In a roundabout way, perhaps we can thank Fox-TV for the latest evidence that replay review is not only useful, but necessary in modern-day baseball.
Last night's hit to the deep right-field corner by Alex Rodriguez, correctly ruled a home run after replay review, hit a TV camera that would not have been there during the regular season. The umpires had discussed this before the game had even begun:
Umpiring crew chief Gerry Davis said that the umpires had already determined while inspecting Citizens Bank Park prior to the game that a ball hitting the camera would be a home run. "Because we cannot control what the cameraman does with the camera, one of the specific ground rules is when the ball hits the camera, home run," he said.
And that made it easy. Four of the six umpires left the field; Fox showed all of us the monitor (geez, could they have made it any smaller?) on which the umpires review the play, and after a delay shorter than the ones in which Fox shows us those endlessly repetitive and ridiculous Blackberry ads, they returned, correctly calling it a home run. The Gordon Edes Yahoo column linked above quotes baseball's fearful leader:
Even as his umpires have come under unprecedented fire this October, baseball commissioner Bud Selig said he is reluctant to expand the use of replay.
"The more baseball people I talk to, there is a lot of trepidation about it and I think their trepidation is fair," Selig said in New York Tuesday. "I don’t want to overreact. You can make light of that but when you start to think you’re going to have more intrusions, it’s something that you have to be very careful about. Affecting the game on the field is not something I really want to do."
You don't want to affect the game on the field? You mean, you'd rather have your umpires make wrong calls, take hits and possibly runs and wins away from teams, and apologize profusely later, than get it right with a minimum of fuss? What kind of idiotic thinking is this?
Replay review is used in the three other major sports, with zero ill effects and, generally, praise for getting calls right. There is NO reason not to use it in baseball for everything except ball and strike calls (mostly because doing that would slow the game down untenably). This is particularly true since the current system of home run replay is not only used as it was last night, but also to determine, if questionable, whether a ball that has HR distance is fair or foul. How is this different than reviewing whether Joe Mauer's hit in Yankee Stadium in the division series is fair or foul? Why do one and not the other?
My proposal, which I know has been echoed or expanded on by many others here, is after the jump.
Each manager gets two "red flag" challenges to rulings on the field, which would be limited to: home runs, fair/foul calls, safe/out rulings, and trapped/caught fly balls or line drives. The red flag must be thrown before the next pitch; managers would have to make sure they pay close attention to questionable calls so they could throw the flag quickly. A fifth umpire would be stationed in the press box for review; this umpire would be part of the regular rotation of the crew, giving every umpire an every-5th-game break from field duty, and would also serve as official scorer. After the 7th inning of every game, the red flag system is eliminated and all close plays of this type are subject to mandatory review (similar to the NFL's mandatory review in the last two minutes). Just as in NFL review, replays would have to show conclusive evidence to overturn the ruling on the field.
I just don't see how anyone could be against a system like this. It gets things right; it does not unduly delay games (most games would have none of these, and even if all four manager challenges are used, you're talking about maybe two minutes per delay, eight minutes a game); it provides 15 more full-time umpiring jobs; and it would virtually eliminate manager ejections and suspensions (the time wasted in manager/umpire arguments has to be longer than any time that would be spent on review).
Wake up, Bud, and get it done. It's way past time.
Discuss amongst yourselves.