I'm convinced. Baseball needs instant replay.
What prompted me to this conclusion? Well today's Mets/Cubs game of course.
Here's what happened. John Maine gets himself in a little jam in the third inning. He has runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs and Ted Lilly at the plate.
Lilly bunts the ball to Carlos Delgado who goes to third on the play looking to get the force out. He bobbles it a little but still gets the ball over to Wright in time for the force.
Well at least the replay showed that. But the 3rd base umpire didn't see the play and only called Jacque Jones out when Wright applied a tag to him after he overshot the bag. If Jones would have been thinking right away and went back to the bag before he got tagged, he would have been called safe.
So the Mets got the out anyway and weren't burned by a bad call by the ump. But imagine if the ump hadn't called Jones out? It would have been bases loaded and no outs - a far worse situation than runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out.
Okay, moving along in the inning. Soriano grounds out to Maine, moving the base runners to 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. Up comes Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot.
Theriot grounds a slow roller to Jose Reyes, who grabs the ball and fires a laser to 1st. What's the call? Safe. Cubs take the lead 1-0.
After that, the floodgates open and the Cubbies go on to score 6 runs in the inning, knocking Maine out of the game and essentially putting it out of reach.
Here's the problem. Theriot was out a 1st. Clearly. Without a doubt. No question about it. Replays showed that Delgado had the ball in his glove securely while Theriot's foot was still in the air.
This was the turning point in the game. Instead of getting out of the inning unscathed, that bad call by the 1st base umpire directly led to 6 Cubs runs.
So I think it's time for Major League Baseball to get with the program and move into the 21st century with the rest of the pro sports community. Baseball is the only major sport without an instant replay system. Even the NBA has instant replay!
I understand that the umpires have a tough job... and I'm not advocating instant replay for balls and strikes. Strike zones, by their very nature, are subjective to begin with. It's up to the pitchers and batters to adjust to what's being called.
But for force outs and close tag plays, why not? How many times a week do you see an umpire get a close play at first wrong? Or call a runner out at second who clearly slid in ahead of the tag? Too frequently for my liking.
So what should MLB do? Here's what I think.
First, adopt a challenge system similar to the NFL's. You get 2 challenges a game. In football if you challenge and the play is upheld, you lose a timeout. For baseball, if you challenge and the play is upheld, you lose your second challenge. This seems fair.
Also put a limit on the number of challenges a team can make in a year. Let's say 20. That way crazy managers like La Russa and Pinella can't go hog-wild with the challenges.
Next, stipulate which plays can be challenged and which ones can't. Balls and strikes, balk calls, check swings and fair/foul balls that remain in play are a few I can think of off hand that should not be challenged.
So what should be challenged? Fair/Foul ball homeruns, tag plays, force outs and fan interference all should be able to be challenged.
You may say, "Why not be able to challenge all fair/foul ball calls?" Think about it. Let's say an umpire calls a ball foul that remains in the field of play. Then replays show that the ball was fair. What are you going to do, give the batter a single or a double? How many bases do runners who were already on base advance? 1? 2? There's too much uncertainty involved with this situation.
However, if a batter hits a homerun that goes fair/foul there can only be 2 outcomes. Either the ball is foul or it's a homerun. Plain and simple. This also goes for balls that hit over the fence and are clearly homeruns (like if they clear the yellow line on the fence) but are not called so.
Also, fan interference should be reviewable. No more Jeffrey Maier's having more of an impact on the game than the players themselves.
Baseball almost headed in this direction after the 2005 playoffs which saw A.J. Pierzynski be awarded 1st base after he ran to first on a third strike that he thought hit the dirt. Replays showed it was caught cleanly. The White Sox were able to keep the inning going and eventually win the game.
What did Bud Selig have to say about it?
"Yes, we had some incidents that certainly need to be looked at. So I'm not minimizing them. But do I believe in instant replay? No, I do not,'' Selig said. "Human error is part of our sport.''
Yes Bud, human error persists in baseball. But the key word is "error." And an error of any kind is wrong. Errors are meant to be fixed. Bud needs to fix it.
So that's it. Baseball needs instant replay in the worst way. I think the Mets would agree after what happened today. Holla back!