Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Divine Intervention and Video Monitors

So, I'm not trying to make light of the horrors that have affected southern Louisiana in the last few months, but sports-wise, I have to say that one thing has been made abundantly clear in the recent weeks and months:

God hates the Saints.

Quite frankly, I don't think this observation can be controverted. Misfortune seems to have set up shop squarely overtop of the Saints, slapping and punching and cornholing the organization and its fan base pretty much nonstop since late summer. (Of course, an argument could certainly be made that fate has been doing this to the team and its fans for going on 40 years now; it's just that the most recent examples have been much more tangible.)

I mean, look at what's happened to them: Katrina ravages the city, destroying the Superdome in the process (or, as Flava Flav would say, "in the progress"). People need to be evacuated, and the team is stuck playing "home games" in San Antonio and Baton Rouge ... not to mention the fact that they were robbed of one of those home games in week 2, as the Giants were granted an unprecedented home "road game." The team's best player, DroppaDeuce McAllister, gets hurt for the year in week 5. Two weeks ago, they get jobbed by the refs in Atlanta, as the Falcons missed a potential game-winning field goal, only to get another chance at it from 5 yards closer because the Saints were called for what may have been the first "defensive holding" penalty that's ever happened during a field goal attempt. Then, of course, last week, the Saints were driving for a go-ahead score in St. Louie, and their TE caught a pass and was tackled. While on the ground, a Rams DB ripped the ball from him and returned it for a TD. The refs ruled -- patently incorrectly, as replays showed -- that the TE never had control of the ball, and that the DB therefore intercepted the pass and returned it for a game-icing TD. The Saints had no timeouts, so they couldn't challenge the ball, and the play started with 2:10 on the clock, before the 2:00 warning, so the play couldn't be reviewed absent a challenge. If the play had started 10 seconds later, the call would have been overturned and the Saints would have had the ball at about the Rams' 15-yd line, down by 4. Instead, they were down by 11 and yeah, pretty fucked. What a season for the N'Awlins Saints and their fans.

On the exact friggin' opposite end of the spectrum, the Chicago White Sox continue to live what one writer has referred to as a "charmed life." They have been the beneficiaries of an inordinate number of controversial calls in this year's playoffs, a postseason which is rapidly and unfortunately looking like it's going to be remembered more for umpiring blunders than fantastic clutch hitting and pitching (of which there has been tons, despite the bargain-basement, low low ratings). Because of the umps' tendencies to fuck up at the absolute most inopportune times this year, debate is hotter than ever over whether or not instant replay should be implemented into bases-ball. Any baseball replay system would be regarding plays in the field, and not balls and strikes. Some feverishly oppose replay in baseball, and some think it would do much more good than it would harm.

What does y'all think?


At 12:11 AM, October 26, 2005, Blogger Torgonator said...

Jack - I'm starting to think that you are trying to bury my posts. I don't post very often, but I normally try to post when no one has posted in a few days... and every time I put up a post you post a new one within a few hours.

Wassup wit dat? Why ya gotta hate?!?

At 1:21 PM, October 26, 2005, Blogger Torgonator said...

Nawlins - I have actually been thinking the same thing over the last several weeks. Maybe God hates the city because of all the voodoo rituals they've performed over the years to try to get rid of the curse that seems to hang over the Saints. Perhaps they should try sacrificing virgins instead.

White Sox - Yeah, this postseason has been pretty crazy for them. But while the craziness with the umpire foul-ups will be a story if they win it all, the bigger story is going to be that the White Sox won the World Series. I'm sure we'll remember the strange plays that went in the White Sox's favor, but in my humble opinion it'll get forgotten quickly by most people. But I suppose only time will tell.

Replay in basesball - I've always said this, and I've heard you say this before, Jack, but I don't particularly care if each replay adds two minutes to the game - it's always more important to get the call right. I understand that momentum can be negatively affected and that breaks can be important for football defenses catching their breath or pitchers getting more time to warm up, but you still can't convince me that it's more important than getting debatable calls right.

So how should it work? In my opinion, replays would rely solely on visual evidence (no audio), could only overturn the call on the field if there is "indisputable visual evidence" to the contrary (by the way, if I hear one more commentator state that point emphatically as if no one had ever mentioned it before I will set myself on fire), and plays would only be reviewed when a technical judge in the replay booth deems it necessary. Plays would only be reviewable before the next pitch was thrown.

