Sometimes while playing wiffle ball in our cul-de-sac, one of my boys will hit into a controversial/close play at one of the arbitrarily measured stations which will require the use of "instant replay."
At that point, we’ll have the offending player reverse their steps and make a "tape rewinding" sound with their mouth and backup to their previous position. The pitcher-infielder-outfielder (me) will then "rewind the ball" while making that same noise and have the player slide and the ball arrive, to fit the narrative of what the boys want the result of the play to be.
For better show, we will even "rewind the play" for better/different angles. Inevitably, a wiffle play under review always results in the runner being safe (or crying and the game being called).
What's the point of all of this? Well, this ad hoc backyard fantasy replay system is infinitely better than the travesty used in Major League Baseball. The MLB replay system is junk; the league should just hire some Kabuki actors to reenact every close play, as it would insult the intelligence of baseball fans less.
During the Rockies' win over the Cardinals on Tuesday, a laughable scenario occurred that brought on this whole article. Ben Paulsen earned himself a gritty walk in the bottom of the eighth. After striking out the hitter, Yadier Molina made a patented snap throw to first base.
Let me pause there. I was at the game -- in my regular perch in section 118 - with an excellent view of first base. In fact, I had a better view of first than the umpire, whom I know for a fact was not paying attention! I just happened to be looking that way, but Yadi’s throw surprised everyone, including that ump. But I will also tell you that Paulsen was back and the play wasn’t particularly close.
Seriously, the play wasn’t close -- at all. The umpire, to overcompensate for not paying attention, called Paulsen out. He was stunned, and so were the fans sitting in the section closest to the play. So, onto replay.
One difference between our kabuki replay reenactments at home and the "major league" version is that MLB shows the replay on the scoreboard, which is a relatively new development. Remember, the ruling on the field stands unless there is definitive proof for an overturn. In Paulsen’s case, I watched in horror as the "best" replay angle must have been filmed from the moon! The angle was so poor and far away that I knew instantly the call would stand. There was no conclusive proof ... well, except for the fact that Paulsen was about to stand up when the ball got there. Watch the play, really it wasn’t close.
Fortunately it didn’t hurt the Rockies (this time), but I remember a recent waterlogged Dodgers game in which Charlie Blackmon was clearly safe and the ruling on the field as an out call. The Rockies seem to always be on the losing end of these replay challenges. These are just two recent instances in which the call was clearly wrong.
Now that these plays are shown on the scoreboard for the whole world to see, I can only feel embarrassment for the umps. It used to be that if an ump blew a call and you were watching at home, you could see on the super-slow-mo instant replay that yep, he missed that one. But now that play is out there for the whole world – except for the Dorito-eating ump in New York, who apparently can’t see it -- to scrutinize. So many of these calls have gone against the Rockies it’s almost funny. The Rockies aren’t where they need to be on talent; it doesn’t help that they can’t get the luck, either.
This is not a piece on railing against the umps (though that would be fun), it’s on the pretention of the replay system. Why have it if you’re still gonna get it wrong? For example, in the NFL, there is nothing worse and more grating to me than replay. It takes forever, it destroys the momentum ... every little thing gets reviewed, it’s awful.
But they get it right.
They will see multiple angles, get the input of all the refs and eventually, get it right. Meanwhile Bud Selig’s (now Rob Manfred's, I guess?) dream team of techno wizards in New York bungle it time after time after time. Not just for the Rockies, either.
If baseball's gonna screw up replay so badly, why not just have my boys and me don kabuki masks painted in the colors of the participants and we will silently, shadow-act out the plays, perhaps to some music (Blue Danube?Centerfield? Leave your suggestions in the comments) and at least make the mockery entertaining. I don’t know how a major sports league, especially one with the criticisms of modernity that MLB has, could bungle this so badly. It’s almost laughable.
Seeing the "close" play on the scoreboard just makes me cringe when the ump inevitably removes the headphones and clenches his fist in the out gesture. Stupid, man. Don’t you think it’d at least be less of an insult to baseball fans to have a dance troupe enact a replay through Waltz, maybe even get celebrities to reenact the different parts? Oh here comes Christopher Walken as Angel Hernandez … and one of the members of ZZ Top as Charlie Blackmon. This is gonna be a good replay! They could hand out farcical awards for best actor in a replay review, or best supporting umpire in a non-controversial role – I love it when actors win for playing real people!
I guess farcical is not a flavor of snow cone so we’ll have to just snicker as the league botches it every time. Hopefully Purple Row can be ground zero for the rebellion and we can soon be rid of "replay reviews."
If I have any sway or influence at all as a PR writer, I beg you Dorito-eating ump in New York: just stop, alright? I miss the days of the ump, and the ump alone, making the obviously wrong call; at least he didn’t have to watch himself be embarrassed over and over again on the jumbotron while boos rain down. Simpler. Those were the good times.
Welp, gotta go -- looks like we've got a close play at the manhole cover serving as home plate here in the cul-de-sac.