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Tim McClelland’s bad day.

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Last night’s American League Championship Series game between the Angels and Yankees was just another lynchpin in the case supporting instant replay in baseball.

Game 4 was not even about baseball; it was about disastrous officiating. Nitpicking over catcher Mike Napoli’s positioning behind the plate, a missed pickoff play at second base, and a botched tag up call weren’t even the worst of it. In what Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo! is calling the “worst call of all time,” crew chief Tim McClelland called the Yankee’s Robinson Cano safe at third base, despite the fact that he wasn’t standing anywhere close to the bag and had been physically tagged with a live ball.

The controversial calls made the umpires the stars of the show. And that’s unforgivable.

The only part about this messy affair I can forget about is the whole much-ado-about-nothing home plate umpire Jerry Layne had with Napoli’s “standing kneel.” If it was impeding his line of sight, then it was admirable that he spoke to Angel’s manager Mike Scioscia, got the problem fixed, and then was done with it.

While I didn’t see any problem with how Napoli was positioned, the brief delay foreshadowed what can only be described as the Murphy’s Law of Umpiring.

Blown call #1.

Blown call #1.

In the top of the 4th inning, second base umpire Dale Scott called the Yankee’s Nick Swisher safe on a pickoff attempt by the Angel’s Scott Kazmir.

As the FOX Sports feed replayed the video on the stadium’s big screens, a collective grumble rose from the legions of Angel’s fans in attendance. Kazmir’s throw was, in fact, on the mark. Swisher should have been called out. Nevertheless, Swisher advanced to third when Derek Jeter walked to load the bases.

Cut to the next batter: on a sacrifice fly to right field, Swisher held the bag, waiting to tag up and score. When the ball dropped into Torii Hunter’s glove, Swisher broke for home plate, apparently plating another Yankee run.

Torii Hunter asked for an appeal. Chone Figgins stepped on third. Third base umpire Tim McClelland raised his right arm and pumped his fist. According to McClelland, Swisher had left early, thus nullifying the run and ending the inning.

Blown call #2.

Blown call #2.

One has to believe that McClelland was trying to right his crew’s wrong because Swisher, by all accounts, did not leave early.

By far the most egregious error came in the top half of the 5th inning. On a ground ball to reliever Darren Oliver, Jorge Posada attempted to score from third base but got caught in a rundown. Robinson Cano, who was on second, smartly began to advance to third, recognizing Posada’s imminent fate. As Posada retreated to third base, Cano stopped in his tracks a foot or so from the bag. Angel’s catcher Mike Napoli ran down the line and tagged both Posada and Cano as the two admired the shiny white object in the dirt.

That’s a double-play, right?

Well folks, not last night.

McClelland called Cano safe. In a postgame interview, he said he couldn’t see that Cano was off the base “for whatever reason.”

Blown call #3.

Blown call #3 or "What's that white thing?"

To add my opinion to the slew already available on the Internet, baseball must institute some kind of instant replay.

On that end, I am not for the let’s-review-everything mindset that has slowed down so many football games. Baseball is already snail-paced and by instituting anything that extends a 3-hour game to a 3 1/2 hour game, the sport will lose even more fans.

Baseball should have a review team ready, whether it’s in the booth, clubhouse, or production truck, to reverse or uphold calls. It can be quick and simple, done on the fly. There’s not as many nuances in baseball’s individual plays as football’s and I think this is a feasible and easy solution.

Use instant replay extensively only during the postseason and the run up to the postseason. These games often dictate who is going to the World Series, not who is going to finish 63-100 or 83-80.

Each blown call takes a small part of a team’s ultimate fate out of its hands and directly in the hands of umpires. That’s not how it should be. And while last night’s calls didn’t have a firm bearing on the game’s outcome, how demoralized were the Angels? They must have felt like they couldn’t win, no matter how hard they tried.

I understand the hesitation to remove the human element from a sport built on physical prowess and natural ability, but games like last night’s should never happen.

Would the Rockies have even made the World Series in 2007 if Matt Holliday was called out on during the 164th game of the season against the San Diego Padres?

That’s where we need instant replay.

And we need it now.

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  1. […] that MLB umpires have proven they can’t see much of anything (see: prior blog) and that the 45,000 fans in attendance were hundreds of feet away, what makes this news […]


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