Blown Series call shows it's time to expand replay
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Don Denkinger was watching at home, saw the blown call at first base and winced.
As did baseball fans everywhere.
"That's a nightmare for an umpire," he said Sunday. "You hate to see that happen to anyone."
He would know. All these years later, he still gets an earful from St. Louis fans angry about his miss at first base in the 1985 World Series.
Back then, the technology wasn't too refined, there weren't too many remedies to correct mistakes.
So how about now? What about more instant replay?
"It's time, especially for the World Series," he said. "You can't get an argument out of me."
Hard to imagine anyone would dispute that these days. No further review needed: Enough is enough.
Ron Kulpa's admitted missed call at first base Saturday night wasn't the reason the Texas Rangers got routed by the Cardinals in Game 3. Albert Pujols was the story, clearly.
But after another glaring call went wrong, and millions of fans saw right away that it indeed was wrong, the reasons Major League Baseball keep offering against replay are harder and harder to understand.
Mostly, the pace of the game is the issue. An overblown issue, really, in an era where every hitter seems to step out of the batter's box, catchers wear out the grass with trips to the mound, and TV commercials add about 10 minutes to postseason games.
Besides, look around.
The NFL reviews all scoring plays. The NBA, NHL and Grand Slam tennis use replay.
A sensational ending in the Wisconsin-Michigan State game Saturday night was decided by a replay that overturned a call at the goal line. No one argued; the call was right.
As it stands, MLB only uses replay to check on potential home runs. Next season, it's expected replay will be extended to fair-or-foul calls and trapped balls.
That's good, but not far enough. Particularly in October, when a game can tilt in the blink of an eye.
Texas manager Ron Washington never blamed his team's 16-7 drubbing on Kulpa failing to see Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli slather a tag on Matt Holliday a full step short of the bag. Before Game 4, Washington still supported umps making the calls, and made a suggestion.
"I always believed in this game being the human type of game, you know, umpires are human. They can't always be right, and they make mistakes and you have to play around them," he said.
"We brought in instant replay for the home run. I think in the World Series for plays like last night, maybe we can find a way to get the play right," he said. "All I want is to get the play right, that's all."
How to do it, well, there would be ways. Remember, the other major sports figured that out.
Maybe have an MLB supervisor in the ballpark to quickly review calls, at least in the postseason. Troubled about the pace of the game? It takes more time for managers to come out for arguments than it would take to check calls. Fact is, umpires rarely miss anything, it's not as if there's going to be a parade to a replay booth.
Concerned that television replays might not show something for sure? That's OK. Stick to the premise the NFL employs, that the evidence must be conclusive. That would eliminate ball-and-strike calls — those virtual strike zones that TV shows are subject to interpretation and not 100 percent accurate.
Worried that weird situations would develop about where to put runners and such? Umpires on the field can solve that.
Have a problem with using expanded replay only for the playoffs and World Series, with people saying baseball is treating those games like they're more special? Well, they are. That's why they have special rules for postseason rain delays.
Challenge flags or buzzers in the dugouts or whatever. That can be decided later. More important is to put something in place to ensure calls that can be corrected are fixed.
"Nobody wants to be embarrassed," said former ump Randy Marsh, now an MLB umpire executive.
Joe Torre has spent most of his life in baseball, as an MVP player, a championship manager, a popular broadcaster and now as executive vice president of baseball operations.
He called a news conference Sunday to defend Kulpa, who was born in St. Louis and grew up as a Cardinals fan. Torre objected to a question the previous night from a pool reporter provided by The Associated Press, who started a question with: "You being from St. Louis."
Kulpa cut off the question, responding, "Has nothing to do with it."
Torre took a while, too, to talk about replay. Mainly, about why baseball doesn't use it more often.
"I don't want people to think we're stubborn about this," he said.
Problem is, that's exactly how it looks. Previously reluctant to add replay, Commissioner Bud Selig instituted it during the 2008 season for home run calls.
Hasn't hurt the game at all. Improved it, if anything.
'Bout time for baseball to take another look, too.