On second thought, instant replay makes a whole lot of sense
Maybe it wouldn't have mattered. Maybe Brad Hawpe would have stroked a two-out hit into the gap and former Tennessee quarterback Todd Helton would have scored all the way from first to still give the Colorado Rockies a 9-8, break-out-the-defibrillator-paddles victory against the San Diego Padres and a ticket to the National League Division Series.Then again, maybe not. Maybe Hawpe strikes out against the greatest reliever of all time, Trevor Hoffman, and the 163rd game of the season needs a 14th inning. Or a 20th. Maybe the Padres, not the Rockies, end up winning the thing, shower in champagne, and then fly to Philadelphia for Wednesday night's NLDS opener against the Phillies. Instead, a bang-bang play at home plate -- essentially the play that decided if the Rockies would become the last playoff entrant -- was made by a well-meaning plate umpire who was forced to make an educated guess on the call. Tim McClelland guessed, and he was wrong. If only he'd had a friend to help him out. Hello, instant replay. McClelland, a 25-year-plus umpiring veteran who has worked four World Series and six League Championship Series, called Matt Holliday safe at home in the bottom of the 13th inning of Monday night's game at Coors Field. It was a slightly delayed call -- that's McClelland's style -- but there was no mistaking that he thought Holliday, tagging from third on a sacrifice fly, had somehow slipped his left hand (pinkie?) past catcher Michael Barrett's left foot, which blocked the plate as Barrett waited for the throw from outfielder Brian Giles. Holliday's hand never touched the base. But by then McClelland had made the call, Barrett had dropped the ball and begun walking toward the Padres dugout, and the Rockies had begun celebrating. Had there been instant replay, they might still be playing. Yes, I know what I wrote two years ago after a handful of close and sometimes bizarre plays helped determine the 2005 ALCS and NLCS winners:
- Is it time for instant replay in baseball? The answer is no, and should always be no unless hell freezes over, Bud Selig wears a thong, and artificial turf is installed at Fenway Park.
I was wrong. Turns out the answer is yes. And it isn't yes because McClelland probably botched the Holliday-Barrett call. It's because it's time for the baseball purists (guilty) to acknowledge the game can be improved by technology.Did you see the replays? Not even Holliday, who was there, knew if he touched home plate. Of course, that's what happens when you're semiconscious from the collision. Barrett said he thought he blocked Holliday off the plate. So did TBS analyst Cal Ripken Jr. But Padres manager Bud Black, watching from the dugout, said he thought Holliday's hand slipped through. And a giddy Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd told Denver reporters, "I don't care." Wouldn't it have been nice to be sure? Or as close as you can get to sure? How many Don Denkinger/Game 6 moments of the 1985 World Series do we have to endure before Selig and the owners give instant replay a chance? "I am an umpire's friend," said Seattle Mariners GM Bill Bavasi, who, by the way, thought Holliday could have been safe. "I like those guys. I think they're good. I'm proud of our umpires. But, hey, if you can help these guys, help them." It cost the NFL $9.5 million to help its guys. That's the what the league spent to install state-of-the-art, high-definition monitors in the replay, coaches and on-field booths of all 31 NFL stadiums. Depending on the system, Major League Baseball could do it more cheaply, but why not demand the best? The fans, the Padres, to say nothing of the umpires themselves, deserve that much.
Phillips' on Mike and Mike
ESPN's Steve Phillips supported instant replay as a general manager. And he hasn't changed his mind a bit. Podcast