The following except was taken from a Gordon Edes piece in the Boston Globe. He quotes Terry Francona on a way to solve homerun disputes. I wholeheartedly agree with Francona, and suggest no changes, only further power to review questionable calls. It’s time to stop incorrectly ruling homeruns doubles and vice-versa, or calling guys out when they were safe.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s disputed double by Sox catcher Jason Varitek – replays appeared to confirm it was a home run – Francona reiterated his support for some type of review system utilizing replays. Varitek hit a drive that appeared to hit on top of the yellow line designating a home run and carom off the billboard behind it, but umpires ruled the ball in play. “I wish they would put a fifth umpire in the booth,” Francona said. “I think it would be a great teaching tool. If they want to have some of these younger umpires come into the league and have a rotation, it would give them the built-in day off, but then on that day off, they’re seeing what we’re seeing. And they could also interject in the game if they wanted to in a way that would be simple.”
MLB has always been weary of incorporating change into America’s most tradition-based game. It’s understandable then that Bud Selig and his cronies wouldn’t want to allow the seeds of technology into the game via a simple plan such as Francona’s, but in this case such fear is misguided. No one is saying forget umpires and get robots, there’s a certain human element that keeps the game “pure,” but fixing clear mistakes that change the outcome of a game seems like a nice concept to me. Make homeruns reviewable by a paid 5th umpire. From there, yes, many will call for that 5th umpire to be able to review close plays. I have no real problem with this since arguing wastes just as much time and is less productive than simply looking at the replay and making a decision. Give managers two challenges a game in the same manner the NFL does, and watch what happens.
So, follow Francona’s plan of emplying another booth umpire, and allow him/her/more than one human being the power of overruling erroneous calls. The Umpire’s Union is happy, it gets more members. Players/managers/fans are happy, the calls are right. TV stations are happy, because they can run commercials during review sessions rather than watch Larry Bowa attack someone for doing his job. And MLB is happy, it gets some good press, and therefore free money!