Photo Credit: FOX Sports
Imagine this. It’s a big game in the season. This crucial game is tied going into the bottom of the 9th inning. With a runner on second with one out, you come to the plate. In a 2-0 count, you rip and outside fastball to the right side for a base hit. As you round first base, you watch the baseball fly down to home plate. A close play at the plate led to the runner being called out. However, you know with certainty that he was safe. In fact, everyone watching knows as well. However, there are two possible rules that could keep the call from being overturned. First, your team could be out of challenges. In the regular season, you only have one challenge per game, which was probably used earlier in the game. In the playoffs, you have two, which still isn’t enough.
The other possible way is the fact that the call is being made in New York. That could potentially be thousands of miles away. In addition, there is also a rule stating you can only overturn a rule if there is indisputable evidence showing that the call needs to be overturned. Even with all of the new camera angles the modern era has provided us with, we don’t get the “perfect angle” every play. So while those New Yorkers could see you were safe, in this instance, anyway, there may not be enough indisputable evidence, and he will still be out. That is just not fair, but it has been happening all year. Even before the 2016 season, the problem had been present. It seems like such a small portion of the game, but the rules behind challenging a play need to be changed.
Let me take you back to just yesterday’s game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs. It was a crucial game 4 for the Cubs. Had they lost, they would have fallen down in the NLCS 3-1. That would have almost guaranteed a Dodgers’ World Series trip. Early in the game, Adrian Gonzalez was called out at the plate after trying to score from a base hit. Gonzalez was clearly safe, and the play had to have been overturned. However, before the call could be overturned, the umpires had to call New York and wait 5-10 minutes to get a response. After that, though Gonzalez was clearly safe, the committee agreed there was “not enough evidence” to change the call on the field.
The Cubs did end up going on to smash the Dodgers by a score of 10-2 to tie up the series at two games a piece. It sounds crazy, but that call could have changed the entire game. Had the play been overturned, the Dodgers would have been up 1-0 with two outs and a runner on 1st and 3rd early in the ball game. Who knows what could have happened next? Momentum plays a big impact on sports, and I think it’s fair to say that the Dodgers would have scored at least another run to go up 2-0 or more. Many people at this point would say then the score would have just ended up being 10-4 in favor of the Cubs. However, like I already stated, momentum plays a huge part of sports. At this point, the Dodgers would have had all the momentum, and maybe enough to stop the 5-run inning that came from the Cubs. They may have at least had enough momentum to hold them to four runs or less. Even if that’s not the case, let me explain the idea of effort. If you are down by eight runs late in the game, it doesn’t matter how hard you try; your true effort will decline quickly. Had it been a more manageable game, say an 8-4 game, maybe Los Angeles would have kept the energy alive and rallied to win the game. This would mean that the Dodgers would have a 3-1 lead in the series instead of the series being tied at two games a piece, which would totally change the series.
If this is as big of a problem as I say it is, what can be done about it? The good news is that there is a solution. It’s baseball and it will find a way to be a great and entertaining sport. The first change that should be made is no longer having a committee in New York decide these plays. I think that the umpire that makes the call should be the one that keeps or overturns it after review. Umpires want to call a fair game, and having the man with the best view in real-time of the controversial play could make the call easier to decide on after review. In addition, given the fact that these reviews would be watched and decided upon on the spot, I believe it would lead to quicker decisions. The MLB is already attempting to make games faster with timers being added. Reviews taking 15 minutes are not helping the case. With this umpire method, the reviews could be held to five minutes or less. If both teams use all of their challenges, which is typical, that means that games would be 20 minutes shorter in the regular season and 40 minutes shorter in the playoffs. A playoff game could go from four hours to three, which is huge for a sport trying to shorten games without taking out innings.
The second change that should be made to the rule is that there must no longer be specific evidence required to overturn the play. Right now, the people deciding a call might see that the call should be changed, but since the call is too close and does not have “indisputable evidence”, suddenly the play cannot be overturned. This rules just comes down to professionalism. I don’t ever have a problem with professionalism except in this case. At this point, we don’t need that kind of rule to exist. If the actual play looks different than what the original call suggest, there should not be a rule that does not allow the committee to change it. That rule needs to be changed immediately.
Baseball is, hands down, the greatest sport in the world. The closeness and inconsistency of the game truly embodies what it means to be a “game of inches”. Every pitch and every second of the game could mean the difference between a win or a loss. The idea that every pitch can cause a discussion makes for a long, intense, fun game to watch. If you know baseball or take the time to learn it, it is obvious it is the best sport ever created. It’s America’s national pastime, even if it’s no longer the most popular sport. Every play, especially in the playoffs, can affect an entire series or even determine the World Series champion. Because of this, challenging play is a far more serious problem than people see it as. It’s time to abolish this terrible rule and put new rules into place that allow us to focus on the game we love without wondering whether or not the umpires are changing the outcome of the game.