Orioles-Rays game demonstrates need for expanded instant replay

Matt Joyce's fly ball in sixth inning brought game to standstill

May 19, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

In the end, the umpires got the call right.

But it sure took long enough. And a rough five-game homestand for the Orioles got even rougher in the sixth inning Sunday when Tampa Bay's Matt Joyce hit a soaring fly ball down the right field line in the Rays' eventual 3-1 win.

That's when all the fun started.

Actually, it was only fun if your idea of a good time is a long game delay while both managers and all four umpires yak endlessly about whether Joyce's shot was a foul ball, a double or a homer.

Trust me, the Geneva Convention guidelines were hammered out in less time. And you wonder why Major League Baseball is hurriedly trying to implement expanded instant replay review for next season?

In a moment, we'll get into that. But first let's recap all the, ahem, action in the top of the sixth at Camden Yards.

With one out, Joyce hits a shot that glances off the base of the foul pole in right field. After a moment's hesitation, first base ump Dan Iassogna rules it a fair ball and Joyce legs it into second base.

Out pops Buck Showalter from the O's dugout. He argues that it's a foul ball.

"That's what some of my players felt strongly about," Showalter said later.

Seconds later, though, instant replay is clearly showing the ball hit the black base of the pole. It's definitely a home run. Now Rays manager Joe Maddon comes out to argue.

And the gabfest is on.

Maddon's stalling for time, waiting for his people to tell him if it's a homer or a double. By rule, only a home run is reviewable as to whether a ball is fair or foul. Maddon, the umps will say later, wants the play reviewed, but only if the consequence isn't the possibility of it being ruled a foul ball.

Got that? Maddon wants the ruling to be either a homer or a double. He wants, metaphorically speaking, a Lamborghini or, at the very least, a Mercedes.

No dice, say the umps. If we review it and see it's a foul ball, it's a foul ball.

But ... let Showalter pick up the Maddon strategy at this point.

"Maddon's waiting for some kind of feedback on what kind of argument he's got," Showalter said. "He's gotta make a decision on whether he wants [the umpires] to go check it or not [on instant replay]. 'Cause he's got a chance that [they] go in there and end up calling it a foul ball, and not even a double.

"So you gotta make that decision on whether you want to roll the dice for the home run. So when he got all the reports back from his people, I'm sure he felt real confident on what was gonna be called. I have a [instant replay] guy who lets me know when I have a good argument. So I knew once [the umps] went inside [to review], it was gonna be a home run."

Which it was. The umps got it right, Showalter said. That was the main thing.

But all the confusion and the endless yammering that preceeded the correct ruling is why you'll almost definitely see expanded replay review next season.

"I think you're going to see a lot more replays as we go forward in the game," Showalter said. "You're going to see more than just home runs reviewed. So you know I'm all for it, just getting it right.

"And I think the umpires are, too. They want to be right. More times than not, they are."

MLB sources now are saying that balls and strikes won't be reviewable by replay next season, but almost everything else will.

Commissioner Bud Selig seems to leaning this way, too. In the past, Selig has made it clear he thinks instant replay should only be used to determine home run calls or whether a ball is trapped in the field.

But these same sources say Selig has been embarrassed by all the blown calls and umpiring controversies of late. And they say he's now leaning toward broader use of instant replay.

Look, I was originally one of those Luddites who argued against replay review in baseball. I thought the calls would take too long to make and disrupt the natural rhythm of the game.

But guess what? The game is being disrupted enough as it is, even without expanded review. I don't know how long Sunday's delay was, but it was at least 10 or 15 minutes. So now I'm thinking baseball should implement the best video technology possible and give expanded instant replay a try.

Heck, it can't get be any worse than what we're seeing right now.

Can it?

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kevincowherdsun

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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