Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Umpire Odds & Ends: Instant Replay (Part 38)

For a professional sports league with the most restrictive replay procedure, Major League Baseball has certainly found ways to stir up controversy with its use of the technology.

The MLB instant replay guidelines specify that instant replay only applies to so-called boundary calls - "whether [potential home runs] are fair or foul, whether they have left the playing field, or whether they have been subject to fan interference. The decision to use instant replay will be made by the umpire crew chief, who will also make the determination as to whether or not a call should be reversed."

Why, then, did umpire and crew chief Gary Cederstrom use instant replay review to determine whether a count was 3-2 or 2-2, resulting in a three-minute delay?

Even if Cederstrom's usage of instant replay to determine the count didn't end up affecting a whole lot for two teams that won't be playing in October this year, it is controversial because instant replay review simply cannot be used for a non-boundary call reason.

Here are some other controversial uses of instant replay review which occurred this season:

On September 4, first base umpire Joe West used instant replay to rule spectator interference over a boundary call during a Phillies-Marlins game. The resulting call went against the Phillies, manager Charlie Manuel was ejected and Philadelphia filed a protest with MLB.

Upon review, it appears West got the call right. Accordingly, MLB Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre elected to deny the Phillies' protest and uphold the Marlins' victory.

On August 18, home plate umpire Brian O'Nora ejected Twins manager Ron Gardenhire for arguing a call overturned as a result of the umpires' use of instant replay review.

Twins batter Justin Morneau had hit a long drive into the right field corner and first base umpire Jim Wolf had ruled the hit fair, a home run. After reviewing the video, however, the umpires decided to overturn the call to a foul ball, a decision the video confirms was the correct call.

On August 17, Royals slugger Billy Butler's home run off of Yankees pitcher Bartolo Colon was upheld after umpire Dana DeMuth's use of instant replay review.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi argued vehemently that the umpires had misinterpreted MLB Rule 2.00, which defines the home run boundary, but failed to protest the game. In a followup interview with the New York Times, Girardi expressed regret at his failure to protest the game, while Torre threw umpires DeMuth and company under the bus: "They got it wrong...and the umpires have to live with that."

Because Kansas City's Kauffman field has no ground rules of its own, it is subject to the universal ground rules and official baseball rules. Under those codes, DeMuth and crew did indeed get the call right.

Finally, on May 24, a Chipper Jones fly ball to deep center field was clearly interfered with by an overzealous Pirates fan.

Umpire Jeff Kellogg and his crew used instant replay review to verify the interference and two base award, resulting in Braves baserunner Martin Prado going back to third base. At the time of the interference, he was on his way from first base, and very likely would have attempted to score on the play.

However, as spectator interference immediately kills the play, Prado was sent back to third base.

Clearly, 2011 has been a year of controversial instant replay... but why did Cederstrom use instant replay to determine Dunn's count?

This list/ranking also featured on Bleacher Report: MLB


clement30 said...

I happen to like Cederstrom a lot, (he will be listed as my honorable umpire for the UEFL Postseason Award Nomination) and I think he would have done this same thing in this situation even if the replay was not even in effect for HR/boundary calls. He was making sure he got the call right. Good Job by Gary.

Anonymous said...

Gary did not use instant replay to correct the issue with the count, he called the official scorer. The area used for instant replay is not located in the dugout in any of the Major League stadiums as that would cause an issue with undue influence coming upon the crew from members of the team located in that dugout.

Anonymous said...

Using replay or whatever it was, in the end, it didn't affect anything.

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