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It’s not just cricket – the video replay debate crosses the pond

Michael Kim

baseball 300x219 Its not just cricket   the video replay debate crosses the pondTwitter, sports talk shows on radio and television and baseball blogs have been on fire in the U.S. this week from the moment home plate umpire Jerry Meals ruled that Pirates catcher Mike McKenry failed to tag Julio Lugo of the Braves.  The apparent blown call resulted in a bitter 4-3 Pittsburgh defeat in a game that lasted 19 grueling innings in Atlanta on Tuesday night.  The play has rekindled the debate surrounding the need for broader use of replay to assist baseball umpires.

The call was bad.  Terrible. Horrible. There’s no denying it. But, with all due respect to those who claim it was the worst blown call ever, it’s not even close.

I should know.  I happen to be an expert because I’ve seen “my teams” get jobbed by some of the worst calls in American sports history.

Remember umpire Don Denkinger’s blown call in the 1985 World Series?  The St. Louis Cardinals were on the verge of beating their in-state rival Kansas City Royals in what would have been the decisive Game 6 of the best-of-seven series.  That is, until Denkinger incorrectly ruled Jorge Orta was safe on a close play at first base.  The play led to a ninth inning rally for the Royals and turned a 1-0 Cardinals win into a 2-1 loss.  The Royals followed their Game 6 win with a convincing Game 7 victory to take the World Series.

Or what about the infamous Fifth Down play?  On an October afternoon in 1990, a college football officiating crew became a case study for Orwellian groupthink psychology when not one member of the staff paused to share with his fellow refs the doubt and confusion each one had about the downs played.  Without that fifth and extra down, Colorado would not have defeated Mizzou and  the Buffaloes would not have earned a share of the 1990 national championship.

By comparison, the blown call by Meals is not the worst ever.   But it’s bad enough that Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball officials must seriously examine and consider how their faithful fans, watching from home on their big-screen, high-definition televisions, were able to see how this potentially critical play to the Pirates’ postseason hopes was terribly misjudged by the umpire.

Please don’t give me the argument that the game is already long and stoppages for replay would make for even longer games.  In the time it took Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and his players to dispute the call with Meals, fans at home were able to view the replays multiple times.  Already, the game was in the 19th inning and lasted six hours, 39 minutes.  Not one person watching the game would have turned off their TVs in disappointment because a replay demanded the call on the field be overturned.

Commissioner Selig, please expand the rules of replay review as quickly as possible. Please do not continue to ignore the technology available for use.  The integrity of the game demands the use of video replay review.  Your sport wants to sell fans on how baseball is woven into the fabric of all things American.  That’s fine.  So, too, are the principles of truth and justice.

Michael Kim is the host of SportsCenter, ESPN America’s flagship US sports news programme, now airing in the UK on ESPN America – Sky channel 430, Virgin channel 531 and TalkTalk TV channel 566 – every weekday morning live from 6:00am with an updated show at 10:30pm. For more details visit: www.espnamerica.com. ESPN and ESPN America are the exclusive home of live NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL Monday Night Football, and NCAA US college sports in the UK.

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