Major League Baseball finally has instant replay, and no one seems happy about it. Managers are infuriated. Players are dumbfounded. Fans are frustrated.
I get all that. But everyone needs to stop focusing on the little picture displaying the replay and think about the big one. Because no matter how shaky things seem right now – no matter how many kinks need to be worked out – having replay in MLB is a positive development for the sport.
Yes, I know, the system seems kind of broken right now. How could the Yankees’ Francisco Cervelli have been ruled safe on a bang-bang play at first base Sunday while the Angels’ Howie Kendrick was called out the next night?
Well, it was always unrealistic to expect replay to work perfectly from the get-go. And remember the overriding intent of replay in every sport: to correct the most egregious officiating errors.
“Everyone knew going into it that there were going to be growing pains,” Angels play-by-play announcer Victor Rojas said from the home dugout at Angel Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. “There were going to be issues that popped up.
“It’s a work in progress.”
Rojas and Fox Sports West partner Mark Gubicza already have had to talk their audience through multiple replay reviews, including the Kendrick play Monday night. They handled it perfectly, relying on the training they received at a Fox Sports seminar in Rancho Palos Verdes in late February.
Both knew immediately that Angels manager Mike Scioscia had nothing to lose by challenging the play at that late stage in the game (one out in the bottom of the ninth). Gubicza noted that even though it appeared Kendrick was safe, the replay had to be “definitive” to change the call because the original ruling was out. Rojas stressed the importance of when the ball hit the webbing of Oakland first baseman Daric Barton’s mitt.
Both announcers agreed that Kendrick looked safe. After a 31/2-minute review, he was ruled out.
“I don’t know what angles they had in New York, but it’s got to be conclusive,” Rojas said. “If it’s not conclusive, it’s difficult for them to overturn it.”
Rojas accepted the decision and moved on. If only it were so easy for everyone else to do the same.
LAKERS VS. CLIPPERS
As expected, Lakers ratings plummeted this season along with the team’s fortunes. What nobody saw coming – and what makes little sense on the surface – was a drop in Clippers ratings.
Considering their success, star power and exciting style of play, the decline is difficult to comprehend. I did a little digging to determine the cause and learned the following:
Clippers viewership was on par with 2012-13 until Chris Paul got hurt in early January. During the five or so weeks he was out, ratings fell almost 29 percent. They bounced back after Paul returned, but not quite to the pre-injury level.
In addition, the Clippers had the maximum number of “side-by-sides” – games broadcast both nationally and locally. That splintered the audience.
The Clippers clearly are an attractive property, as evidenced by the royal treatment they’re getting for their first-round playoff series against Golden State. Game 1 on Saturday is in the prestigious 12:30 p.m. slot on ABC. Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Lisa Salters have the call. Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and David Aldridge will work Monday’s Game 2 on TNT. Games 2 and 3, plus Games 5-7 if necessary, also will air on Prime Ticket.
WANING WITHOUT WOODS
Ratings for the Masters on CBS and ESPN were down significantly – not a surprising development with Tiger Woods out because of injury.
Although Woods’ absence undoubtedly was the biggest factor, it wasn’t the only one. Phil Mickelson, the second-most-popular American golfer, didn’t make the cut. Young star Rory McIlroy never contended. And Sunday’s back nine featured little if any drama after the two previous Masters were decided in playoffs.
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