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Lack of instant replay looms big in another no-hitter

Jun 9, 2012, 1:28 AM EDT

Dee Gordon Getty Images

Just like in Johan Santana‘s no-hitter exactly a week ago, a close play that could have been overturned by replay loomed large in Seattle’s combined no-hitter against the Dodgers on Friday night.

Dee Gordon, maybe the National League’s fastest player, led off the bottom of the ninth with a broken-bat flare to shortstop against Tom Wilhelmsen. Brendan Ryan, just in the game as a defensive replacement, grabbed the ball and made a strong throw to first, getting the out call. Replay, however, showed that Gordon may have beaten the relay.

In this case, the evidence wasn’t so solid as last week’s fair-foul call on what should have been a Carlos Beltran double. The play at first base was so close there’s a good chance it wouldn’t have been overturned on whatever replay system baseball eventually implements. Still, it did look like Gordon was safe. Besides just disrupting the no-no, it was a huge call in what was just a 1-0 game at the time. It’s one of those calls MLB will someday need to make its best effort to get right, instead of just letting one man try to call it at real speed.

  1. Kevin Gillman - Jun 9, 2012 at 1:30 AM

    I saw the play Matt, and I disagree. I thought Gordon was out, the throw beat his feet just by a half a second. Excellent ending to the game for the relievers to throw 3 no-hit innings.

    • drewsylvania - Jun 9, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      He was out. That said, we don’t need replay–we need robot umps.

    • Michael - Jun 9, 2012 at 4:11 PM

      A reasonable person could have made the call either way. MUCH worse calls have “marred” no-hitters or broken up no-nos in the past. I was in Denver in 1995 when the official scorer ruled a clear outfield error a hit, taking away a no-no from Pat Rapp. And that was reversible!

      Calling the game “marred” by that call makes the author look a fool. No, this wasn’t “one of those calls MLB must make right.” It’s a nitpick, and hindsight at that. There are times I wouldn’t mind replay, but close plays at first are near the very bottom of the list.

      • Kevin Gillman - Jun 10, 2012 at 6:00 PM

        I agree with that. In this day and age, because we have the technology, every call can be overblown, but the one thing about baseball is you can’t take the human element away from the game. Then it becomes a game controlled by computers, and really, who wants that? Home runs, foul or fair replays, yes, but not close plays at the bases.

  2. benihanagt - Jun 9, 2012 at 1:33 AM

    Disagree, went over the play frame by frame, he was out.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 9, 2012 at 8:51 AM

      Well, then let’s stop a game in June for 20 minutes to make sure every last single call is exactly right.

      I expect the get dozens of thumbs down for this, but here goes: “Close enough” is perfectly fine with me.

      • philcommander - Jun 9, 2012 at 8:59 AM

        Why not just institute a system like the NFL? The manager gets to demand a replay for no more than two calls during the game. Home runs would not count as one of his allowances…they would be reviewed automatically. Balls and strikes would not be reviewable. Just fair vs foul balls…was the ball caught…was the man safe. You might not review a stolen base call in some circumstances but in others you might. A tag at home plate you might want to review.

      • rooney24 - Jun 9, 2012 at 9:38 AM

        I would hope they did not go with the NFL system. The NFL system takes way too much time, and if you happened to challenge something early, you may have a challenge later for an obviously wrong call.

        I would rather see the umpire crews go to 5 guys, and they would rotate through the 4 bases and the booth. There should be no reason one guy in the booth can’t see when something needs to be reviewed and then review it in the booth and let the other umps know if it needs to be changed.

      • drewsylvania - Jun 9, 2012 at 1:57 PM

        Agree totally. I’d much rather have bang-bang plays occasionally get miscalled than delay the game over every close play.

    • dormied9027 - Jun 9, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      I saw the game on TV as well… 90% sure Gordon was safe by a split second. But can’t blame the umpire’s call based on his angle of the play. I’m a Dodger fan, and for what its worth, don’t like the idea of instant replay unless it truly is an ‘instant’ decision and doesn’t take more than 2 or 3 minutes maximum. I don’t think that’s possible right now.

  3. nworca - Jun 9, 2012 at 2:44 AM

    I was at the game. It was close. He was out (or not). But there is another point to consider. Review of the play would have completely killed the moment for one of the best baseball games I have ever seen, and being a season ticket holder I’ve seen plenty, and my favorites are one-nothing ballgames.

