John Steigerwald

Column John Steigerwald

John Steigerwald has been a fixture of TV, radio, and newspaper sports in Pittsburgh, and has a Sunday column in the Observer-Reporter.

Replay in baseball will get it right … at a cost

Replay in major leagues will get it right … at a lengthy cost

January 18, 2014

The Idiots Who Run Baseball want to get it right.

That’s why they announced Thursday that video replay will be expanded to get the “right” call on 13 plays beginning with the 2014 season. Home runs, ground-rule doubles and fan interference will be subject to review. So will tag plays and force plays, except for the fielder’s touching of second base on a double play, fair and foul balls (outfield only), trap plays (outfield only), hit by pitch, touching a base and timing plays – whether a runner scores before a third out.

The IWRB apparently don’t care about getting balls and strikes or check swings right because, as anyone who follows baseball knows, they never play a role in who wins or loses the game.

Disputed plays will be reviewed in New York by Yogi Berra, who will have a really nice 60-inch TV in his man cave, hooked up to every game. All of Yogi’s decisions will be final, except for the ones that are not. When Yogi can’t make up his mind, political columnist George Will, who really, really loves baseball and is really, really smart, will be called to make the final decision.

Okay, so I made up the stuff in the last paragraph, but it won’t matter because games will be so long that only the close relatives of the players will be watching after the All-Star break.

Yep, get ready for the four-hour baseball game.

Actually, come to think of it, maybe the four-hour baseball games won’t be a turn-off because fans have become used to the three-hour-plus games.

One of my earliest sports memories happened when Roberto Clemente hit an inside-the-park grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Cubs 9-8.

What sticks in my mind the most is Cubs’ catcher Hobie Landrith, jumping up and getting into the home plate umpire’s face to dispute the call. The crowd was still going nuts as my dad hustled me out the exit to beat the traffic.

If that play happens next season, fans will go nuts and the catcher will jump up and down and point to the umpire in the sky and demand a replay. Fans will have to stay in their seats while the play is shown at 1/50th speed and viewed from 14 different angles. If the NFL is any indication, it could very easily take five minutes.

The home plate umpire will then go out to the pitcher’s mound and say, “After further review, the runner was out at home plate. The inning is over and the score is tied.”

Everybody will sit down and the Pirates’ pitcher will take the mound to start the 10th inning. But they will have gotten it right.

If you like the idea of video reviews, you’re saying this is an extreme case and it’s worth ruining the best moments in order to get the run-of-the-mill calls right.

But it doesn’t have to be an inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the ninth. It will be the same when a runner tags at third and comes home with the potential winning run and it‘s a bang-bang play. Or when there is a runner on third and the batter hits a slow roller and is safe on a bang-bang play at first base.

No need to waste your time cheering.

Wait for the review.

What if it’s a tie game with one out in the bottom of the ninth and, with a runner on second, the leftfielder makes a diving play on a sinking line drive and it appears to the runner that he has trapped the ball? Should the runner ignore the ump if he makes the out call and try to score the winning run or should he scramble back to second to avoid being doubled up?

If he goes back to second but the replay shows the ball was trapped, will Yogi – I mean the umpire in the sky – award him third base? Or will he look at how close the runner was to third base before he stopped and decide that he would have scored, concede him home plate and tell everybody the game is over?

Here’s hoping that replay turns into the biggest fiasco in MLB history. The IWRB deserve it.

It’s not just about getting it right, of course. Replay review is also about being fair and the Idiots Who Run Baseball are all about fairness. Except for that little, annoying revenue problem.

The Dodgers have a TV contract that produces more wealth than 90 percent of the countries on the planet. That’s why they were able to sign their best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, to a seven-year, $215-million contract. That’s about $31,200,000 per year, or almost double what the Pirates get for their local TV rights.

After signing Pedro Alvarez to a $4.1 million contract Friday, the Pirates’ payroll for 2014 is right around $62 million. That’s twice what the Dodgers will be paying for one pitcher.


You got that right.

John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.



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