MLB gets it wrong on replay system


Apr 13, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) argues with umpire Bob Davidson (61) after being thrown out of the game against the New York Yankees during the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

This is it? After years of bickering, this is what we get? In its first month of implementation, MLB’s replay system has been both tedious and confusing to the point of madness. And no one knows this better than John Farrell and the Boston Red Sox.

In the first game of yesterday’s Fenway doubleheader, Dustin Pedroia came screaming into home plate after a David Ortiz double thumped off the wall. Instead of plowing into catcher Jose Molina, he slid feet first in front of the tag. “Out!” said first base umpire Toby Basner, who was wheeling around on the play. But was Pedroia safe? Farrell challenged the call. The review was “inconclusive.” The call stood up.

“I don’t know what inconclusive means,” said Pedroia. “Maybe that means someone doesn’t want to make a decision.”

Jake Peavy referred to the situation as “embarrassing” and “a joke.” He’ll be fined.

While many of the calls have been inconclusive in 2014, this jury has returned its verdict on the MLB replay system: it stinks.

Alex Speier joined Joe Castiglione in the booth last night and pointed out the lack of transparency with the system. When Joe asked why the calls couldn’t be more specific — either “safe” or “out” — Speier inferred that would be a problem with the umpires’ union. Add that to the fact the entire operation is cloaked in secrecy – we don’t know who makes the calls in New York – and Peavy’s right; it is a joke. If the manager wants an explanation, he can expect a fine before he talks with an actual human being about the decision-making process.

Speier’s closing point on the topic: why delay the game just to deem a play “inconclusive?”  It’s not worth overturning one call out of ten if every game is bogged down by the review process. Baseball games are already long enough.

Further, what kind of rinky-dink operation is this? The TV broadcast shows a variety of angles. The fans see the replay on the video board. The radio team is able to look at the tape and tell the listener what’s up. And the umpires in New York — in a familiar refrain — shrug and suggest they can’t see what happened. What, is Abraham Zapruder their video guy? Do their computers run on Windows 95? How do they not have access to footage that allows them to make a conclusive ruling?

Take, for example, two Red Sox games against the Orioles at Fenway Park over Easter weekend. In the first at-bat of the Friday night game, Nick Markakis loops a ball down the line off John Lackey. The umpire calls it fair. The camera shows it is foul. Farrell challenges, but the call stands. Lackey eventually cedes a run and the Sox are in a hole. How in the world did they miss that?

In the Easter Sunday game, Pedroia knocks one off the top of the wall for a home run. No, wait. It’s a double. Yes. A double. That’s it.

We all know who MLB is trying to mimic by having a replay crew in a central location: the NHL. But hockey officials do it efficiently; more importantly, they come to a conclusion. With this system, MLB is going the way of the NFL and it’s arduous review process that chews up clock. And the NFL rulebook is a mess. Do we want that in baseball?

My answer is a resounding, “no!”

Clean it up, MLB. Get it right, umps. Or show this system the door.