COMMENTARY | When Major League Baseball put forth a proposal for a new replay system last week, I was skeptical.
I wondered how a "challenge system" would work, what plays would be eligible to be challenged, how it would affect the length of games, etc. On paper, it seemed like a flawed system that would only serve to slow games to a crawl.
But then I thought, if this system had been implemented years ago, how might it have changed history? More specifically, how might it have changed San Francisco Giants' history?
The Giants have been lucky in the sense that they haven't been royally screwed by a bad call in a postseason game, so it's not like the replay system would've resulted in another World Series championship (unless replay would have overturned Dusty Baker taking Russ Ortiz out of Game 6 in 2002). You have to dig a little deeper to find a terrible call against the Giants that replay would've overturned, and one stands out above the rest.
On July 18, 2010, the Giants were in the thick of the NL West division race. They trailed the division leader by 4.5 games and were going for a three-game sweep of the visiting New York Mets. The Giants went to the bottom of the 9th down 3-1, but they rallied to tie the game when pinch-hitter Travis Ishikawa drove in two runs with a single. Ishikawa would end up on third base and broke for home on a Freddy Sanchez infield grounder. The throw home was high, Ishikawa slid in under the tag of catcher Henry Blanco, and the Giants had seemingly completed a stunning comeback.
Only they hadn't. Umpire Phil Cuzzi, no stranger to controversy, called Ishikawa out. Replay clearly showed Ishikawa was safe -- and it wasn't particularly close. Even Blanco, after the game, admitted the call was wrong. But Cuzzi had the final say, the Giants' rally was snuffed, and the Mets would score the next inning and win the game.
In the grand scheme of things, one game out of 162 may seem irrelevant, but the Giants had to win the last game of the season to clinch the division. If things had taken a different turn in September and the Giants had lost the division by a game, one blown call would've meant the difference between missing the playoffs and what would eventually become the franchise's first World Series championship in San Francisco.
Had the proposed replay system been in place in 2010, Bruce Bochy could have used a manager's challenge to have the play reviewed. Replay would have clearly shown Ishikawa sliding in under the tag, the call would have been reversed, the Giants would have won, and they wouldn't have lost ground in the standings. They wouldn't have had to wait until the last game of the season to clinch the division, and they would have saved Giants fans a lot of stress in the process.
Again, this game turned out to be a relatively minor speed bump on the Giants' road to the World Series. Everything would turn out OK, but what if it hadn't? Giants fans would remember 2010 by a blown call that cost them the playoffs instead of by their team hoisting the trophy in November. If replay can prevent a team's season from being ruined by a bad call, then it's a worthy addition to baseball.
Just make sure to give teams extra challenges when Phil Cuzzi is part of the umpiring crew.
Dave Tobener is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer whose work has appeared on Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew, amongst other websites. Follow him on Twitter @gggiants.
- Sports & Recreation
- San Francisco Giants
- Travis Ishikawa