Last night, Angel Hernandez did the Oakland Athletics and Major League Baseball no favors, but Bud Selig has a chance to correct his egregious mistake. In the ninth inning, a ball, which at first glance didn’t appear to be a home run, was a home run, and the umpires with the assistance of instant replay got the play wrong twice. There is no excuse for this in an era of high definition and instant replay. I’ve written many times before about not being a fan of instant replay, not only because in general I don’t think it holds officials accountable, but because I believe the systems are setup incorrectly.
After the game, Hernandez said he didn’t have enough evidence to overturn the call. There are but two explanations for this statement: Hernandez is blind or the replay system in the umpires locker room at Progressive Field doesn’t have access to the all the video feeds that everyone else does.
If he is blind, which he obviously is not, it is time for him to retire or move to a position as a supervisor. If the feeds he has access to aren’t the same as everyone else, whomever is responsible for that needs to be held accountable today.
Time date of the incorrect call shouldn’t matter, but imagine if last night’s error had occurred during the playoffs? Oh, right it has.
The only obvious solution to this problem, which is one that big three sports leagues need to adopt, is the same one in which NHL uses: move ALL instant replay functions to a central location. This is the easiest solution because the people in the central location have no bias for or against the call they just made, and it takes all the pressure off the on-location game officials and puts it squarely where it belongs: on the league office.
It’s become obvious in the high-stakes, and big money pressure situations that on-location game officials miss these calls when they count the most. Last night’s game in Cleveland was just the latest example, but imagine if supervisors in New York had the opportunity to review the call in Seattle that cost Green Bay on Monday Night Football last season? In both cases, it is almost a certainty the calls would have been reversed and the correct call would have been made.
Along with this, Major League Baseball needs to, through immediate cooperation with the umpires union, make available all disciplinary information on umpires on their game decisions. I honestly, don’t care if umpires goad players into arguments that result in ejections, but more important to me is how accurate their calls are at the plate and bags. Those calls have an effect on every play of every game. Along with making this information available, we need to start to see the transition from unqualified umpires to those who are better and rate higher. Age is no factor in this argument.
If you’re 65 and rate in the highest percentile then you get to keep your job. Make no mistake, some of the worst game managers and umpires are those that are newer and younger. Being a younger umpire doesn’t make you a good umpire.
The bottom line is, Angel Hernandez got last night’s play wrong, and it likely cost the Oakland Athletics the game last night, but as any official will say the most important thing to them is getting the play correct.