The point may appear to be moot because of the ultimate result, but a problem with instant replay reared it’s ugly head once again, almost playing a key role in potentially costing the Arizona Diamondbacks a win against the Colorado Rockies.
To set the scene, the Diamondbacks trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning. Starter Chase Anderson had given up three runs in the first and just one hit since that point. A.J. Pollock led off the fifth by dropping a fly ball into left field between the foul line and Rockies left-fielder Brandon Barnes. Barnes got the ball in quickly as Pollock was trying to stretch that single into a double. The ball easily beat Pollock, but a creative slide avoided a tag by second baseman D.J. LeMahieu.
At least that’s what Pollock thought. And the fans. And just about everyone else watching.
But it wasn’t what MLB replay saw.
MLB ruled that Pollock’s right hand, which was first on the base, slid off before switching to his left hand on the base. Possible? Yes. Clear? Not in the opinion of most.
And that’s where the problem lies.
“What we saw on the board, we were shocked they overturned it,” Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said after the game. “There had to be something for them to overturn it. It’s hard to overturn a call.”
At that juncture, a lead-off hustle double by Pollock with David Peralta (hitting .333 in the last week) up next and Paul Goldschmidt (possibly the best hitter in the world) on deck was huge. It could prove the difference in a one-run game with Kyle Kendrick, owner of a 6.00 ERA, on the mound.
Instead, it was one out, nobody on and the air taken out of the building and a potential rally. Well, some of the air. Most of the 22,449 fans on hand at Chase Field made their displeasure heard.
“It’s unfortunate for the crew on the field because they’re not the ones doing it,” Hale said. “It’s the crew back in New York. The fans are showing this displeasure, but it’s not the guys on the field they should be mad about.”
Despite the overturning of the call, Hale still has faith in the system.
“I’m a believer in the system, I’m one of the proponents of it,” he said. “I’ve always thought it’s a good thing for baseball. They must’ve had better angles than we had.”
Pollock couldn’t believe it either. He was seen on replay asking “how is that possible?” after the call on the field was overturned.
Maybe the result of the replay is brushed under the rug, as the Diamondbacks tied the game in the 6th and won the game in the bottom of the 10th thanks to a Cliff Pennington sacrifice fly that scored Welington Castillo. But as it, it will likely negatively impact the game in some way.
After the game, Pollock was clearly in better spirits following a win. That probably served as somewhat of an eraser for the fifth inning fiasco.
“You don’t know what’s going on there. You really have no idea what they’re seeing or what they’re talking about,” Pollock said after the game. “I’m not saying it’s a bad call. I just don’t think there was conclusive evidence compared to some of the other calls we’ve seen this year.”
That seems to be where the disconnect comes in. No one knows what happens in New York. And there’s no conclusive idea of what “conclusive evidence” is. In the replay above, is it possible that Pollock’s hand came off the base? Yes. But is it conclusive? No. It’s circumstantial, because LeMahieu’s body blocks the action of the play. Conclusive evidence doesn’t mean circumstantial evidence.
The replay center in New York is aware of the call on the field, which makes some question that the correct calls are being made. Rather, is New York sticking up for their own on the field?
This is because umps are declining to overrule their brethren https://t.co/zbCuhh67Xa
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) July 3, 2015
But in this case, it was overruled. The current system is leaving umpires on the field out to dry as well. But if the system isn’t getting it right, a change has to happen. A more specific definition of “conclusive evidence” is a good start. For a team like the Diamondbacks, who are four games back in the Wild Card, one call can make the difference between buying and selling at the trade deadline or a wild card berth and sitting at home in October. While this instance didn’t cost the Diamondbacks a game, a fan isn’t looking forward to the time that it does.
The MLB replay system is a great start to advancing the game. But there are still kinks to work out. Does MLB adjust, or is it just an imperfect science that fans, players and coaches will eventually come to terms with?
“I think we gotta have it,” Pollock said of instant replay. “There (have) been some calls that haven’t been what I thought they were going to be. But they have all the angles. There’s nothing much we can do as players. We just have to hope that they get it right.”