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Column: Replay looms after bad week for umpires

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm •  Published: May 11, 2013

Take heart, baseball fans. Expanded instant replay is on its way, though it may not be the game changer the sport needs.

Not when there are umpires who don't know the rules, and others who ignore what they see in front of them.

Incompetence, meet sheer arrogance.

The glaring mistakes of the past week didn't go unnoticed by Major League Baseball, which suspended one umpire for two games and fined three others after they botched a rule on pitching changes in Houston that most fans sitting at home watching on television could have gotten right. Why four umpires who are supposed to know even the most arcane rules couldn't figure it out is a mystery, though suspended plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth said he takes "all the responsibility'" for what happened.

More troubling than basic ignorance of a rule, though, was what happened in Cleveland a day earlier. There, three umpires went to a video review and upheld an original call that a ball didn't clear the fence even when the video evidence showed clearly that it was a game tying home run by Adam Rosales of the Oakland A's.

That got Oakland manager Bob Melvin ejected for arguing, and it quite possibly cost his team a game. It also brought Randy Marsh, MLB's director of umpires, to the game the next night to speak to umpires and make sure the replay equipment was functioning properly.

It was, which makes the decision not to overturn the original call even more perplexing. Even with the use of high definition technology, the umpiring crew was either too proud — or simply too arrogant — to change their minds over what MLB executive vice president Joe Torre said was a blown call.

Remember that when Bud Selig stands before cameras sometime later this year and announces that instant replay — now confined mostly to trying to get home runs right — will be expanded next season to include fair-or-foul calls down the line, trapped balls and maybe even close plays on basepaths.

Baseball purists won't like it, but it's inevitable. The way technology and camera angles have improved, it's hard to make an argument any longer that the game is better off without the benefit of the best set of eyes around.

Other sports have long since figured that out. The NFL led the way and still reviews more than any other sport, but instant replay is also used in the NHL, NBA, college football and Grand Slam tennis.

Imagine, if you will, had it been in place in the American League playoffs in 2009, when the Joe Mauer's 11th inning fly ball down the left field line landed clearly fair just a few feet away from umpire Phil Cuzzi, who called it foul. The Yankees ended up beating Minnesota in that game and going on to win the World Series, but the result could have been different had the call been correct.

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