In lieu of The Filibuster this fine Sunday afternoon, let us bask in the fever pitch of the most exciting play in sports combined with some… er… awkward umpiring:
Whoopsie! And… YAY!… I mean, if you’re a Padres fan and all.
Shame on Kenley Jansen for 1) falling asleep on the mound 2) making a terrible throw home and 3) not covering home in a timely manner. Seems like that’s the recipe for a Donnie Baseball @$$ chewing. And by the look of those jaws, I wouldn’t want any part of that.
In recent days, my aloof and oft persnickety colleague, Mr. Krause, waxed on instant replay in baseball, making assumptions about my demeanor reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh calling out the obese.
Am I “old school” in my baseball philosophy? Yes. You could say that. But just like in any endeavor worth dedicating one’s life to, things change, and adaptations are necessary for survival.
Baseball needs instant replay. There are just too many important calls that get blown that could be remedied with a simple review of the tape. There are countless examples, but the two most devastating of recent memory include the Pirates/Braves 19th inning Jerry Meals fiasco of 2011 and Armando Gallaraga’s perfect game being robbed by Jim Joyce*. These are just two extreme examples, but blown calls happen quite frequently and they could be fixed just as easily as they fixed the home run by review situation.
Sure, baseball is a long, slow paced game. Sure doesn’t seem to stop people from caring about it though! Attendance is up, viewership via TV, computer, smartphone is at an all-time high. Does Mr. Krause seriously think that all the baseball nuts in the world are going to stop watching the game if it’s 5 minutes longer?!?!
Just get the call right. That’s what the fans care about. We want… the umps… TO GET IT RIGHT. That’s it. And now, deeply immersed in all avenues of technocracy, is the time to start implementing some of the modern tools that are there to make things better.
And no, constitutional scholars, this ain’t no slippery slope situation. Balls and strikes are not reviewable. Period.
Hate me ‘cuz I’m grounded in common sense, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
*Also, I am still not over Don Denkinger’s blown call from the 1985 Series. Some things take longer to heal.
In football, instant replay makes sense. Even with a team of seven officials covering each play, sometimes you just can’t be in the right place at the right time to make the right call when 22 guys are flying around at super-human speeds. What’s more amazing is how often they get the call right despite those circumstances. When it’s unclear whether or not they get it right, though, instant replay is there to confirm or overturn the call. The game goes on.
Reviewing close plays in baseball is a little more contentious. Generally I’m in favor of the evolution of the game, especially in contrast to my friend, Mr. Lung, who would prefer that all baseball players wear wool uniforms and be issued a chaw of chewing tobacco prior to the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. But official review is one place where I’m not so sure.
The problem is, baseball is already a slow-paced game. If you open it up to review, even that flow gets messed up. Even the limited official review capacity that now exists for home runs seems ridiculous. Either you make all plays reviewable or none at all. Honestly, although I’m all for baseball’s future facing development, review is not an area where I think that makes sense.
Review does make sense in the American Democratic system, though. Last week’s Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act proved that. More surprisingly, John Roberts showed himself to be a model Chief Justice in his Constitutional application and limited justification in the majority opinion. For me, it’s telling that although most Republicans are angry that the law was upheld, they’re not angry at Justice Roberts. In fact, he basically made it clear in his decision that although he may not agree with the policy aspects of the law, that it met the necessary threshold to be held constitutional.
That’s one of the beautiful things about our sometimes maddening and often baffling system of government. Laws get checked at three points by three different bodies and only after that process runs it course does the law go into effect. Granted, the application of the same system to baseball would mean that individual games could continue indefinitely but that’s why the choice of arbiter is so important. The Supreme Court doesn’t hear every single case that comes up through the courts or face challenges to every single law passed by Congress. It only deals with the game-changers, events that can redefine precedent or application or laws that are unclear.
Football is similar. Coaches choose when to throw the challenge flag and generally save it for events that are unclear, that could change the complexion of the game or that seem completely erroneous to them. They don’t always win but they at least have the option to challenge the initial ruling.
That’s one of the big areas where review in baseball fails. Yes, it’s not awful to review homeruns to make sure they were fair or be absolutely certain that a fan didn’t interfere. I’m sure there are quite a few Baltimore Orioles fans who wish that review had been in place in the 90’s. But what about that phantom final out of Armando Gallaraga’s almost perfect game? If Leyland had been able to challenge the ruling, Gallaraga would have had the mark and we wouldn’t still be talking about it. But, if you start making plays like that reviewable, it’s not long before you have to start making called strikes, check-swings and everything else reviewable, too. The fact of the matter is, it just isn’t feasible and if you can’t do it right, you shouldn’t be doing it all.
Here’s how I’d call it. Review: good for football, great for government but bad for baseball.
