Not even the most myopic New York Yankees fan could lay the blame for their ALCS Game Two loss at the hands of umpire Jeff Nelson.
Even if Nelson had correctly ended the eighth inning when Robinson Cano tagged out Omar Infante at second base, the Yankees still would have needed to score at least once before nine innings were complete to take the game into extras.
The way some of the Yankees were swinging the bat – and sometimes the way they were not swinging the bat – it looked unlikely they would have scored one run over ninety innings.
It’s also difficult as a neutral to get too upset at a bad call going against the $200m Yankee team. ESPN.com’s Jim Caple makes the point, in an amusing Yankee tail-tweaking article, that the Bronx Bombers have benefited from incorrect calls at important moments in playoff games plenty of times in the past. ‘Oh dear, what a shame’ would be the polite version of the standard response, accompanied by plenty of laughter.
However, even though Nelson’s blown call might not elicit much in the way of sympathy, it should add to the concerns that grow louder every year regarding MLB’s reluctance to introduce instant replay more widely than present.
Next time it could be your team that’s on the wrong end of it.
All sports have to contend with the fact that TV broadcasters now have so many cameras that they can replay most incidents in detail within seconds of it happening. Officials have always made wrong calls and always will, in exactly the same way players make mistakes and bad decisions, but now there is no hiding place and the line the governing bodies trot out about officiating errors being the ‘human side of the game’ don’t wash if your team has just been undone by a clearly incorrect decision on an important incident.
Judging which are the important events to review is extremely difficult (a close play at second base in the third inning might turn out to have been the decisive run if the next batter hit a one-run homer instead of a two-run homer etc) and surely no fan wants to see every decision reviewed, so finding the right balance is an inexact science.
However the fact that there’s no perfect solution, and arriving at a solution that pleases all will be difficult, is no reason for governing bodies to bury their heads in the sand. The oft-repeated argument about not wanting to slow the pace of the game is a red herring. Checking the replay footage takes a lot less time than is currently taken up by managerial rants.
The credibility of the game is at stake. You can’t tell millions of TV viewers that although they can see within seconds that it should have been an out on the bases, we’re all going to pretend that it didn’t happen and the referee/umpire’s decision was correct.