Baseball Needs Instant Replay: Confirmed

2007 October 2
by CajoleJuice

I just finished watching the last game of the MLB regular season. It was also the best game of the year. I’m not sure if any game in the playoffs will top it. The Padres were playing the Rockies for the National League Wild-Card spot after they ended the season in a tie. The Rockies won 14 of their last 15 games to get to this point. Incredible. They had to battle back again in this game at the last possible moment. After Jorge Julio, one of the worst pitchers to put on a Major League uniform this year, let up a 2-run HR in the top of the 13th inning, the Rockies were down 8-6.

But Trevor Hoffman had blown his last save opportunity – there was still a chance. Before an out was even recorded, the Rockies battled to tie the game. With no outs, MVP candidate Matt Holliday was standing 90 feet from clinching a playoff birth for the Rockies. A short fly ball was hit to right field. Brian Giles catapulted a throw home — honestly, it was a horrible throw — and the ball and Holliday arrived at the same time. Holliday slid head first into the left leg of Michael Barrett, slamming his face into the ground. The ball came loose. Holliday was safe. The MVP had won it!

Only the umpire Tim McClellan didn’t call him safe. Did Holliday miss the plate? Barrett picked up the ball to tag Holliday as he lay on the ground. But for some inexplicable reason, McClellan decided to call him safe as Barrett reached out to tag Holliday for the second out. Why the hesitation? When replays were shown, it looked like Holliday had never touched the plate. Barrett had blocked the plate perfectly. So why was he called SAFE?!?

As Deadspin editor Will Leitch so keenly observed:

At a certain level, we can’t help but think it was a back-up-I-don’t-want-any-trouble call from the home plate umpire, Tim McClellan. He knew the runner didn’t touch the plate — kind of amazing play by Michael Barrett — but by the time he realized his call was going to matter, he backed off it. We’d call it “gutless,” but it’s really hard to be a Major League Baseball umpire; it requires more guts than we, as a human being, have.

My personal feeling was that Holliday not getting up to touch home plate gave McClellan the impression that he actually touched home plate the first time around, but Leitch’s explanation works too. Or maybe McClellan was trying to make up for the fact that an earlier ball that was ruled a double was actually a Rockies HR. We’ll never know what was going through his mind, but we do know that Holliday still hasn’t scored the winning run.

Which is why baseball needs an instant replay system similar to the NFL. Give a manager a challenge a game. Nothing more than that is needed. All the focus and talk is going to be about this blown call tomorrow, and not on the fantastic game that lead up to it. Sure, it will take some of the entertaining arguments out of baseball, but tennis was known for its vitriolic player rants as well, and I haven’t missed them since instant replay was instituted. Instant replay in that sport has only served to show that not only is Roger Federer better at playing tennis than anyone, he would make a better linesmen than anyone. Balls and strikes should be left alone, so managers and players can still argue about them and get ejected in showboating fashion.

Trust me, you might find it weird and sacrilegious at first, but once you get used to it, you’ll wonder why it took MLB so long to incorporate instant replay.

Related posts:

  1. Year of the Pitcher, Confirmed
  2. Playoff Baseball is Kinda Good
  3. The Worst Throw in Baseball History

  • Via Chicago

    People still watch tennis ?

  • CajoleJuice

    I can’t believe something I wrote in 10 minutes while half-asleep – still reeling from the Mets collapse – was linked on Deadspin. I’ll have to make more controversial, yet insubstantial, posts (with Will Leitch mentioned) in the future. He obviously scours the internet for mentions of his name. Thanks, Leitch!

  • Shard J

    As long as the instant replay is limited like timeouts. You don’t every questionable ball or strike reviewed.

  • tsos20

    There are hundred’s of big calls that replay could have reversed. Home Runs that were fair or foul or even interfered with by a kid. There are traps versus catches, totally missed tags, fair and foul balls, the list goes on and on. Some people have told me they like the ” human element” in baseball. What they are saying is mistakes by umpires make the game better, somehow more interesting; I think errors by umps ruin games. The team that wins fair and square should be the victor. I didn’t see a lot of people saying it made the game better when we lost the olympic finals in basketball to Russia on officiating. It hurts when you loose a game you should have won. The same thing applies to baseball; make sure the rightful winner wins.
    The Sultan on Sports

  • Vainglorious

    What baseball needs is to stop existing.

    Soccer is a much better sport anyway. :o )

  • Tim Kurek

    I agree! Good blog, well thought out! And American football is the best sport period.


  • Rich Campbell

    I know this is going to sound weird when I’m getting vilified all over the ‘net for my outrage on this call and my believe that the ump made a deliberate decision to make the wrong call…

    …but I still don’t believe baseball needs instant replay.

  • Seamus

    What needed the replay was simple physics.

    The hone run that was called back was actually a home run for two reasons. First, at Coors Field a ball that hits the yellow padding is not a homerun – a ball must travel over the padding to be a homerun. When the ball completed its trajectory and hit it whatever it hit, it immediately bounced back onto the field. A ball traveling at that speed would not behave that way if it hit foam padding. Period. The ball traveled past the padding and hit the railing the padding is tied to.

    But that’s not really the big debate. Everyone wants to know if Holiday actually touched the plate. And did he?

    As he slid into home the catcher was guarding the plate with his left foot. As Holiday was sliding two things were happening. One, the catcher was trying to gain control of the ball and two, the catchers foot which was directly in front of the plate was forced back by Holiday’s hand. The catchers foot (which was directly in front of the plate) could not have moved that way unless a force acted upon it (Holiday’s hand).

    Basically the ump just needed to know if the catcher had ever maintained possession of the ball. When the ump saw the ball rolling on the ground he knew Holiday was safe because Holiday had moved the catchers foot as he slid. Holiday even has a bloody hand to prove he hit the catchers foot because the cleats dug into his hand.

    Simple physics. Rockies did score the run. Both times.

    Also it was an amazing game.

  • CajoleJuice


    I agree completely about the blown home run call. By the way it bounced, it was clear that it did not hit a hard surface, not padding. I’m not quite sure where you’re going with the whole “moved his foot, hence he scored” argument, though. Just because he moved the foot doesn’t necessarily mean he touched the plate.


    Well, Will Leitch agrees with you. And that hesitation doesn’t sit right with me either. Regarding instant replay, I’ve heard a few people suggest just using it for home run calls. That wouldn’t be such a bad start.

    The funniest thing about the whole play to me is that Holliday slid head-first. If he just ran Barrett over or slid feet-first, there wouldn’t have been any problems. Instead, he busted up his hand and face like a moron, without ever touching the plate.