|Omar Infante is … safe?! (US Presswire)|
Is it too much, too absolute to say that Jeff Nelson's call at second base in the eighth inning cost the Yankees Game 2 of the ALCS? Indeed, it is. But it may have hastened baseball's methodical, meandering march toward expanded replay.
To set the scene, Omar Infante was on first following a two-out single. Austin Jackson then notched a base hit to right. Nick Swisher fielded it cleanly and gunned to second base to cut down Infante, who'd strayed too far while thinking of going first-to-third. Swisher's throw beat him by a margin measurable in yards, Robinson Cano tagged him on the chest and Nelson's call was …
Safe? Safe. "The hand did not get in before the tag," Nelson admitted after Game 2. "The call was incorrect."
As a consequence, the Tigers' second run of the game scored, and they went on to plate another after what should have been -- what really was -- the third out of the inning. The Yankees, of course, failed to score, so their primary complaints about the outcome of Game 2 should be directed at their hitters. But it was an obviously blown call that, given a competent Yankee offense, could have turned a win into a loss. The obvious question, now that such a play has occurred under very conspicuous circumstances, is whether Nelson's call will advance the cause of expanded replay in MLB.
|More playoff coverage|
|ALCS: Tigers vs. Yankees|
|NLCS: Cardinals vs. Giants|
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was ejected (on his 48th birthday, no less) for arguing Nelson's call was already a believer in replay. What unfolded in Game 2 has only reinforced those beliefs. "You know, I have been thrown out of games enough to know it would be quicker to get the call right on replay than for me to go out there and argue," Girardi said. "And they talk about the flow of the game."
Indeed they do. "So we're looking into it," said Joe Torre, MLB's Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, on the prospect of additional replay parameters. "We're not saying it can happen, but right now we haven't really come to any conclusion on what's the best way to go about it and not make the game drag and go longer than than they are already going."
Baseball is indeed worried about pacing and flow, but, as Girardi noted, close, controversial, high-leverage calls are already subject to tantrum-related delays in most cases. Why not use the technology -- technology that's already in place -- to make correct calls? If baseball fans can abide the DH and franchise relocation and realignment and playoff expansion and "This Time It Counts," then they'll probably continuing buying tickets even if baseball erodes the "human element" just a bit.
If Bud Selig's transformative reign is any guide, then something that's talked about enough eventually happens. So it will likely be with expanded replay, which will absolutely be talked about after Game 2 in the Bronx. Selig is famously a deliberative, consensus-taking sort of leader, so it will take time. But how much time?
"It's not going to change by Tuesday," said Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.
And there you have the most correct call of the night.