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Column: Baseball survives without instant replay
Wise sold the third base umpire just by diving into the stands to catch a foul ball. For good measure, he held his glove in the air in triumph and gave Derek Jeter a glove tap as he trotted for the dugout, the third out of the inning secured.
If the umpires watched the replay, they would see Wise never caught the ball. Never really came close, though the fans whose laps he ended up in surely appreciated the effort.
“What was I supposed to do? Run back to left field?” Wise said. “I saw him looking at my glove so I just got up, put my head down and ran off the field.”
The ethics of his obfuscation can be debated. The fact that umpire Mike DiMuro not only blew the call but never asked to see the ball in his glove is indisputable.
Wise and the Yankees got away with one against the Cleveland Indians, and the inevitable cry for expanded instant replay in baseball quickly followed. The only difference this time was the wrong call was made not because of human error, but because DiMuro failed to follow fundamental umpiring procedures.
Instant replay advocates will tell you that doesn’t matter. To them, the only thing that does matter is justice is served, whether by the umpire on the field or one up in a television booth.
They’re wrong, which means Bud Selig is right. Say what you want about the baseball commissioner’s reign in office _ his handling of the steroid era in particular _ he’s on the right side when it comes to use of expanded instant replay in a sport that has thrived for over a century without it.
Selig has bent some on his opposition to instant replay, instituting it for disputed home run calls a few years back. With approval from umpires and players, odds are next season it will be used for what Selig calls “bullets” hit down the line and trapped balls in the outfield.
That’s it for now. Hopefully, that’s it for a long time to come.
“I’ve had very, very little pressure from people who want to do more,” Selig said in May.
Indeed, it’s a slippery slope from there. Foul balls, sure, but how about bang-bang plays on the bases where umpires can study five different replays for 15 minutes and still not figure out the call?
Imagine instant replay for balks. Can a manager throw a red flag on the field on a pickoff move when figuring out what is a balk really is remains subjective to even umpires?
And, of course, balls and strikes. No one knows what the strike zone really is, but we do know it’s a moving target between umpires and leagues that has resisted definition even after more than 60 years of televised games.
It’s part of the beauty of the game, just as the short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium and the Green Monster at Fenway flout the idea of perfect symmetry across baseball. Things aren’t always fair, but it’s baseball and they tend to even out over time.
By Tammy Bruce
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