There is no need to expand use of replay
It is not worth slowing down flow of game when no system is infallible
First of all, I agree with the umpires. Every time I study the angles that were provided to the crew of Angel Hernandez on Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the four of them huddled in the ninth inning to determine whether Adam Rosales ripped a double or a home run to left field for the Oakland Athletics, I hear the same word: Inconclusive.
There isn't one. Under the rules of instant replay, the original call stands when those in charge of the decision -- as opposed to those on either team, in the stands or second-guessing at home -- say the review was inconclusive. As a result, Rosales was given a double as originally called by Hernandez, and it didn't matter that others who dissected the replay like the Zapruder film were convinced Rosales' shot hit a metal railing above the 19-foot-high wall for a home run.
That said, all of this hand wringing over the Rosales play is secondary to something bigger: This is the most striking example yet that instant replay in baseball isn't "The Great Savior."
It is "The Great Deceiver." As I've said forever (and likely will beyond that), there isn't anything you can do to get every call right in baseball or any other sport, and in Seinfeld lingo, there's nothing wrong with that. And no matter how folks try to spin it otherwise, the growth of instant replay in baseball will lengthen games to unacceptable levels, and it won't eliminate arguments.
Exhibit A: Oakland manager Bob Melvin. Within milliseconds after the umpires in Cleveland made their ruling against his team, Melvin did what managers have done since the game was invented. He raced from the dugout to go nose-to-nose with any umpire he could find after a call he thought was the worst in the history of the world.
Tick, tick, tick. If you add Melvin's tirade to the seconds, minutes, days and weeks it took for the review, that time element gets worse.
You can tell managers, players and everybody else that the decision of the umpires is final after reviews, and you can threaten to fine them or suspend them if they voice their disapproval.
It won't matter. The on-field conflicts will continue. The same goes for umpires (or whomever else you put into the decision-making process) coming back with "inconclusive" decisions after reviewing plays through whatever fancy technology you give them.
Take this situation, for instance. To end speculation that maybe Hernandez and his partners were limited in their replay options, MLB executive vice president Joe Torre announced afterward that "home and away broadcast feeds are available for all uses of instant replay, and they were available to the crew [Wednesday night]."
The umpires watched all of those different replays in high definition, and then they watched them a few more times after that, and then they gradually came to their "inconclusive" decision.
You may disagree with their decision, but to be fair, you can't ask for anything more than that.
People still are upset.
No surprise there. Ever hear of the Immaculate Reception? It occurred more than 40 years ago during a playoff game in Pittsburgh between the Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. Despite several angles of that play in either normal or super-duper slow motion, nobody really has a clue of what actually happened back then.
Some say the replays show Franco Harris completed the purist of miracles after he snatched a deflected pass out of the air with no time left to sprint for the Steelers' game-winning touchdown. Other say the replays show that the whole thing was a fraud.
What this means is that baseball should keep the status quo regarding the expansion of instant replay.
The only thing baseball has now is replays on disputed home run calls, but before long, the game is talking about having video reviews of close plays involving fair/foul calls and trapped balls.
I can live with that. Barely.
My concern? If you agree to those small additions to instant replay, folks will want more. Bang-bang calls on the bases, balls and strikes -- before long, baseball will resemble the NFL or college football and basketball when it comes to instant replay, and that's not a compliment. The interruptions in those sports for video reviews are becoming more irritating than commercials.
Just this week, the NCAA said it would allow referees in men's and women's college basketball to use video monitors more often during the final two minutes of games and in overtime. The NCAA added that referees who call an elbow to the head on players will be allowed to use a monitor to determine the severity of the blow -- you know, to decide whether to call a flagrant-1 call, flagrant-2 call or no call at all.
Courtesy of such interruptions, men's college basketball lost much of its flow years ago, and this won't exactly help.
Speaking of flow, it wasn't the smoothest on Wednesday afternoon in Cincinnati during a game between the Reds and the Atlanta Braves. After Braves slugger Evan Gattis slammed a shot high and deep down the left-field line, the umpires huddled at length to watch replays to determine whether it was a foul ball or a home run.
The television replays showed it was clearly foul, but the umpires huddled anyway, which made sense. If you are an umpire or a referee, and if you have instant replay in your sport, and if a given play is reviewable, you're going to use it to make sure.
The umpires got their decision right in Cincinnati, and their counterparts did the same later that night in Cleveland. It just took more than a little while both times. Which brings me to the best answer of all involving instant replay: Just leave it alone.
Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.