Although I am a big proponent of a properly-utilized instant replay system in baseball – we have the technology, why not get the call right? – I do have my quibbles, like anyone. It could still be more efficient and timely for my taste. The breadth of reviewable plays could be expanded.
The main one that I beef about, though, is how I feel the actual replay standard is not correctly employed when reviewing plays. As a reminder, here’s the official standard for overturning a call, per MLB (emphasis mine):
“To change a reviewable call, the Replay Official must determine that there is clear and convincing evidence to change the original call that was made on the field of play. In other words, the original decision of the Umpire shall stand unchanged unless the evidence obtained by the Replay Official leads him to definitively conclude that the call on the field was incorrect.”
The rule is structure to create a STRONG presumption in favor of the call on the field. If the replay official cannot tell for certain that the call on the field was incorrect, he is to make no change. That means, even if the replay official thinks, “Yeah, I think that call was probably wrong, and I would have called the opposite if I saw it live,” that’s not enough to overturn. He’s gotta actually see that the call was definitively incorrect.
Sometimes, I feel like the call from the replay official comes back instead as the replay official’s best guess at the correct call, which is not the standard. To be entirely fair, there are occasionally camera angles that I didn’t or couldn’t see, and that’s throwing me off, but it happens so often that I still wonder if it’s an issue of the standard being incorrectly applied.
Against that backdrop, the Cubs won last night’s game after a great play by Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo to retire Joey Votto for the final out. He was originally called safe, as it appeared that Russell’s throw pulled Rizzo off of first base, and the tying run was about to step to the plate. The Cubs challenged, won, and the game was over.
Here is the play and the ensuing review:
Based on those camera angles, I see two things: (1) it’s possible Rizzo kept a cleat on the bag at the moment of the catch, and (2) there is no definitive evidence that he did so. Even Len Kasper, in looking at and discussing the play, said that the safe call “should be confirmed pretty quickly.”
… and yet the call came back overturned.
I checked out the Reds’ broadcast this morning to see if perhaps they had an angle that clearly showed Rizzo’s cleat on the base, and this is the best angle I could find:
I can only assume this is the angle (from Reds broadcast) that led to overturn last night on the final out. pic.twitter.com/t4N8JRv9Wf
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) May 18, 2017
Again, is it possible Rizzo’s cleat is on that base? Yup. And if the call on the field had been out, I think that angle would have been enough to say Rizzo’s cleat wasn’t definitively off the base, and the call would have stood.
But with a safe call, is that angle enough to say for certain that Rizzo’s foot is on the base? I just don’t see it. I could guess that! It probably was on the base! But do I know for certain based on the available evidence? Nope.
So, I’m just being fair here. If the cleat were on the other foot, so to speak, I would have been pretty ticked off by this overturn, and I would have written some kind of rant in the morning (not entirely unlike this one).
For his part, Reds manager Bryan Price was, himself, pretty ticked off by the overturn (Reds.com): “Until I see [something definitive], I’m going to be more than upset. That’s not a way to end a ballgame unless they can show us something that’s definitive. If they can’t, shame on them. Because there’s nothing as managers that we can do, because the call is being made in New York. It better be right. It better be definitive, because if it’s not, we’re all going to be [angry] here.”
(I am surprised Price didn’t ask how the eff the call benefited the Reds.)
In any case, that was an excellent play by Russell and a tremendously impressive stretch by Rizzo. I’m glad the Cubs won the game. They probably would have won the game regardless. Wade Davis is very good.