    Baseball may seem like a slow game to some, but once an inning starts the tension is continuous, it does not have the constant stops that football has. For well over one hundred years those close calls have been made by a single individual at first base, and the game has survived. Win or lose, I would much rather that the game continue without a 5 minute break while some umpires argue over whether of not a fallible human made a mistake on a very close call by looking at several different camera views that in the end of the day prove equally fallible.

    A game that relies on the difference between a ball and a strike being made in mid air on a ill defined point in space on a ball travelling 97 mph, replay makes no sense at all. Umpires are almost always right on calls, and when they’re not…well, that’s been part of the game for a very long time…and the game is still worth watching. I saw one of the best tonight and say hat’s off to everyone involved, that was fun. And if the ump had called Gordon safe, I would still feel the same.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 9, 2012 at 3:18 AM

      nworca, perhaps you didn’t notice the delay when the LA manager came out to argue that call. Whatever. With an efficient system, modeled on the NHL review system, instead of arguments there would be a brief pause of, hopefully, just a couple of minutes as the central office replay officials check all available angles and decide if what they see warrants overturning the umps, or not (and I don’t believe there is any serious suggestion for it to be used on ball/strike calls, just close safe/out at bases plays, catch/trap and fair/foul calls). And in its 160+ years, baseball has survived and sometimes been vastly improved by all sorts of changes: overhand pitching, gloves for catching the ball and more recently batting, helmets, night baseball under electric lights, racial integration, the DH, interleague play, other protective gear, etc. During the decades before TV viewers got instant replay, we could all just argue over dubious calls. But now the integrity of the games is seriously wounded when we all know a result is because of a bad call. We have the means at hand to improve matters with minimal disruption. I believe it would be absurd to not avail ourselves of it.

      • nworca - Jun 9, 2012 at 3:37 AM

        The manager coming out to protect his player is a part of the excitement and happens in real time in front of the fans that have paid to see the action. The fans get to see him stick his finger in the ump’s face (he did). The fans understand that what he is saying is, “hey, I know my guy was out, but he wanted to argue, and I don’t want him thrown out. the finger I’m hammering in your face is just for show, so don’t take offence. I just want that jerk available in case we manage to get to some hits and go to extra innings.”

        Does your very fallible TV capture any of that? Someone who loves the game knows that before seeing any “replay”. Is it as much fun watching NFL refs huddle under a black shrowd watching TV as it is watching a big league manager get in an umpires face? That also has been a part of the game, and is done in real time.

        And all that anyone has said about this particular play is that the replays were inconclusive. Do you want to give up the momentum of excitement for an inconclusive bunch of video replays, none of which are by themselves proof of anything.

        My point is that the game is played in real tie and should be judged in real time. Why, because real time is human, the game is human … and we need to realize, as humans, that we need things in real time rather than reruns.

      • buddaley - Jun 9, 2012 at 6:56 AM

        I am not taking a position here on the need for instant replay, but I think the specific issue in this case is not whether the replay slows down the game but whether it interrupts the excitement. That is, once the call was made, everyone knew the no-hitter was intact, and the tension remained. Had the call been safe, the climactic moment would have arrived and the crowd would have exhaled and probably applauded the pitcher. Chances of the decision being overturned are practically nil. As nworka says, it would happen in real time.

        But with replay, the next few moments, whether seconds or minutes, would have been an artificial kind of tension. It would not be about whether the no-hitter was intact but whether the call was going to remain. In this instance, I agree with nworka that such a development would interfere with the enjoyment and flow of the game. That is a completely different sort of interruption than the manager coming out to argue.

    • paperlions - Jun 9, 2012 at 10:50 AM

      In this case, one could argue it would interrupt the drama of the game….of course, that is probably a loosing argument. The drama/excitement could have been heightened as everyone waited for the review, with another round of “excitement” when the call was confirmed.

      However, consider alternative scenarios. What if the 1B ump called him safe and replay showed he was out (or could have been out)….what would your feeling about replay have been at that moment…sitting in your seat, the no hitter gone…but you KNOW that it shouldn’t have been? Would you still argue that replay would have disrupted the moment?

      People have made those arguments against replay for decades, but during the games (NFL or NCAA) those slight delays have absolutely no effect on drama or excitement of the game….during a close game no one says “boy I don’t care if they get the call right or not, let’s just get this thing over with”….replay has extended and preserved far more drama than it has the potential to “kill”.

