Expand replay for the playoffs 

October, 5, 2010
10/05/10
8:14
AM ET

Getty ImagesAlready (and often) umpires meet together and with managers to debate and get calls right; replay would make that current necessity (and time-waster) a thing of the past.
Let's make one thing absolutely clear this morning: I do not believe in any way, shape or form that any umpire is fixing baseball games. We have absolutely no evidence that any umpire is on the take.

But for Major League Baseball, the fight against the mere perception that anyone might be involved in fixing ballgames has been a vigilant effort that began in the aftermath of the 1919 World Series. And that precedent set by then-commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ultimately resulted in the expulsion of Pete Rose, the man with more hits than anybody in the history of the game. It's a stance and effort that continues today. Anyone employed in the sport fully understands, through spring training seminars and prominently posted rules, that fixing a game is regarded as the single most serious offense there is, worthy of the sport's equivalent to a death penalty. It's a long precedent, and it is largely unquestioned.

But for Major League Baseball, the fight against the mere perception that anyone might be involved in fixing ballgames has been a vigilant effort that began in the aftermath of the 1919 World Series and resulted in the expulsion of the man who had more hits than anybody in the history of the game; it's an effort that continues today. Anyone employed in the sport fully understands, through spring training seminars and prominently posted rules, that fixing a game is regarded as the single most serious offense, worthy of the sport's equivalent to a death penalty.

The battle to protect baseball's integrity is something that commissioners have waged for almost a century, and it is to that end that Bud Selig should implement expanded use of instant replay by the time David Price throws the first pitch in the playoffs on Wednesday afternoon.




Bud Selig should implement expanded use of instant replay by the time David Price throws the first pitch in the playoffs on Wednesday afternoon.





If Selig wants more perspective on why this should be done, he should call David Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association, who every spring has to cope with the perception of a very, very small percentage of fans who believe the games are shaped by officials in order to extend a given series, or to create the most compelling matchups. The Lakers play the Celtics in a Game 6, two bodies crash together on a drive to the basket in the last minute, a decisive call is made which leads to a Game 7, and you can turn on talk radio all over the country and hear some callers suggesting that it was all done in the name of television ratings.

To be clear, again: I don't believe that kind of thing goes on. But Stern's fight against that perception became much more complicated after referee Tim Donaghy acknowledged making calls to steer games according to point spread parameters. Stern will always have a difficult task because of the simple fact that subjective calls, of which there are so many -- charge or block, the contact on a shot -- have such a direct bearing on the outcome.

But beyond ball and strike calls, the vast majority of decisions in baseball can be clarified by instant replay -- a safe or out call at first base, as Don Denkinger and Jim Joyce know. A fair ball or foul ball call, as Mike Everitt -- the umpire who incorrectly ruled that Andres Torres' chalk-kicking hit to open the bottom of the first on Sunday in San Francisco was foul -- understands all too well. A tag play on a stolen base. Can you imagine how the anger would have echoed through history if second base umpire Joe West had wrongly called out Dave Roberts when he tried to steal second in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS?

Baseball has the opportunity to get those kinds of calls right, and should do so simply for the sake of getting them right. If a farmer sitting underneath a bowl of potato chips on his couch in Vermont can know whether the call is correct within 20 seconds, through high def and super slo-mo and freeze cams, then the umpires should have access to that, as well.