The Washington Times - May 26, 2009, 12:00AM

When an NFL referee comes out from under the hood following a replay review, he turns on his crowd microphone and announces to the world what he saw and why he ruled what he did.

Apparently, MLB umpires don’t have to be accountable for their instant replay decisions.


Crew chief Larry Vanover — who made the call tonight to award Gary Sheffield a three-run homer on a sixth-inning drive to left field in which a fan appeared to reach over the fence to interfere with the ball — was asked to take questions from a small group of pool reporters (including myself) following tonight’s 5-2 Nats loss.

The umpires’ clubhouse attendant, though, came out of the room and informed us Vanover would not be speaking and that we would have to go to the Commissioner’s Office for a statement. Well, I don’t think Bud Selig will be issuing any statements at 11:45 p.m. tonight, so we’ll have to see if he comes out with anything tomorrow or Wednesday.

Why couldn’t Vanover have simply answered what he saw? Either he saw conclusive evidence that the fan did not reach over the fence and interfere with the ball, or he didn’t see enough conclusive evidence to overturn the call. Either way, it’s not that hard to answer the question.

The theory here (and among several inside the Nats clubhouse) was that Vanover and his crew mates probably did not have conclusive visual evidence. That’s because they only had access to the Mets’ TV feed from SNY. They only had one wide-angle shot of the play in question, and it was difficult to determine from that what exactly happened and where.

However, the Nats’ MASN television crew got a much better angle on the play, one that appears to show pretty conclusively that the fan reached over the fence and interfered. I’ve got a freeze frame shot of it, but I can’t figure out how to post it to this site. If I can figure it out, I’ll happily share it with everyone. But chances are if you were watching at home, you know what I’m talking about.

This raises an interesting problem that MLB may need to address. If the umps only have access to the home team’s TV broadcast, how do we know they’re always going to see the play correctly? Isn’t there some way to give them access to both feeds?

No use complaining about it now because the deed is done. Here are a few reactions from the Nats, though, who as far as I know have only seen the SNY replays so far, not the better MASN replay…

MANNY ACTA: “From the dugout, I didn’t think that the ball went out. We have all those rules and the replays and we have to abide by it. But I just think with the trajectory of the ball, if you have to reach over that railing … I don’t think the ball would have gone out of the ballpark. But I’ve been wrong plenty of times before.”

JOHN LANNAN: “Once they went to go check it out, I realized that they weren’t going to give it to us. They had to have 100 percent [certainty], I guess that’s the rule, to turn it.”

ADAM DUNN: “I knew it was going to be close. If the call went in our favor … I mean, then that’s a three-run homer, not a solo [run if the call had been reversed]. That was a big blow for us.”