Monday, June 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Baseball's replay plan flawed

Remember the good, old days when Orioles manager Earl Weaver lost his mind arguing with umpires? How about when Rays and Reds and Mariners and Yankees and Cubs skipper Lou Piniella would kick his hat or throw bases? Remember the time when Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon stole first base … literally? He picked up the base and walked away with it. Spit-flying, dirt-kicking, finger-waging, chest-bumping, eyes-popping arguments are one of the great things about baseball. And they will practically disappear if Major League Baseball passes the use of expanded instant replay next season.

Is that reason enough to keep instant replay out of baseball? Well, uh, yeah. I think so.

Of course, I'm in the minority.

The "old-school" argument doesn't fly with most, especially Rays manager Joe Maddon.

"The old-school argument is a weak one," Maddon said.

If you don't like the use of instant replay, Maddon said, then you don't like microwave ovens, air conditioning in cars and anything else of modern technology.

Ultimately, instant replay will be brought in to get certain calls correct: plays on the bases, fair or foul balls, if a ball was caught or trapped, and pretty much everything aside from balls and strikes. And yes, I do understand getting a call correct is more important than watching an argument, particularly if a critical call decides a postseason game.

But I'm not sure I'm crazy about the plan MLB is thinking of using.

The idea, for now, is managers will have three challenges a game, one during the first six innings and two after that. The challenges would be reviewed at MLB headquarters in New York. That's a good idea that, in theory, would keep the replays and delays to a minimum.

However, if television viewers can see almost immediately if an umpire blew a call or not, why can't baseball officials in New York?

Why not just overrule all wrong calls, regardless of how many there are and when they occur? Would it really take that much time? Plus, two bad calls in the first two innings could cost a team a game simply because the manager is allowed to challenge only one of them. That seems silly.

If Major League Baseball is finally, after all these years, going to use instant replay, then it needs to fully embrace it. Use it for all calls in all innings.

If they aren't going to do that, then we might as well leave it the way it is and enjoy managers kicking dirt on home plate.

Biggest flaw

Here's one flaw of baseball's potential instant replay system, something first pointed out by former umpire Jim McKean, who lives in the area and does work for ESPN.

Let's say there's a runner on first and a liner is hit to centerfield. The runner holds halfway, and the centerfielder races in and is ruled to have made a catch. The runner then retreats to first base.

But the replay shows the centerfielder actually trapped the ball. If the umpire had gotten the call right in the first place and ruled the ball hit the ground, the centerfielder likely would have thrown to second base in time to force out the runner who was on first.

But how would you know for sure? Therefore, would you automatically give the runner second base? What if a ball was hit near the fence with runners on and the call was blown? Where would you place various runners? Would they always be awarded one base? Would they get two bases? Would it be umpire's judgment?

Rulings on where runners would end up on trapped/caught balls is one of the major kinks to work out before replay is put in place.

Worst reprimand

Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar was reprimanded by Browns CEO Joe Banner for critical comments made about the Rams during the teams' preseason game Aug. 8. Kosar, working as an analyst for a Cleveland radio station, ripped St. Louis' receivers and saved a scathing remark for third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens.

When play-by-play man Jim Donovan told a story about Clemens having his daughter blessed by the pope, Kosar cracked, "Bless me father for I have sinned. I have to watch him the whole fourth quarter."

Rams coach Jeff Fisher got bent out of shape, saying several of Kosar's remarks showed a lack of respect for the players and the game of football.

You know what, Jeff? Boo-stinkin'-hoo. And shame on the Browns for scolding Kosar.

Kosar is an analyst, paid to give his thoughts about the game and its players. His rip job of Clemens, quite frankly, was funny. And it's not as if he called Clemens a bad person or accused him of doing something illegal. He simply was calling him a bad quarterback. If Kosar believes Clemens can't play and the receivers are terrible, what, exactly, is wrong with saying so?

Could Kosar have been gentler? Sure. Did his comments brush up against the line of good taste? Yeah, maybe. Did he go over the line? I just don't think he did.

Biggest prediction

Dave Richard, the fantasy football guru for CBS Sports, made a shocking prediction last week.

"The Bucs,'' he told me, "will win the NFC South.''

Three things that popped into my head

1. I seriously doubt the Rays have a "take" sign. But after watching too many of their worst hitters swinging at first pitches against pitchers struggling with control in recent weeks, maybe the team should think about adding such a sign.

2. What I'm tired of: baseball players getting shaving cream pies and/or Gatorade showers after walkoff wins while being interviewed by sideline reporters who have to act like nothing is about to happen. Enough already.

3. An interesting question making the rounds last week in the sporting world: If your favorite team has a decent chance to win the AFC (let's say the Broncos, Texans or Ravens), what was your first thought when you heard Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (right) injured his knee during a practice with the Bucs last week? Be honest. Were you excited or saddened?

Tom Jones' two cents

   
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