As for what can be reviewed, I think that, at the very least, the following plays should be reviewable: home runs, foul balls, players hit by pitch, plays at each base, catches, balks, baserunning on basepaths (since apparently Godzera was allowed to run outside of them without consequence in a game during the final regular season series against Boston). I agree that strikes and balls should not be reviewable.

And I would say that general umpiring lapses should not be reviewable, in much the same way that replay works in college and professional football. Let's say, for example that in the famous Pierzynski scenario that the catcher had clearly dropped the ball. The umpire still signals strike three with a gesture that confuses everyone into thinking he was out without saying he was out, and still does not yell that the catcher did not catch the ball. Pierzynksi runs safely to first. It's unfortunate for the other team, but I would argue that this should not be a reviewable scenario. However, in the scenario as it played out in real life would have been overturned because visual evidence would conclude that the catcher did catch the ball and that the batter was out.

There are a couple important issues that I think would need to be addressed: (1) This issue will be most easily explained through an example: Let's say there's one out, runner on 3rd. Batter flies to center field, umpire rules it's a dropped ball. Since it's dropped, the runner scores easily. Replay review determines that the centerfielder actually caught the ball. What should happen to the runner on 3rd? Should the run score, assuming he would have tagged and made it home? Should the runner be forced to return to 3rd, unable to score on a sac fly because there are now 2 outs? Or should there be a "run-off" where the runner stands on 3rd and the fielder stands where he caught the ball and the runner is given the opportunity to beat the throw home? (2) Catchers (as far as I know) don't currently have limits on the number of timeouts they get per inning or game. And managers can stop a game any time they want to by arguing a call with an umpire. Therefore, like we see in the Big 10 and under the 2:00 mark in the NFL, we'll likely get a lot of timeouts and stalling in order to give the replay judge plenty of time to consider reviewing a debatable play. Perhaps there could be a limit on the number of timeouts that a catcher has per inning. Instituting a limit on the number of argued calls an inning would seem a little more difficult to swing. Baseball games are already slow and boring as it is, and frequent stalls could prove lethal.

If MLB was a reasonable organization, I might actually think that these are the issues which prevent them from instituting a replay system, but we all know they're a bunch of morons so who knows what they really think. They are important issues and I'm not sure how one would get around them without significantly changing certain aspects of the game.

I'd love to hear if anyone has any ideas on how to address these issues. What do you guys think?

Like sand through the hourglass of time, these are the opinions of The Torgonator.

At 2:08 PM, October 26, 2005, Blogger Jack Fu said...

A.) I hate you and want you to die. Or, at least, to render your posts "old" and therefore "unreadable." Mwa-ha-ha...

B.) Re: N'Awlins
I have nothing to add that is either relevant or true.

C.) Re: The White Sox and their bizarre string of good fortune
Normally I'd agree with you, but these hose are of the wrong shade. As KK said, they don't have the "literary and marketing genius" which has inexplicably made the losing of the Red Sox and Cubs "somehow noble." I wouldn't be surprised at all if the fact that they've finally won a World Series ended up being overshadowed in a historical sense by this being the year that prompts baseball to implement...

D.) Instant Replay
To be perfectly frank, you've given me WAY more to think about than I have any desire to with regard to basesball. More than anything else, I just can't stand all this love for "the human element" that you get from both baseball and football types, as if getting a huge call wrong in a pressure sitaution, possibly changing the outcome of a big game, is somehow charming. I'm sure we agree about that point, 100%: it is WAY more important to get the call right than it is to upset the "flow" of the game (of which, let's be honest, there really isn't any in baseball anyway). I mean, for Christ's sake, there are 4 minutes of commercials in between half-innings in the postseason anyway: would replay really make things that much more cumbersome?

I totally agree with your two paragraphs regarding the procedural aspects of replay, like what plays would be reviewable and when, and what would be needed in order to overturn a call.

As for the other issues you brought up, which were interesting and intriguing, to be sure, I said it before: I just don't care enough to think that much about it. I think we should solicit the opinion of our resident baseball non-poster, Mr. Todd E. Bear Hykes...

At 2:56 PM, October 27, 2005, Blogger Jack Fu said...

Bring it up and ye shall receive.


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