Friday, October 21, 2011

What if There Was Instant Replay (Part 2)?

I'm really reaching for controversies here, but I guess that's kind of a good thing, right? In Part 1, I discussed the Victor Martinez HBP controversy from game two of the ALCS. In this post, I'm going to discuss a couple of potential controversies that occurred late in the NLCS and early in the World Series.

In the top of the 9th of Wednesday night's game one of the World Series, Adrian Beltre topped a grounder off his left toe. Or, so it seemed. The ball really didn't significantly change direction, and home plate umpire Jerry Layne ruled it a fair ball as Cardinals third baseman Daniel Descalso threw Beltre out at first for the second out of the inning.

Replays weren't exactly conclusive either, but Fox's new infrared view apparently showed the ball had nicked Beltre's toe. So, if the infrared evidence is considered reliable enough, this one could have been overturned.

But, what I also think instant replay proved was that Beltre's reaction was instantaneous. That is, he immediately reacted as if the ball had hit him. Since I don't think there are any major league players—except maybe Derek Jeter—who are that good at acting, and because I know umpires are trained to go on the reactions of players in such situations, I think the replay would have been enough to overturn the call and give Beltre's at bat new life. 

Since there were no runners on base, but more importantly, since the potential reversal would result in a dead ball situation, this would have been an easy change to apply.

That one was easy, but I also want to go back a few days to game six of the NLCS. In the bottom of the 5th, with Carlos Gomez on third and no outs, Ryan Braun hit a slow bouncer to Albert Pujols at first. Pujols fielded the ball cleanly, but had to dive to tag Braun, who attempted a head-first slide into first. The ruling on the field was out, but one particular angle of the replay clearly showed Braun had beat the tag.

Since the runner from third had gone on contact, he had reached the plate by the time the play was made, so a reversal of the call would not have any effect on that outcome. The run would have scored whether Braun was safe or out. However, I'm going to play a little what-if game here.

The runner was Carlos Gomez, one of the fastest men in baseball. So, for the sake of example, let's suppose he was on first base instead of third, and that there were two outs instead of none. With the ball hit so slowly, it would not be out of the realm of possibility that the speedy Gomez would have rounded second and taken 2-3 steps toward third by the time the tag was applied on Braun. With Braun being called out—for the third out—in live action, there would be no reason for Pujols to concern himself with Gomez's attempted advance to third.

But, with the call being reversed after reviewing instant replay, the question would be, what to do with Gomez? There probably was no chance that Pujols, who had to dive to make the tag on Braun, would have been able to get back up and prevent Gomez from going to third, but the fact remains he was only a few steps past second at that moment. Is this another judgment the use of replay would force the umpires to make? This may not seem like a big issue, but once again, we're entering into dangerous territory here...settling one controversy, while potentially creating another.

I'm certainly not trying to throw a wet blanket over the concept of expanded use of instant replay in Major League Baseball. In fact, I'm 100% in favor of the idea. But, I suspect being able to work out all the potential complications that could be created, and to write these contingencies into the rule book, is a factor in how slow the commissioner's office has been to react.

1 comment:

  1. I'm in favor of expanded use of replay, too, if even if it slows down the game even more.

    Your analysis of the zillions of permutations of replay situations is dead on. There's a lot to consider, all of which argues for simple, straightforward concepts to be used in coming up with whatever rules they decide on.