The big brains of prestigious Eastern colleges have taken over the baseball operation of many major league teams, yet the game continues to be run at its highest administrative level by people who somehow manage to be both insecure and arrogant.
Major League Baseball leaped head first into the world of replay not because of its burning desire to correct wrong decisions, but rather to emulate the NFL.
The replay controversies in the NFL made its television partners very happy, because those replays made what was being provided by TV even more important to the fans.
“Is the coach going to challenge?’’ “He has the flag in his hand … yes, it’s a challenge.’’ “I don’t know if this is a good challenge; he might be wasting it.’’
Baseball started by allowing umpires to confirm whether a potential home run was fair or foul, or over those yellow lines on distant fences. That was an excellent addition to the game.
When the movement to expand replay gained steam, there could have been a straightforward system: If an umpiring crew wanted to check on a call, it could do so. Believe it or not, these fellows do want to get the calls right.
Jim Joyce’s infamous call at first that cost Detroit’s Armando Galarraga a perfect game would have been taken care of in three minutes. A crew member would have said, “Jim, we should take a look at that one,’’ the safe call would have been overturned, and Joyce’s exceptional career would not have been tarnished by that moment.
Of course, there then wouldn’t be the drama of cameras zeroing in on a dugout to see if a manager was going to use a challenge. How could we live without that?
So, now we have bench coaches on phones with video guys, and umpires gazing at managers for an order to look at replay, and playoff games being decided when a spike comes off the base as a runner returns to first.
It is so pathetic, so instructive on baseball’s paranoia over its place in modern North American sports, and we saw more of it within the first two days of the new season.
Commissioner Rob Manfred, who talks loudly and carries a foam finger, was quoted widely in February that once the process started, replays would not take more than two minutes. If there wasn’t “clear and convincing’’ evidence to overturn a decision in that time ... call stands, game resumes.
On Friday, Detroit scored the winning run vs. Pittsburgh in the bottom of the 10th of its home opener. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle asked for a replay on catcher Francisco Cervelli’s lunging tag.
The replay clock ran well past two minutes … 3:41 was the official time, although the lingering was closer to five minutes. Nothing was clear, or convincing, and yet Nick Castellanos was called out, Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire was thrown out, the game resumed and Pittsburgh won 13-10 in 13 innings.
So, basically, we have Rob Manfred saying, “Replay shall take no more two minutes, unless we decide it can take two or three times longer than that.''
All in all, I’d say Manfred is the baseball version of Gov. William J. Le Petomane: meaningless proclamations that demand harrumphs from his acolytes.