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Major League Baseball’s Umpiring Answer is Accountability, not Replay

October 15th, 2012 at 9:54 PM
By Cody Fields

It's almost as if the baseball gods want the issue to be addressed, but everyone is addressing the wrong thing. The bad umpiring calls in the playoffs so far, first with Sam Holbrook's infield fly in the outfield that hurt the Atlanta Braves in the National League Wild Card game and now with two botched calls that have gone against the New York Yankees, a renewed debate over expanding replay in Major League Baseball has come to the forefront.

'umpires' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license:

The problem is that people are treating replay as the only option, like a Skyclub, and that may be a product of the umpiring culture of baseball. Umpires are never wrong in their own mind. Their calls are unable to be reversed.

The same cannot be said for all levels of baseball or for all sports. It is actually the opposite. The lower levels of baseball have umpires who will tell coaches and managers before the game to call time if they want to argue a call and that if they may have a case, the umpires will convene.

It's also routine to see NFL officials correct each other as soon as a bad call has occurred. They're interested in getting the call right, not being able to show off for the fans who aren't there to see them anyway.

As it stands, MLB's umpires rarely budge on a call, insisting it's their call and therefore the law of the land. This combined with the slew of bad calls seen so far this postseason have had Yankees manager Joe Girardi calling for expanded replay. After the egregious and infamous outfield fly call the Braves endured, however, Fredi Gonzalez didn't approach the issue.

This could be solved so simply.

All it would take is the umpires swallowing their pride and getting help from three other sets of eyes during the regular season and an additional two sets during the playoffs.

It could also involve another umpire (on particularly terrible calls) automatically overrule the call and explain, "Man, you kicked that call. There's no way it was right." Problem solved.

The game would speed up. There would actually be fewer managerial ejections. It would also rely on fewer people, as a replay system would involve at least a replay official and all of the cameramen. It would be particularly heinous for a home team's cameraman to just happen to "have a bad angle" or "just bump the camera at the wrong time."

So the discussion shouldn't even be about replay. Let's just hold the umpires accountable.

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