The play – and the um­pire role – is un­der re­view

The Casket - - Sports - RICHARD MACKEN­ZIE richard­mac@the­cas­ket.ca

The World Se­ries starts tonight.

As far as the teams com­pet­ing, it’s a re­peat of a se­ries played 102 years ago al­though, at that time, it was the Brook­lyn Robins ver­sus the Bos­ton Red Sox. The Robins would, in sub­se­quent years, be­come the Dodgers and Brook­lyn would, even­tu­ally, be­come Los Angeles, as the team moved to the west coast be­fore the start of the 1958 season.

Of note too is the fact that, al­though Fen­way Park was home of the Red Sox all those years ago — open­ing in 1912 — the larger Braves Field was used by Bos­ton in the 1916 se­ries to ac­com­mo­date more fans; so this will ac­tu­ally be the first Red Sox ver­sus Dodgers World Se­ries’ games at his­toric Fen­way.

The key for both teams is to be at the top of their game, start­ing with first pitch tonight and car­ry­ing it through the se­ries.

The third team on the field will also want to be on the top of their game. That team would be the um­pires.

In a divi­sion play­off game be­tween the Red Sox and New York Yan­kees ear­lier this post­sea­son, vet­eran um­pire An­gel Her­nan­dez cer­tainly didn’t ap­pear to have his ‘A’ game as he had three calls over­turned by video re­view in four in­nings, while work­ing first base at Yan­kee Sta­dium. A rough night for Her­nan­dez and one, un­for­tu­nately, he’ll prob­a­bly never es­cape since it hap­pened on such a large stage.

And it begs the ques­tion; is Her­nan­dez bet­ter off that video re­view re­versed his bad calls and, at least, he knows he didn’t ad­versely af­fect the game, or does he wish it was 20 years ago – long be­fore video re­views and broad­cast­ing tech­nol­ogy which can cap­ture the most split-sec­ond, bang-bang plays? Maybe then, his off-night wouldn’t have been ex­posed as brightly as the lights of nearby Times Square.

Play is un­der re­view

I think video re­view is great for not only base­ball but all sports which are us­ing it; with the only down­side be­ing the ex­tra time it takes to make rul­ings.

I see a day too where con­tin­ued ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy ba­si­cally elim­i­nates some jobs done by ref­er­ees, um­pires and other on-field of­fi­cials; not be­cause they do a bad job, or be­cause of an off-night like Her­nan­dez had, but be­cause no mat­ter how good an of­fi­cial is at his or her job, they can’t match the ac­cu­racy cap­tured by slow-mo­tion re­plays and in­creased com­puter tech­nol­ogy.

I think the first job to go might be call­ing balls and strikes in the big leagues. Ev­ery tele­vi­sion broad­cast now has a pitch tracker; a com­puter gen­er­ated box cre­ated for the strike zone and in prox­im­ity to the bat­ter, which al­lows the broad­cast­ers and view­ers to see ac­tual ev­i­dence a pitch caught part of the zone or not.

It wouldn’t be much of a leap to have the re­sult of a pitch – ball, strike, foul, hit bat­ter, exc­reta – as cap­tured by the com­put­er­ized strike zone, sim­ply and im­me­di­ately flashed on a screen vis­i­ble to all.

No more this is a pitcher’s um­pire, he has a big strike zone. Or, this guy squeezes the zone, pa­tient hit­ters have an ad­van­tage. And a com­puter wouldn’t ‘give up on a pitch,’ be blocked by a catcher’s stance or fooled by a catcher’s abil­ity to frame pitches. After all, shouldn’t the goal al­ways be ac­cu­racy and con­sis­tency?

Again, I don’t think of­fi­cials are do­ing a bad job and there needs to be a revo­lu­tion in the way games are called, I just see the evo­lu­tion of video re­view to a point where it’s not re­view any­more – it’s video of­fi­ci­at­ing. The tech­nol­ogy is go­ing to be there, the lo­gis­tics will be fig­ured out and the pub­lic at least, if not those in the game, will de­mand it.

Of course, some of the hu­man ele­ment will be lost but, in this con­tin­u­ally dig­i­tal­ized world, you won­der if it will even be missed. It’s not like there are a lot of over­the-top ar­gu­ments be­tween base­ball man­agers and um­pires any­more where dirt is kicked around and caps are turned so they can go face-to-face more dra­mat­i­cally; there is the odd one here and there.

For­mer Blue Jays man­ager John Gib­bons was thrown out of seven games last season and only five in 2017; those to­tals would be a slow month for the likes of Earl Weaver and Billy Martin, back in the day.

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