is 10%.
Brrr. Not baseball weather.
If an overflow is needed, please post it in the FanShot section.
Discuss amongst yourselves.