Let’s see that again: Time for instant replay

Tommy Collins

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Storylines like the possible repeat of the Philadelphia Phillies and Alex Rodriguez actually performing in the playoffs have created a dramatic and entertaining post-season for Major League Baseball.

Polluting one of the best post-seasons in recent memory, though, is the easily fixable problem that has stolen the spotlight and is hurting the integrity of professional baseball. The umpires are influencing the outcome of games by making blatant errors that instant replay would never miss.

Baseball’s Commissioner Bud Selig needs to push the owners to adopt instant replay on close calls at the foul lines, bases and home-run walls for this year’s World Series.  Selig  forcing the change now will prevent bad calls from playing a role in determining the 2009 world champions. 

In this year’s American League division series between the Minnesota Twins and the New York Yankees, Twins catcher Joe Mauer hit a line drive to left field in the 11th inning. Instant replay showed the ball clearly landed inches inside the foul line. But the umpire, who is not allowed to access the instant replay seen by everyone else, got it wrong and took away a crucial hit. 

And in this year’s American league championship series between the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels, the umpires made three obvious mistakes in a 10-1 win for New York.

First, Nick Swisher of the Yankee’s was called safe on a pickoff play at second base, when instant replay clearly showed he was not.

Then, Swisher was called out at third base for leaving too early after a fly ball, when instant replay again clearly showed he did not.

The most obvious of the three blatant errors, though, was what should have been a double play at third base but was called as only one out.

This isn’t some new or isolated problem. Baseball is as precision-oriented a sport as exists. What other sport has a rule like ‘the tie goes to the runner’ or  a baserunner must tag up before advancing off of a pop fly?

Last year, the league adopted instant replay to use on home run calls, but left the rest up to the judgment of the umpires. This ‘human element’ in the game has become nothing short of a nuisance. The results of these games are tainted because the umpires made incorrect calls. Yes, it is America’s past-time and nobody wants to disrupt those traditions. But the traditions held dear to many never included making crucial errors.

Opponents argue that instant replay would slow down the pace of play and lengthen the game. Granted, it might add five to 10 minutes to confirm a few close calls in what is already a three plus hour game. What are a few more minutes, though, when it means a fair and credible outcome?

By adopting instant replay for the World Series, Major League Baseball would instantly correct this problem and re-affirm the credibility of the officiating as well as the integrity of the game.

The Hilltop Views sports column, ‘Five Minute Major,’ appears every other week in the sports section and is written by Co-Editor-in-Chief Tommy Collins.