  4. samu0034 - Jun 9, 2012 at 3:32 AM

    1) Way to use a salacious headline for an article about a play which you then go on to admit was incredibly close, and further may actually have been called correctly on the field. I understand that this blog has a pretty clear agenda in favor of expanded replay, but c’mon… at least you could have the appearance of journalistic integrity about it.

    2) Honest question, say MLB does institute some sort of video replay that would help alleviate the problem of close plays like this. Do you want the umpires to default to calling guys safe on close plays? That’s really the only way to preserve the integrity of the game, because if a guy was called out on the field, but replay overturned the original call, the whole idea of just putting a guy on first (for example) when there’s no telling what actually would have happened on the play seems dumb. It ruins the continuity of the game. But, if the umps just called everyone safe and allowed the momentum of the game to carry on, and then let it be fixed by replay, at least the continuousness of the game would be preserved.

    • juanquixote - Jun 9, 2012 at 4:00 AM

      Continuity

      • samu0034 - Jun 9, 2012 at 4:40 AM

        Yeah, I made up a word. Deal with it. I liked the way “continuousness” sounded better than “continuity” at that point.

      • florida727 - Jun 9, 2012 at 7:19 AM

        Actually, kudos to you “samu”. “Continuousness” is NOT a made up word. It’s a noun. It’s listed as such on dictionary.com. Thanks for making me think this morning. It didn’t hurt… too much.

  5. dan1111 - Jun 9, 2012 at 3:51 AM

    The more I think about it, the more I think instant replay would be terrible for situations like this. There are usually several bang-bang plays per game. All of these would have to be reviewed by replay, slowing down the game. And what would be gained from this?

    Or to put it the other way, how does it damage the game that an extremely close play could be called either way? There is always uncertainty in marginal situations. A pitch that is right at the edge of the zone could be called either a ball or a strike, but who cares? The problems come with the obvious bad calls, not the close calls. But any replay system will end up mostly being used on close plays.

    I also like samu0034′s comment above about how instant replay might change umpiring.

    • bleedgreen - Jun 9, 2012 at 4:27 AM

      If we get 5 replays at home in the span of 1 minute after the play, from different angles, and the league can put big hits/defensive stops up on the MLB at bat app and on the website within 5-10 minutes, why do you think that having a guy who’s SOLE JOB is to watch replays of plays is going to take more than 30-45 seconds before radioing down to all 4 umps on the field? And at that, its only going to be maybe 2 plays a game. I don’t think the replay ump should have anything to do with balls and strikes, ONLY plays in the field.

      Was the ball caught or trapped?
      Was he tagged or not?
      Was he safe or not?
      Did he leave the base paths?
      Was the ball fair or foul?
      Was it a home run or not?

      Those are probably the only calls an ump in the booth should be making, and all of those can be made VERY quickly, without having to even convene everyone. Ear piece connected to said replay ump in every other ump’s ear. Not tough at all, really.

      • samu0034 - Jun 9, 2012 at 4:55 AM

        Because the NFL has just as many cameras from just as many angles and it frequently takes them several minutes to decide close plays.

      • bleedgreen - Jun 9, 2012 at 4:02 PM

        I’m not talking about the NFL. I’m talking about MLB. When I watch at home, I get different angles IMMEDIATELY after a close play happened. In the NFL things happen from 360 degrees. In MLB, theres only 14 players on a HUGE field at once, and more than like, only 2-3 are involved in a close play. On an NFL field there are 22 people bunched up very close together, so things are often obscured and require close look at replays. In baseball, you’d need 2-3 angles TOPS to get a clear view of whats going on.

  6. letsgonuclear - Jun 9, 2012 at 5:20 AM

    In the NFL the ref has to look at the play, if it was called right, where the ball goes, what the right time on the clock should be, and oh yeah has to find an example in a lot of cases where he can see the ball amidst a bunch of big men. In baseball it’d only usually involve one or two players and there’s no spot and no clock to account for. Most calls should take less than a minute. Easily. You can further restrain it by only giving managers one challenge, maybe two if their first is in their favor, and let an ump upstairs determine if a scoring play should be looked at. It can work.

