PHILADELPHIA -- Here on the eve of the League Championship Series, there is a foreboding autumn wind threatening to turn things icy. And it's got nothing to do with Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum and the impending chill facing the Philadelphia and San Francisco bats on Saturday night.
Not unless, you know, a Lincecum fastball does not hit Chase Utley, but whizzes close enough that he's awarded first base. Like in Game 2 of the first round for Utley, against Cincinnati's Aroldis Chapman.
|When Chase Utley apparently fakes being hit by a 101-mph pitch, something needs to be done quickly. (Getty Images)|
No, here on the eve of the LCS, that foreboding fall chill has little to do with the Giants, Phillies, Yankees or Rangers.
It has everything to do with the men in blue ... and with that TiVo remote you're holding in your hands.
That's what finally changed my opinion on instant replay.
At the risk of being ejected from the Purist's Society, tossed out of the Stuck-in-the-Mud Club, given the ol' heave-ho from the Human (Element) Race, I humbly submit my voice to the chanting chorus that is demanding -- and eventually will get -- increased instant replay in the postseason.
Little about umpiring -- or baseball, or life -- is black and white.
To me, it is this simple:
If I can click one button on a remote and instantaneously rewind seven seconds to watch a play over again -- something I regularly do from my couch while watching college football when the baseball season ends -- what possible reason is there to not employ this technology and improve the lot of umpires and the integrity of the game?
If fans can watch a replay of Atlanta's Brooks Conrad clearly tagging Posey out but Paul Emmel calling him safe at 30,000 feet on an airplane -- as, literally, I just did on Delta's in-flight television system while typing these words -- then why would baseball even consider leaving itself exposed to more embarrassment?
Buster, someone asked after that game, were you safe?
"I guess it's a good thing we don't have instant replay right now," he said.
Kids. They say the darndest things.
The Chapman pitch that supposedly drilled Utley was clocked at 101 mph. Granted, the Phillies second baseman is tougher than those grass stains in laundry detergent advertisements. But he didn't even flinch. You didn't need a Master's Degree from the Charlie Brown School of Umpiring to know that he wasn't hit. It was obvious.
"I felt like I thought it hit me," Utley explained, working through his postgame deposition with the guile of a pickpocket. "So I put my head down and I ran to first."
No wonder Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips nominated Utley for an Oscar.
No manager had been ejected from a postseason game since Tony La Russa in 2005, yet three skippers were tossed in barely more than 24 hours last week: Maddon. Minnesota's Ron Gardenhire, after plate ump Hunter Wendelstedt refused to call a strike on a pitch that gave new meaning to the term "right down Broadway." And Atlanta's Bobby Cox, who had remained curiously silent on the Posey play the night before but clearly had seen a replay by the time he went out to argue a close play with Emmel at first base in Game 2.
"It's kind of piling up right now," Maddon agreed a day or two later.
Fortunately, the dump trucks have been quiet since the weekend. No more piling up. Score several good games for the embattled umps.
But here in the calm before the storm, it remains uneasy, because another storm surely will move in soon.
Aside from the immediate impact on a given game, the larger issue is that video evidence of blown calls is dominating the national baseball conversation. You've got Vinnie from Queens and grandpa in the living room hollering about the umps, not the game.
For its own good, baseball needs to change those conversations.
"There was a time I used a computer in the 1990s and people looked at me as if I had two heads for using a computer at [that] time," Maddon says. "And you look at the information going on, all the data prior to each game, each series it is incredible.
"And hardliners, old-school guys that frowned upon that stuff in the early 90s are using it quite frequently and to their advantage. So my belief is, and a lot of times in our game, we move at a glacial pace."
|More on the LCS|
Cliff Lee gives the Rangers a chance to upset the Yankees in the ALCS, maybe offseason. Read >>
Halladay vs. Lincecum reminds that the best moments generally remain inside the park. Read More >>
Tell me about it. I'm probably more resistant to change than your usual pizza-ordering slob (pepperoni and mushroom, please, same as I've been ordering for 30 years). I still prefer organ music in ballparks. When CDs were introduced, I clung to my vinyl LPs. When the iPod hit the market, I sneered while continuing to stockpile more CDs.
And don't even ask my wife about the old carpet in our house. I don't. And when she brings up the idea of replacing it, I simply look to disappear as quickly as possible.
Disappearing, burying your head in the sand, covering your ears and hollering la-la-la-la when people are talking at you ... trust me, there is a time and a place for all of the above.
But in the digital revolution, baseball needs to lose the 8-track tape mentality.
Obviously, you're not going to review balls and strikes. You can't review every bang-bang play at first base. And judgment calls are just that.
But fair or foul down the lines, an egregious call on the bases, whether a guy was hit by a pitch ... these all should be in play for review.
The left-field and right-field line umpires added for the postseason have blown an incredible number of calls over the years (see Rich Garcia, re. Jeffrey Maier; and Phil Cuzzi, re. Joe Mauer), and we always hear, "They're not used to being stationed there and the angle is different."
Well, get rid of 'em. Instead of line umps in the postseason, station one of them upstairs in the booth. Have him (her?) watch the replay of a disputed call and phone down to the field with the final ruling. Heck, have him text the plate umpire via iPhone.
"I think eventually you're going to see some kind of a roundtable get together and come to a conclusion that the way ... [it's] just the way the world works, man," Maddon says. "Things are invented, there is new technology that can help this process and also be expeditious in regards to the way it's utilized."
Instant replay does not mean losing the human element. It can enhance it. Or did everyone prefer the classy (and excellent) ump Jim Joyce beating himself up in Detroit this summer after ruining Armando Galarraga's perfect game?
Worried about time of game? This process will take 10 seconds. Maybe 20 if the replay ump needs to look at it twice. Realistically? If it takes more than a minute -- two tops -- then somebody didn't properly set up the system.
Worried about extra expense? Here's a great idea for a sponsor: TiVo.
I'll even make the call.