Let’s See That Again
You probably remember the scene well. It was game two of the 2005 ALCS, 9th inning, two out and no one on with AJ Pierzynski at the plate. He swung and missed at strike three. Catcher Josh Paul caught the pitch with part of his glove in the dirt, and umpire Doug Eddings called Pierzynski out on strikes. Naturally, the Angels players started to leave the field and Paul threw the ball towards the mound.
Having been called out, Pierzynski started towards the dugout, but then suddenly he ran to first believing Paul had trapped the ball. The home plate umpire said the catcher had trapped the ball and therefore called Pierzynski safe at first. A pinch runner, a stolen base, and an RBI double later, the Sox won the game and went on to win the series.
It was a close call, but everyone not named Pierzynski seems to believe now that the wrong call was made. Paul argued that not only did he catch the ball cleanly, but that the umpire will yell “no catch” if the ball hits the dirt before the glove and no such call was made.
Granted, the loss only pulled the Sox even with the Angels so it wasn’t as if it were game seven. However, I believe it’s justifiable to say that it created a huge shift in the series.
I seem to recall that there were several controversial calls in the playoffs that year, and it brought the question of using instant reply to the forefront for baseball. While the owners had already voted in favor of exploring the options earlier this year, the debate fired up again with some blown home run calls just a few weeks ago.
People are divided as to what the league should do. Everyone wants the right call to be made, but many are worried it will negatively affect the game. Bud Selig keeps saying that it’s the human element that makes baseball unique. I always find that answer a bit strange because last I checked all of our major sports were played and regulated by humans.
And if instant replay is incorporated, there’s the tricky question of how it should be done.
I agree you can’t use it on every controversial call, especially for balls and strikes. The game would never end. So the “any call” option just doesn’t seem viable.
The most common solution heard is that it should be used for just home runs and fair or foul. No, that won’t prevent what happened in the AJ Pierzynski incident, but it’s a good place to start.
Naturally, it’s a complex issue and there are a lot of details that would need to be sorted out. For example, how will the team call for a replay? Will the manager throw a bag of DAVID Sunflower Seeds on the field when he wants to challenge a call? And will the team be charged with another out if the call is upheld?
But just because it’s complicated doesn’t mean it should be abandoned. A blown call is frustrating for a team and the fans at any point, and it’s never good to see a team win or lose because of a wrong call.
To me, the integrity of the game requires using instant replay now. The possibility of changing the outcome of a game due to a bad call should be unacceptable. Sure, a team can probably overcome that over the course of a season, depending on the importance of the loss. But one horrible call in the playoffs can change the whole championship picture, and that only hurts the sport.
It’s become enough of an issue to where MLB has said they will start experimenting with the options, and as a fan I commend them for doing that. If incorporated correctly and appropriately, I believe the sport will be better for it.