Friday, October 9, 2009

Holliday, Bucknor, Buckner & Instant Replay

Mornin' Fackers. You can change that to "good morning" if you're not a Cardinals or a Red Sox fan.

On one hand, you could be a genteel Midwesterner who just saw his or her team send two Cy Young Candidates to the mound on consecutive nights and are now facing an elimination game. You would also have had to witness Matt Holliday, a player that everyone had grown quite fond of and had been mentioned in conjunction with a long term deal, drop a routine ball that would have ended the game. In all fairness, he did hit a home run in the second inning, but will inevitably be identified as the goat of the Cardinals' 2009 postseason if they don't somehow come back to win the next three.

The play was compared to Bill Bucker's, but this game wasn't tied. If Holliday gloves that routine shallow fly instead of letting it deflect off his wrist and hit him in the balls, the game is over. Literally over. There were two outs and that would have been the third. But contrary to what Will Leitch wants you to think, Ryan Franklin still shares a bunch of the blame for giving up four straight baserunners after that and completing the gag. It's a short series so the difference between 1-1 and 2-0 is cavernous and to lose the game like that is a gut punch of epic proportions.

On the other hand you could be a surly Bahhstonian, either bitching about the umpiring or having to listen to a bunch of other people do it. At one point on Twitter last night, CB Bucknor was a trending topic. (If you're not familiar with Twitter, that means it was one of the 10 most common words or phrases being tweeted). Not typically a good sign for an umpire. Bucknor's Wikipedia page was vandalized and he was compared to Bill Buckner, pretty much the worst insult that can be levied by Red Sox Nation. I don't think he's going to get much of a welcome when he shows up at Fenway.

So what really went down? There were three calls that went against the Red Sox. Torii Hunter got a generous call from Joe West in the 3rd that should have been strike three and the end of the inning but instead loaded the bases for the Angels. They got a fourth out in the 4th inning as well, when the now-infamous Bucknor missed a tag that Youk applied to Howie Kendrick. Again in the 6th, Kendrick was erroneously called safe at first when Youk had to jump for the ball but obviously came back down on the bag in time. All clearly blown calls, especially the last two.

But none of them led to runs. Jon Lester, to his credit, got out of each of those innings unscathed, the only runs he gave up all night coming on a three run homer by Torii Hunter in the fifth inning. Certainly those calls didn't help. Lester had to throw more pitches than he should have as a result of each of them and as Matthew Pouliot from Circling the Bases notes, things might not have set up the same way for Hunter's home run in the fifth. In fact, they most certainly wouldn't have. With the way John Lackey was pitching last night though, it probably wouldn't have mattered.

It's one thing for your own player to make an inexcusable mistake, but it's another for the gaffes to be made by the umpires. One of the differences is that many of the mistakes made by umpires (including the two of those by Bucknor) could have been easily overturned by replay. Maybe the umps don't want to be upstaged by being corrected by replays, but would they rather get the calls wrong and draw the ire of entire fan base?

It would slow the game down, but if they went with the system the NHL has where all reviews take place in a central location, it wouldn't be that much of an issue. I'm guessing Sox fans would have waited the minute or two it took to review the play.

And this isn't about speed of play anyway. You know what really slows down the game? Commercials, and you don't see baseball cutting down on the number of 30 second spots between innings even though they are now selling in game spots and sponsoring everything imaginable within the telecasts. It sure as shit isn't about preserving the "human element" either, because no one likes the human element when it's their team getting boned.

This is about Bud Selig not wanting to move baseball forward despite the fact that technology is changing the world and release even a little bit of the icy stranglehold he keeps on the game. You can't unring the bell, Bud. Instant replay is here to stay. Every network has it and will use it to point out your umpire's mistakes at any given opportunity.

If I'm an ump, I'm begging for instant replay. I can't see the game in slow-mo-supershot-HD. So why would I want every fan to be able to see every one of my mistakes without being able to correct them? Replay is a free pass when you fuck up. It'd be like if I wrote this blog without using spellcheck and every error I made got that squiggly red underline when the posts went live on the site.

I can't believe I'm standing up for Red Sox fans, but it's ridiculous that the people in charge of baseball won't take the steps necessary to get calls right, even though the technology is readily available. People might not like it at first, but they'll get used to it. Instant replay has been rejected by a certain segment of fans in every sport at first, but that resistance tends to quiet down when it saves their team from losing a game due to an incorrect call by the ref.

It's obviously not going to happen during this postseason but it needs to be addressed at some point. If not for regular season games, then at least for October. There's no good reason not to get the calls right.

[Photo Credits: Holliday Pic, Umps Pic]


  1. Thanks for pointing out the Wikipedia vandalism. I am laughing my ass off reading through all the changes made to that article last night. One of the best ones is:

    54 - C. B. Bucknor (the B stands for Blind, the C stands for can't see)

  2. Wikipedia vandalism can certainly be entertaining. One of my buddies had some fun with Kim Jones' page a while back.

    It might have been on Twitter but someone said C.B. was for "Clinically Blind" which is much funnier.

  3. "baseball won't tale the".....second to last paragraph.

    I hate when grammar check misses things.

  4. Thanks Anon, fixed. I knew there was going to be a typo on the post I mentioned spell check.


    Also, amen on this post.

  6. It is Bill Buckner, not Bucker.

  7. I'm aware of that, as you can tell by the fact that I spelled it right three other times in this post. But thanks for the catch.

  8. > I hate when grammar check misses things.

    There is a good spell check program Spell Check Anywhere (SpellCheckAnywhere.Com). It works in all programs, including web, and blogs. It also comes with optional grammar check.