Here’s the problem with MLB’s current proofreading system: Too often it just doesn’t work.
Yeah, that’s probably oversimplifying things. The good news? Some fixes are simple!
Sunday night in Atlanta, Phillies runner Alec Bohm failed to touch home plate in his ninth round. But was called to safety on the pitch and proofreading officials allowed the call to stay. It was the decisive race, a 7-6 win for the Phillies.
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Last Thursday, Mets hitter Michael Conforto clearly dug his heavily armored elbow into the strike zone and was hit by a pitch from Miami right-hander Anthony Bass in the bottom of the ninth inning. The bases were loaded at the time, and the HBP forced the house to win the deciding point in a 3-2 victory for the Mets.
Either way, what actually happened was pretty clear from a few quick looks at the replay. In both cases, however, incorrect calls were allowed.
“Why even replay if you don’t reverse that?” Braves pitcher Drew Smyly, who started Sunday’s game against the Phillies, told reporters. “That’s how I feel about it. I think everyone thinks that way. There are five different angles. It is clear, he did not touch the plate.
Receiver Travis d’Arnaud, who blocked the plate, agreed: “It doesn’t even make me want, honestly,” he said. “It just slows down the game. It took them five minutes to decide, and for me, they were wrong. I’d rather not have it and run the game.
With respect, this is not the right conclusion.
Here’s the thing: Replay, in theory, is fine. The goal should be to get correct calls, right? And proofreading does, for the most part, a remarkable job of correcting missed calls in the field. Properly canceled games are like offensive linemen in football – if you don’t hear about them, they do a great job.
And yet, every time the rerun fails, calls to get rid of it multiply across the country from gamers, writers and fans. I do not understand that. Why would we want to go back to a time when we just accept that there will be a handful of missed calls in every game, with no system in place to make those calls properly? Why not just fix the system?
Yes, to take up Arnaud’s point, two or three times per game, the replay slows down the action. But, my friends, the problem with baseball games that last nearly four hours isn’t one or two replay delays (most are less than a minute). It’s a drop of water in the bucket.
In the Phillies-Braves game, I’m still not sure how the replay officials failed to cancel the appeal on the field. Any objective look at the replay showed that Bohm had missed the plate, that his foot was essentially bouncing off it on the slide. But one of the biggest problems with proofreading? For some reason, the field appeal carries weight.
From The Athletic, an email from the Phillies-Braves team supervisor: “After seeing all the relevant angles, the proofread official could not definitively determine that the runner had not touched home plate. before the defender applies the tag. Call STANDS, the runner is safe. “
Here’s a fix: How about just admitting that the on-court referees might have made a mistake and replay officials in New York making the contested call, unbiased by what the on-court referee thought? have seen? Atlanta shortstop Dansby Swanson agrees.
“So if anything, the change could be,” Swanson told reporters, “they don’t know the call and they just make a call based on what they see on the replay, not what is actually (called upon) in the field. “
This makes a lot of sense if your end goal is to respond well. And that 100% should be the goal.
Now, on the Conforto situation: the three most infuriating words heard on a baseball show are “it’s not revisable.” Don’t go toddler on you, but… “Why?” Why? Why?”
Why is it not revisable? And “because it just isn’t” is not an acceptable answer. Is this a concession to the referees, to allow them to have some control, a last word on what happens on the pitch?
Sorry, this is not enough.
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If the goal is to make every call succeed – and if not, again, what do we do? – here is a list of what should be revisable:
Replay, as currently set up, allows New Yorkers to check if a batter is actually hit with a pitch. Its good. They got it right. Conforto was scratched by the ground. Well, his elbow armor was scratched.
But replay officials cannot, by rule, judge whether they believe Conforto intentionally leaned onto the pitch. It does not mean anything.
There are a lot of things that Kulpa, like any plate umpire, needs to watch, but his priority should be to determine if any ground is crossing the plate in the strike zone. It is an incredibly difficult task that requires a lot of concentration. Not to mention that the umpire is behind the batter, which might be the worst possible prospect to watch for Conforto’s slight tilt in his torso, led by his front arm, furthest from the umpire.
But looking at the play from mound to mound, it was clear that Conforto not only hadn’t tried to avoid the pitch, but actually leaned over the pitch.
Anyone who watched the show live saw what Conforto did. And anyone who has watched even a single replay from that perspective has seen Conforto’s skinny.
But was it not revisable? This is a joke.
Oh, and here’s the other thing. As a rule of thumb, any pitch that hits a batter in the strike zone is supposed to immediately be called a dead ball strike. By rule, it does not matter if the umpire thinks the batter did not attempt to avoid the court or lean on the court..
Read it again. This is referee Ted Barrett, if you don’t believe me.
Apparently, this is also not revisable. Again, although we’ve all seen the terrain above the plate when replaying, and we’ve all seen the little dot in the outline of the K-Zone.
So Kupla was wrong about two things on this same ground. First, he should have called the pitch a strike and the game should have been dead. If he thought the pitch was a ball (he would have been wrong) he should have decided that Conforto didn’t try to avoid the pitch because he didn’t. It should have been a dead bullet.
But he missed both of those calls and there was no cure for the Marlins as the rules say these things are not reviewable. It’s not enough. The rules need to be changed. The goal should be to “answer the call correctly, no matter what”.
So here is. It’s been a bad week for the baseball replay. But an imperfect proofreading system can be fixed. Two starting points: Make everything reviewable and let replay officials in New York City make calls regardless of the call on the pitch.
Oh, and while we’re asking for things, how about a little accountability? Kulpa, to his great credit, admitted his mistakes, when asked questions by a reporter at the pool. But replay officials in New York must be held to the same standard, something more than just a statement emailed after the game is over.
It’s a broken system, but some of the fixes are pretty obvious.