A few weeks ago, umpire Greg Gibson found himself on the wrong end of the following headline:
Which obviously begs the question, should Gibson now change his name, perhaps considering the following as an option?:
All kidding aside, umpires have a crappy job. Pretty much the only time anyone notices you is when you blow a perfect game or get nailed in the ‘nads by a Strasburg steamer. With the advent of the home run review system, the job got even crappier. As radar guns and pitch monitors get ever better, it’s probably only a matter of time before people start making noise about taking that responsibility away from the umps as well.
Today, though, on the day after Memorial Day, I just want to take a minute to salute the men in blue who put life, limb and the ability to procreate out there on the line everyday. Now, get yourself a pair of glasses, get back out there and try not to give this game away, too.
*Dear readers, pardon me while I step away from being an unbiased observer and put on my wrathful fanboy hat*
You are a 6-win team thus far, and while yes, your last two wins (unfortunately, against my World Champion St. Louis Cardinals) were full of drama, let us not forget: you suck.
But you wouldn’t know that watching your celebrations the last two nights. Unbridled bedlam. Unwarranted one-upsmanship. Beating your chests then dogpiling like you won the goddamned World Series?
Please. You were the beneficiary of TWO blown calls. Also, you are a terrible team.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t celebrate a walk-off victory, because it is only natural to do so. But there is celebration and then there is what you’ve done two days in a row: act like blithering fools.
Consider a touch of class, or at least a nod to the
baseball gods umpires who handed you a victory on Tuesday night.
Hate me ‘cuz I speak it straight, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
We learned many things from Jim Joyce, Armando Galarraga and the infamous Imperfect Game of June 2, 2010. We learned that throwing beer bottles at the wall may cause significant DAMAGE (to the beer bottle, possibly the wall too). We learned that styling one’s facial hair after the Pringles man cannot disguise MISTAKES. And we also learned that the best way to avoid controversy, is to AVOID controversy.
So when Philip Humber threw that wild 3-2 breaking ball two feet off the plate on Saturday and Brendan Ryan checked his swing, I felt all of the fury, all of the tension, all of the RAGE from the Imperfect Game ALL over again. Except homeplate umpire Brian Runge called it a swing, AJ Pierzynski threw the ball to first and the celebration began.
OH BUT THE CONTROVERSY!!!
In my house, I had a hard time celebrating Humber’s gem because I was already seeing the asterisk-calling headlines, I could already hear Mariners fans (all three of them) flooding the sports talk shows with vitriol. And as Brendan Ryan argued with Runge about the call, I knew it was time for me to go outside to get some fresh air before my phone started to blow up with imperfect texts.
Except… none of the above actually happened. Brendan Ryan dropped the subject. He tipped his cap and moved on. The networks — as if taken over by an Orwellian machine of greater good (a fantasy in itself) — didn’t even show the replays of Ryan’s checked swing. The Wizard said “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” and I — WE ALL — gleefully obliged, even though it sorta felt dirty doing so.
We owe that guilt-stained dirty feeling to Brendan Ryan. In fact, whether it is a good thing or not, Philip Humber’s perfect game will live on unscathed by controversy because Brendan Ryan simply let it go. He shut his mouth. He went about his business. And now we are to forget.
For a guy who was labeled as “a distraction” and a “clubhouse cancer” during his St. Louis Cardinal tenure, it’s nice to see Brendan being recognized for something else. Admittedly, I never would have bet it’d be for saying… nothing.
Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.
Last year the Pirates tried to put an end to my relentless attack of literary low blows. Shortly after the All-Star break they were atop the NL Central and my head was appropriately buried in the sand (not kidding; by the way, it sucks.)
But then came Jerry Meals’ blown call and down, down, DOWN came the Pirates, settling into yet another comfortably uncomfortable 90 loss season.
Look, I’ve been burned before too, so I sorta feel for Pittsburgh. At the same time, insanity is still doing the same things over and over again expecting different results, right? So why should anyone in Pirate land be surprised?
THE FRONT OFFICE AIN’T DOIN’ IT RIGHT.
With the exception of Andrew McCutchen in 2005, the last 20 first round draft picks taken by Pittsburgh is a who’s who list of overblown talent busts. Among the KINGS OF NOBODYLAND are the likes of Bobby Bradley (1999), John VanBenschoten (2001) and Bryan Bullington (2002) — great sounding names, but swings and misses nonetheless.
Neal Huntington and the rest of the front office can say they’re doing things differently, but as long as they keep hoping Pedro Alvarez spends as much time perfecting his baseball tools as he does looking at the ground feeling sorry for himself, I’m afraid they have a long way to go.
Isn’t it about time they bring up those two Indian dudes?
Hate me. It’s all good. Just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.