Most sports use technology to get calls on the field correct. Officials, referees and umpires are human and, as such, they make mistakes. Blown calls can cost a team a game, necessitating video and replays. So why does baseball seem to fight, kicking and screaming, into the new millennium?
Anyone who was watching the Atlanta Braves face the St. Louis Cardinals in a one-game wild card playoff on Friday night knows what I am talking about. A terrible call cost the Braves a chance to advance in the playoffs and extend Chipper Jones’ last season.
If you missed it, in the bottom of the eighth inning, Atlanta, trailing by 3, had runners on first and second with one out. Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit a high pop fly into the middle of left field.
What looked to be an easy out for the Cardinals turned into a nightmare for the MLB’s first ever wild card game. As Simmons’ hit drifted high into the Atlanta sky, Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday were tracking it down.
At the last second, Kozma ducked away and left Holliday to make the out, but Holliday held himself back, thinking Kozma was going to grab it. Instead, neither made the catch, and the ball dropped in to the left-field grass.
At worst, it looked like the Braves would have the bases loaded with only one out, or they had scored a couple of runs as the Cardinals played Keystone Kops in the outfield. Instead, left-field umpire Sam Holbrook incorrectly signaled that the “in-field fly rule” was in play.
That call meant Simmons was out, and the Braves’ runners were only able to advance to third and second—and, more importantly, there were two outs in the eighth. Braves’ fans started throwing cans and bottles into outfield in Turner Field in outrage.
Instead of using replay to fix the call and at least give Atlanta the bases loaded with only one out, the play stood. The blown call killed the Braves’ rally.
Baseball has to expand its use of replay so we don’t have to live with their sham rule of protesting a game. Get the call right on the field or use replay to get it right before the next play.