There’s no way Major League Baseball can completely remove the human element from the game. But its willingness to look at expanding instant replay is overdue and should be applauded.
The league is considering making all calls other than balls and strikes reviewable, which is a seismic shift for Commissioner Bud Selig, who has been sensitive to the pace of games. The league might have to add a replay official to stadiums or have the league review plays at a central location — to cut down on the time umpires walk off the field to review plays — but that can be worked out.
“Once technology and camera angles and replay screens can be equal at all 30 ballparks — that’s a concern — we are moving closer and doing a lot of looks and studies into what calls are missed the most often,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said.
Ryan is a member of MLB’s Special Committee for On-field Matters, which Selig created to look at many issues, but the group has discussed instant replay issues more than others.
According to the Sports Features Group, the replay system had been used 32 times this year through Thursday’s games. That’s up from 22 at the same time last season.
There have been some missed calls this year that have made headlines, but I want to point out three plays in recent Twins history that should fuel the movement for replay expansion:
• Oct. 9, 2009: Game 2 of the ALDS. Joe Mauer hit a line drive that landed inside the left-field foul line, but umpire Phil Cuzzi called it foul. Replays showed it was obviously fair, and crew chief Tim Tschida said after the game that it was a blown call.
• Aug. 6, 2010: The Twins believed Jim Thome hit a game-tying, two-run homer off Cleveland’s Chris Perez and felt even more strongly after watching replays of the ball hitting the railing above the home run line in left field. Umpires ruled it a double and weren’t swayed by replays. The Twins still tied the score but lost in the bottom of the ninth.
This one is included because it sounds similar to what Oakland went through on May 8 in Cleveland. The solution here is that Cleveland needs to do something about that railing — or give umps a monitor with a clearer picture.
• Tuesday: Justin Morneau was waved home on Oswaldo Arcia’s single and tagged out on his shoulder by White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, but umpire Jordan Baker missed it. Morneau then reached for the plate and was called safe. If the play is reviewable, Morneau is called out.
If the league can expand replay without expanding time of games, it should happen.
“We are trying to keep the game as pure as we can and make sure they get the calls right,” Ryan said. “The players association is the same way. They want to get the plays right.”
Managers normally bring their closers into tied games at home in the ninth inning because there is no longer a need for a closer if the home team scores in the bottom of the inning.
The Tigers no longer will do that with Jose Valverde. Nine of Valverde’s 12 losses have come when he’s entered tied games at home.
“I don’t like to use Valverde in a tied game at home, even though I’ve done it several times, because it doesn’t seem to be his forte,” manager Jim Leyland said Thursday. “It hasn’t seemed to work out too good. I might try to eliminate that.”
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After taking two of three from the Twins, the White Sox were 17-21, the same record they had a year ago when they won 13 of their next 14 to rise to first place in the division and compete for the title before a late fade.