Commentary

Baseball must expand its use of replay

Thursday's Phillies-Marlins game ideal example of why technology should be used more

Originally Published: August 6, 2010
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

Something happened in Thursday's Philadelphia Phillies-Florida Marlins game that summed up exactly what's wrong with baseball's replay system.

But it wasn't just that Bob Davidson screwed up the fair/foul call on what should have been a game-winning, ninth-inning double down the left-field line by the Marlins' Gaby Sanchez.

No, it was actually more nuanced than that.

A half-inning after that call -- which, of course, wasn't reviewed on the old replay machines -- the very same umpiring crew did review its call on another ball hit down that very same foul line by the Phillies' Ben Francisco.

So why was that? What was the difference?

Well, the rules allowed the umps to review their 100 percent-correct "foul" call on the ball Francisco hit -- simply because it would have been a home run.

But they weren't allowed to review their incorrect "foul" call on the ball Sanchez hit -- because it would have been "only" (ahem) a game-winning double.

So am I the only sane human on earth who thinks that makes no sense?

How exactly does this sport justify that one fair/foul call is more important than another, merely because one of them happens to travel a little farther?

If a ball happens to hit a seat in the outfield, it becomes A Big Call, worthy of the use of this sacred technology? But if it hits a blade of grass, it's just another call in the game, even though it would have decided the game?

C'mon, friends. Everybody knows that's ridiculous. And it's one more reason baseball needs to expand its use of replay sooner, not later.

As I've written and said many times, I'm not in favor of reviewing every call on the field, every inning of every game. But, just for starters, why is this sport not allowing umpires to review all fair/foul calls?

Fair/foul is made for replay. It works on home run calls because there's a giant pole in each corner that lets you know if a ball is fair or foul. But it also works for non-home run calls because there's a big white chalk line that runs from the batter's box to the outfield walls that also lets you know. Same thing.

Now maybe Bob Davidson is still convinced his call on that non-double Thursday was absolutely right. Fine. He seems to be the only one, but whatever.

The problem is, it makes no sense whatsoever that he and his crew weren't allowed to look at it again seconds after it happened. And Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez wasn't even allowed at the time to ask the crew chief to have another set of eyes take a look. All he could do was stomp around the field, asking Davidson to at least ask his fellow umpires for help -- a request which Davidson stubbornly declined.

So does baseball want to get these calls correct or not? I'm always told that it does. Of course it does. So why not use this spectacular technology, which is already in place, to make sure it does?

If Bud Selig wants to go slowly on this, I understand. But if he's looking for the next small step for replay-kind, he got a tutorial in that Phillies-Marlins game Thursday.

Fair or foul, Bud. Think about it.

The "wrong" team appeared to have won that game Thursday, in large part because the commish hasn't signed off on a simple, logical and reasonable extension of the replay system already being used.

It's time to take that next step -- before a big game in October is won by the "wrong" team for the very same reason.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. His latest book, "Worth The Wait: Tales of the 2008 Phillies," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores and online. Click here to order a copy.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com