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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reviewing Replay-gate

It’s as if the Phillies couldn’t have left their final game at the Florida Marlins soon-to-be ex-home field without the threat of having to return. It’s always looked like a dump for baseball on television, and the Phillies seem to struggle when they go there. Plus, one rain delay per game is practically a requirement.

But the Phillies may actually have to return to Sun Life Stadium (originally Joe Robbie Stadium, aka Dolphins Stadium) thanks to a Hunter Pence fly ball that was interfered with by fans reaching over the fence and interfering with Marlins outfielder Bryan Petersen’s attempt to catch the ball. If you actually haven’t seen the video, I’ve embedded a YouTube video of the play below. (Here’s a link to it on mlb.com for when Major League Baseball yanks it off YouTube.)

The Phillies seemed to have runners on second and third in the top of the sixth inning of a 2-2 game. Instead, after umpires – led by the infamous Joe West – looked at the replay, Pence was called out and Ryan Howard, on first when the ball was hit, was sent back to first. The Phillies eventually lost, 5-4, in 14 innings.

The Phillies played the game under protest and officially filed that protest yesterday, claiming replay was used improperly.

There are so many things to react to, it’s almost hard to keep track:

·       West did the right thing, whether he’s supposed to use replay in the way it was used or not. The fan absolutely interfered, and it would be ridiculous to let something like that stand.

·       Technically, the Phillies probably should win the protest from what I’ve read. My understanding is that umpires can only check replay if there is a question as to whether or not the hit was a home run. That was never being argued. No umpire signaled that it was a home run and Charlie Manuel never argued until after the umps looked at the replay.

Umpires seem to be circling the wagons on this issue, suggesting West had the right to raise the home run question himself, but it was obvious that wasn’t what happened. Charlie Manuel even said, “It bothers me because I already had been thrown out of the game and it was after the decision that they went to the review. . . . I wasn’t even arguing about that. I was arguing about the reason they went to it. . . . You can see on the film that I don’t talk to him until after the decision.”

West even said, “I had two managers on the field. . . . One of them was arguing that they wanted an out, and the other was arguing that he wanted a home run.” Well, somebody’s lying. I’m pretty sure it’s West.

·       The Phillies shouldn’t pursue the protest anyway. Due to rainouts, they don’t have a day off for the rest of the season and play two doubleheaders in that stretch. After beating the Braves last night, they lead Milwaukee for the NL title by 6 ½ games. They don’t need to stretch their pitchers any more. Plus, unless they just collapse, the potential win won’t mean anything.

·       Fans are becoming bigger and bigger idiots. These particular dopes were actually Phillies fans according to what they were wearing. Now, I think Petersen catches the ball any way, but it wasn’t guaranteed. It’s asinine to knowingly screw your so-called favorite team out of a potential big play, and it’s happening more and more. People are more interested in being on TV and having all their friends call and text them, as these guys were clearly shown doing during the dispute, than they are in their team winning. It’s the “everyone’s a star” mentality of the YouTube generation.

·       Baseball really has to do something about fans interfering. Give up a row of seating if they have to or put fencing at the top of the wall around the stadium. I know people will whine about losing the intimacy of the game, but tough. It’s got to stop.

·       Finally, this controversy points out that baseball needs to update its use of replay. If they’re going to have any replay, an umpire absolutely has to have the ability to correct a call in the field that is blatantly wrong. Managers should also have a challenge system similar to what the NFL employs. Balls and strikes have to be omitted from the system for the sake of time, but if the strike zone graphic used in national broadcasts works, I don’t see why umpires aren’t using it in some sort of hand held device.

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