COMMENTARY | It wasn't a routine play. A 3-6-3 rarely is, but that's what first-base umpire Jeff Nelson called.
Seattle Mariners rookie catcher Jesus Sucre hung his head, hitting into a double play in his first major-league at-bat. First-base coach Mike Brumley looked like the play was done, and Seattle manager Eric Wedge trotted out to argue that Texas Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland had pulled his foot off the bag. The real issue -- the one everyone missed -- was that Moreland never even caught the ball.
"Everybody's just focused on the bag," Wedge told MLB.com. "I thought he came off the bag. That's what I was out there arguing. And then I come to find out later, with the replay, that he didn't even catch the ball. ... It would have been a much bigger argument if I had known that at the time, no doubt about it."
Pitcher Justin Grimm was moving to cover first and intercepted the ball inches before it made it to Moreland's glove. Grimm and Moreland then casually moved away in complete innocence.
Nelson missed it. The TV and radio play-by-play teams missed it. Not until the replay was it apparent that Grimm caught the ball. The Rangers went on to win 9-5, and Sucre had to wait until the bottom of the ninth to record his first hit in the majors.
Looking at a television replay was the only way to make the right call.
There are smart minds in baseball looking into expanding replay. Three-time World Series champion manager Tony La Russa, Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, and MLB operations executive vice president Joe Torre and the replay committee have advised going slowly, proceeding with care and finding the right solution rather than the one that fits a specific timeline.
What a load of crap.
This season has been unusually rife with blown calls and umpiring errors. Commissioner Bud Selig's select committee is running into the age-old problem with committees -- never reaching the good solution, in search of the perfect one. Will replay in baseball make the games longer? Possibly. But if it can cut down on dirt-kicking managerial tirades and 10-minute debates about missed bags, trapped fly balls and close plays at the plate, the counter argument says replay could even shorten games.
Imagine Wedge comes out and asks for a replay review. He's not spending an enraged half inning questioning the ump's parentage, or getting into an in-your-face exchange of spittle screaming about it. He wants a simple confirmation of the call. Perhaps the umpires confab around an iPad carried on-field by the crew chief, or by radio with a reviewing umpire in the press box.
Replay clearly shows that Grimm caught the ball. No double play. The call gets reversed. There's one out at second on the fielder's choice, Sucre gets his coveted first major-league hit and the game goes on. Grimm had a shaky game working, but could that call in the second inning have made a difference? Maybe.
Umpiring has been plagued by simple human errors for 150 years. It has impacted World Series games, foiled no-hitters, and on a May Friday night in Seattle, it showed a bright light on the ability of technology to help the game, not hamper it. Expand replay. It's a tool that can make the game better for fans, players, managers and, especially, the umpires.
Colin Holmes has followed the Rangers through 19 managers, 11 general managers, six owners, 25 different opening day pitchers, two stadiums and two World Series appearances. He patiently waits for a win in the last game of the year.
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