    • buddaley - Jun 9, 2012 at 7:05 AM

      I never understand the notion of those who want replay that managers should be limited in the challenges they can make. The object, I assume, is to get calls right, not to add another bit of managerial strategy to the game. If the idea is to get calls right, then any questionable call should be reviewable. It makes little sense to allow a bad call to stand in the first inning so that the manager will have a challenge left in case one arises later on.

    • jamessmyth621 - Jun 9, 2012 at 11:08 AM

      I’m sure they also drag out the NFL reviews so the networks can squeeze out yet another commercial break

  7. johnnyb1976 - Jun 9, 2012 at 7:45 AM

    Baseball needs to be left alone. Human error is part of what makes baseball great. If you take that out of the equation it’s a far less interesting game.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 9, 2012 at 7:57 AM

      Does the 1985 World Series — and especially the errant call in Game 6 — still leave a bad taste in your mouth?

      No, it’s over and done with. The only thing that leaves a bad taste in your mouth is to not make an effort to get it right. I’m asked a lot about instant replay. If the goal is to get it right, and we have the technology, I don’t care how much time it takes — especially in postseason — let’s get it right. Even if it goes against me, I can live with that.

      Ozzie Smith

      http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/fandom/post/_/id/2276/qa-hall-of-fame-shortstop-ozzie-smith

      • jdillydawg - Jun 9, 2012 at 6:19 PM

        Maybe we should change the goal, because even technology doesn’t always get it right.

    • toewsingkaner - Jun 9, 2012 at 10:20 AM

      The human error of the game comes out in the players, not the umpiring. The umpiring should not be part of that. Every effort to make the CORRECT call should be made using any technology possible & to make sure the game is decided by the players and not the umpiring.

      • paperlions - Jun 9, 2012 at 11:01 AM

        “The human error of the game comes out in the players, not the umpiring.”

        Exactly. Though I don’t think EVERY effort should be made, I think reasonable efforts should be made, which, to me, includes have video review to fix errors that EVERYONE IN THE STADIUM already knows were wrong while the manager is still out there arguing.

  8. nofunleague - Jun 9, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    I have said this in other forums and will repeat. Nothing a player does in the course of a game could cost the umpire money. However, a player with a no hit game in his contract for say 10,000.00 could get screwed by a bogus, lazy umpire. A call could determine a championship where much money is affected. We do not live in the 1890′s with three finger gloves. This is 2012 and if we have the technology to get it right then it should be used. For those that want to keep the game pure, too late. Designated hitter, baloney. Jugs gun, who cares. Get it right and move on. If you don’t like long games then don’t watch, and don;t take an interest in Cricket. Their games go on for days. Wake up America.

    • drewsylvania - Jun 9, 2012 at 12:07 PM

      Screw money.

    • jdillydawg - Jun 9, 2012 at 6:15 PM

      So the purpose of baseball is to ensure all ballplayers are guaranteed maximum value and can make the most money possible? Isn’t that why ballplayers have agents, so they can argue their worth? I didn’t realize it was the instant replay machine that was doing all the negotiating.

      Sorry, but your argument is pretty lame. And by the way, I love cricket. Probably because they don’t use instant replay.

  9. jimeejohnson - Jun 9, 2012 at 1:18 PM

    “Money, it’s a crime!”

  10. xzoso - Jun 9, 2012 at 3:52 PM

    Interesting thread.. when the M’s had a perfecto thrown against them by Humber, there was no talk of replay even though Humber definitely walked Brendan Ryan and he did definitely check his swing. All I heard was, “He shouldn’t have argued with the Ump and ran to 1st base!” Well Brendan got his revenge last night.

  11. jdillydawg - Jun 9, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    Replay is an idiotic idea for any sport. We are demanding perfection with everything we do. It’s absolutely absurd. Half the time, replay can’t tell the story. I watched that play over and over an on one angle, I’m convinced he’s out. Another, I’m not so sure. Either way, no way could anyone overturn that call with 100% conviction – or even 50%.

    When refs review a play in football, that’s usually the time I get up to make a sandwich. It’s about as exciting to me as a Tide commercial. At least Tide will clean my clothes, replay just wastes my time.

    Life isn’t fair. Bad calls happen. Replay won’t make it any more fair, it’ll just make it slower and, perhaps boring. Greatness comes out of adversity, no matter how it’s delivered. I just don’t think replay promotes anything positive except the unrealistic demand of perfection.

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