A far cry from instant

By Nick Pitts
September 11, 2008

When the bright red breaking news banner flashed in the middle of Sports Center one late August afternoon, I was almost incredibly excited.


It was announced on Aug. 26 that Major League Baseball would introduce a long overdue instant replay system. All 30 stadiums in the league were promptly equipped with a television monitor and a telephone wired straight to the Major League Baseball Advanced Media headquarters, an organization much like the “war room” implemented by the National Hockey League.

Two days later, Aug. 28, instant replay was considered in-play.

Naturally, however, all things in life come with some fine print disclaimers, and this exciting new system was no exception.

Umpires are only allowed to review controversial homerun calls.

Is it a groundbreaking move? Yes. But it is not nearly enough.

MLB is the last of the four major professional sports to adopt some sort of an instant replay system, losing by six years to the National Basketball Association, which approved a system in July of 2002.

Not even a full 48 hours after the homerun replay system was initiated, Ryan Howard and his Philadelphia Phillies fell victim to an enormous miscall.

In the middle of a 3-3 tie with two outs in the top of the seventh against the Chicago Cubs, Howard ripped a single which was bobbled before thrown to first. With a runner at third, Howard could have secured a run as long as he reached base safely.

Despite beating the throw, the first base umpire still called Howard out, ending the inning.

Sure enough, the very next inning a Cub’s homerun put the Phillies behind and cost them the game.

If that play happened in the 1930’s, long before the existence of such things as giant television screen-scoreboards, maybe it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal.

Unfortunately for that umpire, in the year 2008 such technology does exist and everyone saw Howard’s too-big-to-miss cleat crunch first base long before the ball got there.

After an exhausting argument involving Phillies coach Charlie Manual, third base coach Steve Smith and the umpire, Smith found himself ejected from the game as well as a suspension for the next three.

Without the leverage of an instant replay, the argument was useless.

Sighs of relief were heard among the Chicago faithful in their home stands, but Harry Kalas and the other Philly announcers weren’t too pleased.

This is just one of many instances that happen over the course of a very long baseball season that gets overlooked. This late in the season however, a call like that could change a game as well as the standings. Two teams in a pennant race are not very fond of human error.

I commend MLB for taking the step towards the technological age of instant replay. But it needs to be taken much further, until it is a part of the entire game and not just the long ball.

Afterall, I would like to see the Phillies coaching staff make it through the whole game.

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Nick Pitts

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