Open letter to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig: This isn't that hard to do.
I'm talking about baseball's absurd approach to the use of video replay.
As I've written before, I'm not in the replay camp. I'm just fine with umps blowing calls (after all, the players screw up and don't get re-do's), but I recognize that I'm in the minority. And the battle's been lost anyway; baseball already employs video replay on some home run calls and plans to expand it next year to include fair/foul calls and caught-or-trapped calls.
So, since the sport seems so intent on expanding the use of video replay, is it too much to ask that they get it right?
Bay Area baseball fans have seen the current flawed system in use way too often in 2013, and the year isn't even halfway over. Exhibit A was the May home run-that-wasn't in Cleveland, where Oakland's Adam Rosales hit one over the wall. It bounced off a black-painted railing, rebounded onto the field, and was ruled a "live ball".
The A's complained, and that's when Selig's Folly kicked in. The original call had been made by Angel Hernandez, an umpire who is not exactly beloved by players and managers for his acumen or his demeanor. But Hernandez is the "crew chief", so he was in charge of deciding whether to overrule himself. He didn't, making him the only person on the planet who didn't get the call right.
There are two problems here. First, why is the guy who made the call asked to rule on his own work? And second, why does it have to take so long to sort these things out? Baseball's replay system involves the entire umpiring crew leaving the field and peering at a video monitor somewhere under the stands.
The Giants played two straight games in Pittsburgh this week in which home run calls were reversed. In one game, the Pirates' Neal Walker bounced one off an empty right field seat at PNC Park. In real time, the umps missed the call, but correctly ruled it a homer after watching the replay. The next night, Giants rookie Nick Noonan circled the bases with his first big-league dinger, but was sent back to second base after a closer look showed the ball had bounced back off the top of the center field fence.
Both of those Pittsburgh decisions were correct, but both took far too long to make. Casual television viewers knew the truth long before the umps returned from their video lair.
The solution is simple, and it's already in use in the smallest of North America's Big 4 pro sports. The National Hockey League uses a central video replay room to make very fast calls on goals. The Toronto "war room" gets feeds from every arena.
The NHL system removes the Angel Hernandez factor from the process and leverages technology in the service of speed and accuracy. It's about time baseball got with the program.
It'll only get worse when the use of video replay expands to more calls. Before MLB games start looking like NFL games, complete with on-screen timers showing the length of the delay, it's time to adopt the NHL system. If it's important to get it right, there's no reason not to get it right fast.