After review, MLB's replay system is a real error

After review, MLB's replay system is a real error
April 14, 2014, 11:00 am
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NEW YORK -- When Major League Baseball was getting ready to introduce its new replay system this spring, surely, officials knew that it would take some getting used to.
     
After all, it's impossible to implement an overhaul so significant and not have some bugs in the early going.
     
So in the first week, when it took 4 minutes and 45 seconds to completely review a call in a game between Oakland and Cleveland, while regrettable, it was also somewhat understandable.
     
But what happened over the weekend at Yankee Stadium was more than inconvenient or frustrating. It was wrong. Wrong enough to call into question the very integrity of the system.
     
And that's beyond damaging to the game.
     
Blown calls are part of the game, and have been for as long as it's been played. But precisely because MLB -- and other sports -- have embraced the opportunity to correct those blown calls with the technology available, it's upped the ante for itself.
     
When you tell the participants -- and the paying customers and the fans at home -- that a new resource is in place to eliminate such mistakes...and the mistakes are still made? Then you've got bigger problems.
     
Players and fans could, grudgingly, accept the fact that umpires would occasionally get calls wrong. They wouldn't like it, but, deep down, knew that such mistakes were inevitable, the cost of the "human element.''
     
Now, however, such, mistakes are tougher to swallow. When the promise of perfection is implied, nothing less will satisfy.
     
Baseball effectively told everyone what was said of TV's "Six Million Dollar Man'' -- "We have the technology; we can make (it) better."
     
Instead, they've made it worse, doubling down on the frustration many feel.
     
Or as John Farrell put it Sunday night: "As much as they're trying to help the human element inside this system, it seems like it's added a human element at a different level.''
     
To recap: On Saturday, it seemed patently obvious that Yankee shortstop Dean Anna was off the bag in the eighth inning when Xander Bogaerts tagged him. The Sox challenged the call, and both the NESN feed and the YES feed clearly showed that to be true.
     
(There was a third feed from the game from FoxSports1, which presumably had the same replay angle).
     
But somehow the call stood. Farrell and the Red Sox were told that MLB didn't have "the feed'' of the proper angle to overturn the original call on the field.
     
Fans at home could see the call was missed, then saw clear video evidence that would overturn it. So far, so good.
     
But to be told that some sort of technical glitch stood in the way of correcting a mistake is a tough sell. Major League Baseball proudly showed off its new "War Room,'' to the media the week before the season began, unveiling its wall of video monitors, all very much state-of-the-art.
     
Then, teams and fans get told that the replay officials were unable to access the proper angle? How is that possible?
     
(What MLB perhaps didn't anticipate was the onset of conspiracy talk, which is sure to grow, now that the Yankees have been the beneficiary of not one but two calls missed by a command center located in . . . lower Manhattan).
     
As bad as Saturday was, Sunday was far worse.
     
On Saturday, the blown call at second didn't result in a run being scored and didn't affect the outcome. That wasn't the case Sunday night, when, as the result of the overturned call, a run scored on the play. That run turned out to be the difference in a 3-2 Red Sox loss.
     
Beyond the inability to get the call right Sunday night, there was this shocker revealed by Farrell: "When this was rolled out and explained to us, particularly on the throw received by the first baseman, we were instructed that when the ball enters the glove -- not that it has to hit the back of the glove -- is where the out is deemed complete.''
     
Excuse me, but what? Now, baseball has quietly and without any announcement, casually changed the notion of what constitutes a catch?
     
Are there other, underpublicized and wholesale changes to the rules that we should know about?
     
Every time a new layer gets pulled back on baseball's new system, it reveals something heretofore unknown. But worst of all, a system that was supposed to improve transparency is, instead, making things worse.