Being only 26 years old (almost 27-wow, I’m OLD), I know I never saw baseball back in the “good ol’ days” when players played for the love of the game and had off-season jobs, doubleheaders were scheduled to be played, and managers lost their cool on bang-bang plays.
I am on the pro-instant replay side of the argument. I think it did wonders for home run fair/foul calls when it was originally introduced in 2008. Ever since then, I always thought it was a matter of “when, not if” that Major League Baseball would expand replay and have a version similar to that of the NFL or NHL. I want the calls to be right. When the entire world can see in crystal clear high definition on plasma screens that cover up an entire wall, why can’t four guys in blue on a baseball field use that same technology?
That being said, instant replay does void us of something we all once enjoyed: managers (and sometimes players) going bonkers. As a kid, I dreamed of going to a ball game and seeing someone in uniform scream, yell, throw dirt on an umpire, and toss his hat on the ground all because he knows the call is wrong. Whether you are a baseball junkie, casual fan, or don’t know fair from foul, we all can get a good laugh at grown, professional men acting like a five year old who didn’t get his way.
Lou Piniella. Bobby Cox. Earl Weaver. Billy Martin. Those names conjure up thoughts of not just great managerial careers, but also images of tirades that would be trending on Twitter had Twitter been around in their day.
Which brings me to Tuesday night’s game in Seattle. Mariners manager Lloyd McClednon (he of the stolen base and throw it down a dugout runway tantrum in Pittsburgh) disagreed with almost everyone last night on two check swing calls. Thankfully, check swing calls are not allowed to be reviewed, and we got an old version of Mr. McClednon we haven’t seen in a long time.
McClendon went to Will Little at first base and was quickly thrown out of the game. Little had just waved off an appeal by cathcer Mike Zunino on a check swing by the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. Zunino was also quickly ejected. The ejection led to McClendon tossing his hat and kicking it down the first-base line toward home plate. McClendon then approached plate umpire Mike DiMuro briefly before heading down to third base to get his money’s worth with Tony Randazzo, who also had denied an appeal prior to Rodriguez’s on Brett Gardner.
When replay cannot be used to prove someone is right and someone is wrong, the fans are given the ultimate grade school shouting match. In 2009, I was lucky enough to be at Wrigley Field when former Cubs Gatorade cooler smasher Carlos Zambrano went nuts. He threw a wild pitch, covered home and replays showed he probably tagged out the runner coming from third. The runner, however, was called safe. Zambrano thought otherwise and within seconds bumped the umpire, got ejected, and then chucked the ball from home plate to the warning track in left field where it one hopped the ivy. He then introduced a baseball bat to a Gatorade machine in the dugout. Then-Cubs manager Lou Piniella tried to save his pitcher from the ejection, but he couldn’t run that fast to home. The same thing happened in Seattle last night when Zunino was upset. McClendon tried to get out there in time to protect his player, but the catcher was ejected too quickly.
Major League Baseball probably won’t see too many Zambrano moments by players anymore. Why get in a hissy fit when all you have to do is yell at your manager to throw the proverbial red flag and politely ask for a review? Managers aren’t being tossed anymore (with exceptions) unless it is for balls/strikes calls.
The calls are now being made correctly. The fun has been taken out.