For anyone familiar with "Country" Joe West's long body of work as big league umpire, you will not be surprised that he managed to find a way to make himself the focal point of a baseball game. What will surprise you is that we may all be thanking Joe for it years from now.
West has long been criticized for playing by his own rules, but in yesterday's Phillies-Marlins game, West appears to have just implemented a rule that many baseball fans have been clamoring for for years: expanded instant replay.
As you can see in this clip, West got put on the spot when Hunter Pence hit a flyball to the wall where Bryan Petersen attempted to make a leaping catch up against the wall, only to have some drunk overzealous fans get a little too eager to make the play themselves and touch the ball before Petersen could catch it. That resulted in a double for Pence, but fan interference was quickly, and correctly argued for by Jack McKeon. But West and his crew didn't change their until they made the call upstairs for a video review of the play. This is a fabulous idea by everyone involved... it just might not have been legal, per se.
Since the ball was originally ruled a double and the argument was for fan interference, the lone reason for replay, a potential home run, was not part of the argument, thus replay shouldn't have been an option. Now, West claims that Charlie Manuel had wanted a homer on the play, but Manuel denied this. And, let's be honest, it wouldn't shock anyone if West told a little white lie there in order to suit his desire to use replay on the play. And the ball looked like it might've had a chance at leaving the yard, but that is academic if nobody on the field thought it was a home run, so, again, West shouldn't have gone to video to get the call right.
Oh, did I forget to mention that? Yes, West went to video and got the call right as a result. What a novel idea! Sure, he had to bend the rules a little bit to make it happen, but shouldn't we all be happy that the umpiring crew realized that there was controversy on an important play in the game and used technology to make sure they made the best call? Who could possibly be against this? Well, other than Charlie Manuel who filed a protest as a result.
The best part of the incident is that the umpires pretty much made the decision themselves to go to replay, which just so happens to be a great way to implement additional replay. Instead of setting all these arbitrary rules about what calls are reviewable and what calls are not, just leave it up to the discretion of the umpiring crew to use replay when they know they need help. Guys like Joe West may like to draw attention to themselves, but not for being wrong. At the end of the day, umpires want to get as many calls correct as possible, so giving them the fallback option of utilizing replay when they find themselves in bad position or too far away to make an accurate call gives them the best tool to do just that. And since they obviously won't want to always seem incompetent, they'll only use replay when they really have to, thus negating much of the concern over replay being exploited by managers and/or making games longer.
It is an idea so crazy that is just might work and so crazy that it could only become a viable option thanks to "Country" Joe West... with a big assist from two dumbass fans that couldn't keep their hands to themselves.
Also last night: The Tigers made the White Sox wish there was a slaughter rule... Arizona took the rubber game from the Giants and may have finished off the NL West race in the process... and finally, Jose Bautista is the first batter to 40 homers this year, but the Jays lost.
What to watch tonight: The Detroit Tigers are ever so close to being a virtual lock to win the AL Central after sweeping away the White Sox this weekend, but they still have one last test remaining- The Cleveland Indians. If the Motor City Kitties can do to the Tribe what they just did to the Pale Hose (sorry, I love unofficial nicknames), then Detroit can safely kick it into cruise control and wait for the post-season to begin. It won't be easy though as the series today opens with big deadline addition Ubaldo Jimenez pitching for Cleveland. Jimenez has been generally terrible since landing in Cleveland, but this is the exact kind of series the Indians acquired him for, so he can at least start to make them look good if he can come in, win and keep Cleveland's dim playoff hopes alive for just one day more. Full schedule with probable pitchers here.
Messed up situation, if the umps have the power to bend the rules to make this decision, plus decide that the outfielder would have caught the ball (he did have a pretty good chance, but they are still presuming) why not continue with the presumptions and award Howard second base. It seems like there was a pretty good chance that had the outfielder caught it, Howard would have been able to tag up and run to second. If he is on second then he scores on Ibanez's hit. I know presumptuous, but that's what the umps are already doing here.
Either way the umps and Mlb through their 1/2 assed instant replay rules have left themselves in a bad situation. The right ruling might have been carried out (or was it since Howard presumably had a good chance at making 2nd base). The umps may of ignored the rules which they are suppose to uphold and enforce, not pick and choose when they want to follow them. If the play is not overturned the Marlins have a valid reason to be upset because the Phils would have had 2nd and 3rd with no outs on a play the outfielder had a good chance to catch if not for the idiotic fan. The Phils have a valid reason to be upset because the umps may have broken the rules to take a called double away from them. In addition it looks like Joe West may well be lying about his justification for going to replay.