June 16: Tyler Moore crosses home plate ahead of the tag but is called out by home plate umpire Tim Timmons. September 15: Adam LaRoche is ruled to have come off the bag by Marvin Hudson. The runner is called safe and the following batter, Jason Heyward, hits a two-run, game-tying homer. September 19: Home plate umpire Alan Porter forgets to watch Matt Kemp running to home as Ryan Zimmerman makes the tag on Adrian Gonzalez. The umpires decide to award the Dodgers with an additional run.
Every one of these games was close, and every one ended up being a Nats loss with the main focus of the game being poor umpiring. It doesn’t have to be that way. Teams don’t want to have their games decided by split-second decisions, and umpires don’t want to wake up the next morning to find their names all over the news for all the wrong reasons. With the technology that now exists, there are no more excuses as to why baseball isn’t doing its best to get the calls right.
There is no guarantee that the Nats win any of the above three games, but in each instance a run was either taken off the board or put on the board by bad umpiring, and in each instance there was clear video evidence of what the correct call would have been. With the Nats’ division lead now down to five games, even one of those loses being turned into a win would be a help. There is the chance that the umpires have not only cost the Nats wins in the regular season, but those three games could be the difference in a division title and the wild card.
At this point in time, it isn’t likely that the Nats lose the division. If they can go 7-7 in their remaining games, the Braves would have to go 12-0 to win the division outright. The Nats are still in a very good position to win the division even without those three additional wins. Where the Nats might lose out is on having the best record in the NL and getting to play the winner of the wild card play-in game. In other words, it is the difference of getting to play a team that has burned its best starter in order to get into the NLDS while the Nats will have their rotation set up, as compared to having to travel to San Francisco to face Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.
The two main arguments against replay in baseball are that it will slow down the game and that it removes the human element from the game. The first is easy to address. Replay doesn’t have to be implemented like it is in other sports. There is no need to have the umpires even have to leave the field like they do for home run calls. Simply have an extra umpire somewhere in the park that can look at a video replay and relay the findings to the affected umpire. It would take no extra time and might even save time as the umpire would no longer be required to explain himself to both sides.
Look at the play last night and forget for an instant that Alan Porter wasn’t even paying attention to Matt Kemp. Or maybe don’t forget. After the play happened, Porter stood on the field and was finally told by the dugouts that he had to make a call on if Kemp’s run had counted. Once he made his decision, he explained it to both Don Mattingly and Davey Johnson. Instead, if an extra official was watching on replay, he could have radioed down to Porter that the run didn’t count, and Porter would have been saved a bit of embarrassment by making a call and getting it right.
As far as the human element goes, it is a very important part of the game of baseball, but it has nothing to do with officiating. Nobody buys a ticket to see Joe West, Angel Hernandez or Bob Davidson. Baseball fans go to baseball games to watch two teams of players decide the outcome of the game on the field. No baseball fan wants the umpires to do anything more than to enforce the rules and to get the calls right so, that by the end of the game, the best team has indeed won.
David Huzzard blogs about the Nationals for Citizens of Natstown, and offers his viewpoints as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.