Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Three Dead Days (And Problems With Replay)

Good morning, Fackers. Last night Huston Street joined Ryan Franklin, Joe Nathan and Jonathan Papelbon among the club of closers who gagged games in this year's LDSes, and alongside Paps did so in a game that would have kept the series alive. Praise be to Mo.

In the process, Street allowed the Phillies to clinch their second straight berth in the NLDS, setting up a rematch of last year between the Phils and the Dodgers. This ended the first round of the playoffs in a record-tying and brutally efficient 13 games.

Not that there weren't some surprises (The Cardinals and Red Sox getting swept) and dramatic games during the Divison Series (last night's seesaw affair, Game 3 at Fenway, Games 2 & 3 of the Yanks & Twins and the Holliday game in Chavez Ravine), but now we are left with the equivalent of a second All-Star break during the span of a week and a half.

Is the answer expanding the Division Series to 7 games? Matt from Circling the Bases thinks so. I wrote a "Commissioner for a Day" post from IIATMS way back in January and this was the one change that I said I would institute. It creates some new problems with the length of the season and creates a wider variance between a 4 game sweep and a 7 game series, possibly leading to more down time for teams that sweep, but if you cut out any off days that aren't necessary for travel, it wouldn't be that much of an issue. Maybe two games would need to be played at the same time on occasion, but the additional games would create more opportunities for revenue than there were to begin with.

Anyway, as it is, there will be nearly three full blank days between the final out last night and the first pitch of the NLCS on Thursday. Even worse, the ALCS doesn't start until Friday night, giving us Yanks fans an entire work week to twiddle our thumbs and talk about things other than our favorite team participating in actual baseball games. (I suppose it could be worse. At least we're not Red Sox fans... ZING!)

One of those things that's sure to be talked about this week is instant replay. We were on top of it after Game 1 of the Red Sox series, but the topic really exploded after Phil Cuzzi's call on Friday and has been a hot button issue ever since, with more and more bad calls beginning to stack up.

Yesterday, Ken Rosenthal talked to Grandpa Selig and (surprise!) he doesn't want to look into expanding instant replay, citing the same dumb arguments ("the human element is vital to baseball") that have always been made but never made actual sense. (It's vital to baseball to get calls wrong?) He deemed the mistakes that took place during the Division Series "controversial", which amusingly implies that there were multiple ways in which they could have been interpreted.

Ol' Bud also had this to say with respect to replay:
We need to do a little work, clean up some things. But do I think we need more replay? No. Baseball is not the kind of game that can have interminable delays.
Once again, replay doesn't have to take forever. If you adpot a moronic red flag challenge system instead of having an additional replay umpire in every stadium or at least a consolidated replay review center somewhere, it wouldn't take that long. This isn't about time.

And despite what cranky Uncle Bud tells you, baseball is pretty much the only game that can and does have interminable delays. Sort of like the 3 (or in the Yanks and Angels' case 5) days between live action we are facing right now. Kind of like the never-ending commercial breaks on TBS. Within games, we allow pitchers to warm up indefinitely when replacing an injured player. We wait hours for storms pass and play to resume. We allow managers to use an unlimited amount pitchers in one inning. At one point during the Yanks game on Friday, there were four mound conferences in the span of six pitches. A baseball game can theoretically continue forever so long as the score remains tied because there is no clock.

You want to talk about legitimate issues with instituting replay? Here's one via Baseball Think Factory:
How the heck would replay work on fair/foul calls down either line? Sure the Mauer hit went into the stands and was a groundrule double, so its obvious where he would have ended up if the call were correct, but how often does that happen?
The same issue would apply to balls that were incorrectly deemed caught or trapped in the outfield. Would the umpires have to figure out where the runners would have ended up if the ball in fact hit the ground first? What if the ball was ruled a hit but was actually caught and one of the runners was far enough off the bag where he'd have been easily doubled up?

The cleanest way to settle it would be to give the batter first and have each runner advance one base. Or if it was actually a catch, call the batter out and have the runners return to their bases. But in the first scenario, there's still a good chance that the batter is getting screwed out of a double or possibly and RBI in the transaction. In the second, a baserunner could get away with a huge mistake. You can bet that managers are going to be out there arguing their cases and wasting our collective time if they are on the short end of either of those. We're still not "getting the call right" which is what the proponents of replay (like myself) are fighting in the name of anyway.

Unfortunately, it's not going to be as easy as having the guy upstairs simply and neatly dispose of erroneous calls after they happen. More unfortunately though, we are fans of a game in which our commissioner doesn't have the same level of insight into the game of the first poster on a comment thread discussing his quotes.

You get the feeling that if this was David Stern or Roger Goodell (each of whom hasn't been afraid to institute changes to their respective leagues - like Stern lengthening the Division Series in the NBA Playoffs), they'd be the ones pointing out the technical issues - whether it was them or someone on their staff who realized it. But it's Bud Selig, who is clinging to to the memories he has of watching Christy Mathewson and Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown engage in their first legendary duel at the Polo Grounds back in 1904, when he was only 35 years old. And because of the extension he gave himself, we're stuck with this asshole through 2012!

This Bud's for you! (And you and you and you...)

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